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Great food… when someone else is paying

Great food… when someone else is paying

Review of: Cortez
By: Avery Glasser
Rating: 4
Read review on Judy’s Book.

The minute you walk in, it screams “hipster attitude lives here!” With bartenders neatly dressed in black and hostesses running around to shuffle guests from the bar to the table, it’s pretty much a see-and-be-seen sort of joint. The unexpected thing is that the food was pretty darned good.

We arrived a few minutes before our 7:45 reservation, found a few places at the bar and enjoyed a well made cocktail. I had a Journalist – 209 gin, vermouth and cointreau… though mine was strangely made with Plymouth gin and triple sec (which worked better in my opinion). The other half of our quartet arrived a few minutes late and were sent to meet us at the bar. However, it took a good 5 minutes to get them service (not because the bar was busy, but because the staff was chatting and not watching the patrons) and a good 10 minutes more before we were seated. I’m not usually a stickler for punctuality, but it just didn’t feel well coordinated. When we were brought to a small side room where a large table with a stroller was seated, I figured that we were in for a bad night.

But surprisingly, we weren’t.

Our service was prompt, well choreographed (the waitress always stepped between us and the wall instead of between the table to our left in order not to disturb their dining) and we never went without water or bread. As Cortez is a “small plates” restaurant, we ordered 8 dishes for four people.

Some highlights:

Roasted shrimp with crab risotto – cooked perfectly with a sauce so tasty that it was a sin not to sop it up with some bread before the plate was taken.

Yellowtail crudo – perfectly flavored and simply presented.

Pork Cheeks – soft, flavorful and second only to those served at Coco 500.

Hanger Steak – a precise medium rare served with amazing wilted greens.

The food ranged from great to fantastic, but it came at a cost – prices ran from $12 -$18 per small plate, which bordered on the obscene. For that much, I expect 30% more food on each plate.

The dessert I had was just ok, certainly not the highlight of the night. I had selected a peanut butter truffle cake with banana ice cream. The ice cream was perfect, served with peanut brittle cracklings. However, the truffle cake really lacked something. I judge chocolate cakes on the amazing flourless rendition from The Slanted Door why back from when it was located in the Mission. Back then, there wasn’t much better than that cake served with a pot of well selected tea. This was a much more pedestrian version – tasting more like a Reese’s peanut butter cup than a sophisticated dessert worthy of this restaurant (or the $9 price tag).

I would have given Cortez 3.5 stars, but the excellence of the drinks made me round up. It’s a good place when someone else is picking up the tab. Otherwise, check out some of the other small plate restaurants where you’ll pay a little less for a little more (even if the quality might not be as good).

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