Photo by Maria C. Ascarrunz

Chezchez opened in August, 2021, and I finally made it out there last month. I’m starting to feel like a grown-up again, going out for dinner and real cocktails! And what cocktails! And wine! And aperitifs! And beers and ciders and bubbles, oh my!

There are your classic cocktails: negronis, daiquiris, martinis, and the like, but Chezchez’s bar team has also come up with creative iterations of the familiar favorites. An espresso martini, for instance, or a blanco negroni made with tequila, or a Japanese old fashioned, with ume plum. And six different kinds of bloody Marys!

But, while Chezchez may bill itself primarily as a bar, it does not let the food play second fiddle. Chezchez, the brainchild of the Trick Dog team, seems to have put as much thought into the food portion of the menu as the booze, and in creating a real café culture, much like sitting al fresco in Barcelona, Spain, with an aperitif in one hand and a tin of Galician octopus in front of you.

For drinkies, I enjoyed the Oaxacan old fashioned (mescal, tequila, chilé, and chocolate bitters), and the aforementioned espresso martini (espresso, a coffee liqueur, and vodka), both balanced and un-frivolous drinks that made me understand Chezchez is serious about its cocktail program. My friend had, from the daiquiri section, the aperitivo (Martini Fiero, fino sherry and lime), a nicely balanced quaff of tart and sweet.

The menu starts with a selection of veggies, followed by what they’re calling “Tintins,” also known as “conservas” in Spain and Portugual: Tins of seafood, marinated or in olive oil, that are served at the table as-is, with various accompaniments, such as bread, salad greens, and lemon. They’re light, elegant apps that go well with a frosty glass of La Gitana manzanilla.

We started out with the beans a la buvette: Gigante beans dressed in olive oil and lemon zest. A supremely simple, wholly satisfying dish. Maybe the beans came out of a can (they probably did), but who cares? 

Gigantes.

Next for me (my friend is a vegetarian) was a small plate of Ortiz anchovies, drizzled with olive oil and sided by butter curls. YES, BUTTER CURLS. Because of course you need to butter your bread before you bejewel it with glistening anchovies. Word of caution: almost everything is served with bread, so be careful not to fill up. I made the mistake of ordering pain d’epi (that cute baguette that comes in the shape of a shaft of wheat), not realizing that so much bread would already be forthcoming. 

Next up were the Chezchez potatoes.

Potato puffs with Chezchez dip.

These beautiful, golden orbs were addictively crunchy outside, maddeningly fluffy inside, and another standout of the evening. Ethereally light! They went especially well with the Chezchez dip, none other than good old French onion dip, that came with them. Wax nostalgic as you pop one — I mean six — of these into your mouth. A perfect combination.

Next, the Brussels sprouts Caesar:

Brussels sprouts Caesar.

Yes, that’s it, buried under a fluffy cloud of parmigiano, with fat croutons and topped with (yes, more) briny anchovies. Another fine, mostly vegetarian dish, this was a plateful of garlicky, fresh, and crunchy textures, with great umami. I took a lot of this home and it held up well the following day for breakfast.

Our final dish was the roasted mushrooms with an herb salad and breadcrumbs.

Roasted mushrooms.

The shrooms, for me, were a bit dry, and the herbs were mostly basil, but my friend liked this dish just fine and gobbled it up. 

Although portions are decent, for what we ordered, the food seemed a little pricy, mostly because a lot of the dishes weren’t really cooked so much as presented. Tinned seafood does tend to get marked up in the U.S. quite a bit, since it’s all imported. Chezchez serves another couple of warm dishes, including braised chicken and lamb meatballs, and some lighter meat dishes. They also offer a few different kinds of cheese and two desserts, including a trip-down-memory-lane pot de crème and what sounds like a delicious pistachio butter cake.

The “Tintins” and some of the wine and bottled spirits are for sale to take home, too. There’s quite a bit more to try, so I’ll be back. If you feel you can’t go to Europe just yet, there is always Chezchez.

Chezchez
584 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110

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