Tacos? Bien Sur!

Papito's duck confit taco. Yes, indeed.

It isn’t exactly France meets Mexico at the new Papito in San Francisco.

But you will find a thoroughly wonderful duck confit taco at this tiny restaurant in Portrero Hill, which was opened in August by the restaurateur behind the popular, Francophile Chez Papa and Chez Maman, both in San Francisco.

That would be Jocelyn Bulow, who opened Papito with one of her chefs, Oaxaca-native Rodolfo Castellanos Reyes, who got the 17-seat cafe up and running, only to leave to return to Mexico to start up his own restaurant. Not to fear, his replacement, Reynol Martinez, also from Oaxaca, seems to have a good handle on the menu.

The ingredients are top-notch. Many are organic. The pork is Berkshire. The chorizo is house-made.

Recently, I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant, a short drive from the Holiday Inn Civic Center, to check out the bustling cafe adorned with warm, terracotta walls and big sombrero hats for decor.

Three salsas arrive at the table when you sit down — a zesty tomatillo, a sweet and fruity mango, and a spicy red chile one. If that’s still too tame for you, your server is only too happy to bring you an even hotter version.

Grilled corn with Mexican mayo.

We started with a Mexican street-food staple — grilled corn on the cob ($5), smeared with Mexican mayo and queso cotija. Bowls of house-made red chile salt and wedges of fresh lime let you customize just how spicy or tangy you want it. The corn is sweet, smoky and tender. The squirt of lime really makes it special, cutting through its creamy coat.

Next up, ceviche ($10) with exceptionally plump shrimp in a lime-infused pico de gallo with chunks of mango.

Bright and refreshing shrimp ceviche.

If you like pork carnitas, definitely try the much-talked-about duck confit tacos (two for $8). The duck is done carnitas-style, resulting in really rich and tender meat with deep flavor.  Pickled carrot and jicama strands, along with a sweet-tangy tamarind sauce lend an almost Vietnamese flair.

Papito also does a spin on a fried shrimp taco — frying the shrimp tempura-style for extral crunch. Rolled up in two organic corn tortillas with a smear of chipotle remoulade and crisp purple cabbage slaw, it was colorful and satisfying.

Tempura shrimp wrapped up in organic corn tortillas.

Oaxaca, of course, is known for molé. And the one at Papito didn’t disappoint. Thick, complex and inky looking, it covered enchiladas ($13) rolled up around a filling of juicy, braised chicken. The pickled onions on top were a nice touch, too.

Enchiladas covered in mole sauce.

For dessert, enjoy some of the crispiest churros around (four for $5), with every ridge covered in cinnamon sugar. There’s also a fine rendition of a very eggy Mexican flan ($5) with caramel sauce that has an almost coffee-like bitter edge.

Churros that audibly crunch when you bite into them.

A traditional flan.

The city already may boast a lot of good taquerias. But this may very well be its only Mexican “bistro.”

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Date: Tuesday, 19. October 2010 5:28
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Chefs, General, Restaurants

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  1. 1

    I just got so hungry reading this post Carolyn! May I ask a silly question? Is Mexican mayo very different from other mayo? We don’t get it here so I haven’t tried it.

  2. 2

    Wow–I haven’t heard of this place and now must check it out. Duck confit tacos…that’s brilliant!

  3. 3

    I’ve got some duck confit left…wonder if I should give that taco a go? It looks marvelous. As does that churro!

  4. 4

    Fabulous food! I love Mexican cuisine.



  5. 5

    And, now I’m already hungry for lunch. We have a local restaurant that offers duck confit with mole which I love. Everything shown here looks fantastic!

  6. 6

    oh that corn is to die for….i would LOVE to try it that way. you eat at the best places.

  7. 7

    Lorraine: I can’t say that our server was too helpful in explaining what made Mexican mayo distinctive. And I can’t say that I necessarily tasted a lot of difference between it and regular mayonnaise once it got on the corn with all that cheese. But in a quick Web search, I found a couple of discussions noting that Mexican mayonnaise has lime in it, as opposed to American mayonnaise (such as Hellman’s or Best Foods), which typically has lemon in it.

  8. 8

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by CarolynJung and Christine, Squid Ink. Squid Ink said: RT @CarolynJung: A little bit of France meets Mexico in this duck confit taco. http://bit.ly/d128cR […]

  9. 9

    I think Luella used to have duck confit tacos too. This place seems like a winner!

  10. 10

    Yum, I love all of these highbrow mexican restaurants, the shrimp or duck tacos are really making me drool… that looks like quite a feast!

  11. 11

    I’m now officially craving Mexican food, to be more exact this Mexican food. I love some of the exotic stuff here. Wow!

  12. 12

    Wow, it sounds like a very nice place to have a delicious Mexican dinner and the prices are not bad at all. Next time I’m in SF I’ll visit it. Thanks for visiting my blog. I find yours very nice and informative, I am loving it :)

  13. 13

    My mouth is watering. This kind of delicious Mexican food is so hard to find in the UK.
    *kisses* HH

  14. 14

    I am in love with the mango shrimp and churro (there’s no surprise there – am a big fan of churros)

    I really enjoy your food writing and I think you write beautifully.

  15. 15

    oh! that Oaxacan “inky” molé sounds yummy

  16. 16

    We just had Duck Confit Tacos for the first time at Tres Agaves last weekend and loved them! Can’t wait to check this place out!

  17. 17

    Cookie: Thanks for the tip that Tres Agaves also does duck confit tacos. I’ll definitely have to try their take on ‘em, too.

  18. 18

    enchiladas smothered with mole? i swoon.

  19. 19

    Oh man! This is on my lunch list for next week!

  20. 20

    some great food photography here, kudos !
    ps. you had me at the churros!

  21. 21

    I’ back from my trip and catching up, but this post makes me want to dash out the door and check this place out. It sounds amazing.

  22. 22

    […] work and combines two of my three favorite foods: French and Mexican!  As her title suggest…Tacos? Bien Sur! Read for yourself this very interesting combination of cultures.  A little cheat, but food […]

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