Best International Tapas San Francisco 2004 - Iluna Basque, Mezes, Pesce and Baraka
The biggest recent trend in San Francisco dining is the proliferation of new restaurants serving tapas -- traditionally plates of salty, easily dished-up snacks (hams, cheeses, olives, perhaps oysters) served in Spanish bars to encourage lingering over drinks. Here in S.F., the definition has grown to encompass all kinds of dishes (small in size, but not in taste) from all over the globe.
>701 Union (at Powell), 402-0011, www.ilunabasque.com
Among the two dozen or so tempting little plates you'll find in this small, wood-paneled, modern corner place are crisp yet creamy crab croquettes called txangurro, selections of Basque hams and cheeses, salt cod brandade, and the ratatouillelike pip?rade.
2373 Chestnut (at Divisadero), 409-7111, www.mezessf.com
The traditional Greek dips such as tzatziki (garlic, cucumber, sour cream), taramasalata (tinted pink with salmon caviar), and eggplant caviar are joined by stewed octopus, grilled sausages, and lots of other treats. Mezes means "appetizers," and the vast array served here is appetizing indeed.
2227 Polk (at Green), 928-8025
This chic cafe specializes in cichetti, bright, clean-tasting little plates of Italian seafood, as served in Venice. There's a raw bar, in addition to bruschetta with anchovies, grilled sardines, house-smoked fish, bacala with beans, and a couple of meat and pasta dishes, along with many more seafood choices.
288 Connecticut (at 18th Street), 255-0370, www.barakasf.net
Housed in a cozy, stylish, red-painted room, this third Potrero Hill outpost from the owners of nearby Chez Papa and Chez Maman offers Spanish-Moroccan tapas with a French accent. Fattoush salad (with feta and pita chips), merguez sausage, fried anchovies with aioli, grilled kebabs with dabs of fiery harissa (pepper sauce), sides of couscous with golden raisins, and small bocadillos (sandwiches) stuffed with serrano ham are on offer. Don't miss the orange-water beignets or the rosewater-scented rice pudding for dessert.