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Comal - Berkeley

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I missed this in December, the Chron reported that Comal, a 140-seat Mexican place with cocktails, is in the works for the old Paper Heaven and Other Change of Hobbit spaces at 2018-2020 Shattuck.

http://insidescoopsf.sfgate.com/blog/...

http://www.cityofberkeley.info/Conten...

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  1. That looks to be pretty upscale, to me. I prefer the dives.

    2 Replies
    1. re: arktos

      Downtown Berkeley could use more bars, and upscale Mexican food can be good in a way that dives rarely are outside of Mexico.

      1. re: arktos

        Of course, arktos, great dives are great. But a place to chill out with a margarita and good food is also wonderful -- especially before/after a movie, play or music all of which downtown Berkeley has aplenty.

      2. Sounds promising! It would be a really great addition to downtown Berkeley.

        1 Reply
        1. re: escargot3

          The guy they've chosen to be their (I assume) lead barman will be great.

        2. Looks like they soft launched a couple days ago and open fully tomorrow: http://www.comalberkeley.com/

          1. Went last night. Nice space, pretty amazing transformation.

            Sikil pak ($6.50) substituted eggplant for the usual tomatoes, tasty but a bit richer than I was expecting. Chips were fried golden brown and so thick that most of them I could split in two. Three salsas were all good and quite different.

            Grilled rock cod tacos (two for $12) were great. Pickled cabbage made me think of pupusas. Excellent fresh handmade-looking tortillas.

            Had a bite of the duck enchilada in red mole ($14), really good, some of the best mole I've had around here.

            Grilled bok choy with chile-pepito salsa ($7) was very good and tasted pretty Mexican even if bok choy isn't. Collard greens with garlic, olive, and lemon ($4) tasted more Italian but were very good. Green rice ($5) was good though I prefer my homemade.

            Overall, I was very impressed. It's nice to get first-rate Mexican food with lots of vegetables instead of heaps of starch and cheese.

            1. Great place. Just a week after opening they nailed it on all fronts: food, service, pacing, bar. Loved the duck enchiladas with mole, rock cod tacos, and wood fire carrots with bellwether ricotta and chile oil. But really, all the food was excellent.

              Price point feels right-on for the quality of the food (unless you're one of those close-minded people who believes all Mexican/Asian/Southern food should be served in cheap dives, in which case you should eat elsewhere). They sold themselves as a "small plates" spot so I was actually surprised by how large portions were and we probably ordered a bit too much.

              I see the most direct comparisons as Dona Tomas and Fonda (Albany / Berkeley / Oakland high-end / sit-down Mexican). Based on this one meal Comal is the clear champ.

              Great to see how Downtown Berkeley has taken off over the last few years. Used to be I just went there for the farmers' market, now there's Gather, Ippuku, Revival, and Comal - all among Berkeley's best dining options.

              I will definitely be back - I see this as a once a month spot.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Morton the Mousse

                The style's most similar to Rumbo al Sur. The service is probably benefiting from them not having the patio open, once they start serving there the capacity will more than double.

              2. Apparently Comal should go on a list of quiet places where folks can hear each other.
                "High-tech system lets restaurant set noise level" Chron business section
                http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article...

                7 Replies
                1. re: wolfe

                  Whatever the sound system is, it works well. Mrs. Rapini and I had a post-theatre meal there last night, and remarked on the fact that we could hear each other, despite the crowd.

                  BTW, we had the Sikil pak appetizer, duck enchiladas with a (mild) mole, fish tacos, and a side of sauteed rainbow chard--all of which was well executed. Having barely survived a tequila-infused youth, I'm no longer much of a fan; but the Del Rio cocktail I ordered was nicely balanced, clean, and subtle. Mrs. R's liked her El Burro cocktail, noting that it was neither too sweet nor too fruity.

                  I'm liking this place. It's a welcome addition to Berkeley generally, and downtown particularly.

                  1. re: Rapini

                    Went to Comal last week with much positive anticipation. Beautiful room and the acoustics are miraculous. Easy to talk across the table even with a full house. The sound system was audible but not intrusive. Thought the rock mix was a bit out of sync with the cuisine, though I do always like hearing Tom Petty.
                    The service was excellent and friendly. The cocktails were decent.
                    The food, however, I found disappointing, especially the two dishes with which I am most familiar. I have had many chicken mole negro tamales, most either in Oaxaca or in Petaluma. I love opening the banana leaf packages and scooping out the fluffy, smooth and grainy masa that has melded with the chicken and mole as it has cooked together inside the leaf. At Comal, a bland and rubbery tamal sat atop a garnish of banana leaf. The chicken inside was barely discernible and there was no mole sauce cooked into the mix. The mole sauce, which was acceptable, was ladled on top, as is done with chicken mole, but not tamales. Change is fine with me , so long as it's an improvement. To me, this version clearly was not.
                    The carnitas in the tacos didn't seem like carnitas at all. The meat seemed boiled(damp and chewy) rather then fried and braised. There was still unrendered fat in the meat and there was none of the crispy succulence that, for me, is a hallmark of carnitas.
                    Am I alone in this? Did I just hit a bad day? I would love for this place to be great, especially because of its proximity to Freight and Salvage and the Berkeley Rep.

                    1. re: gumbolox

                      As it turns out, we didn't order anything that you did, so I can't really respond to your comments. What we did order was very good though. OTOH, it wasn't what I experienced in Oaxaca.

                      When I go to our local ethnic or regional eateries, I try not to set my expectations on a faithful recreation of what's served in the actual country (or different area of the USofA). It's going to be some chef's interpretation, it's going to be made with ingredients that may not match what's available at the source, and so on. Hence, we don't necessarily get perfect Oaxacan food here, French, Italian, or--as the countless posts on this board will tell you--NY pizza, Philly cheesesteaks, NY bagels, badda bip badda bap.

                      Sorry you didn't do well at Comal, but as you noted, it's a nice space, good bar. Next time try the cod tacos or duck enchiladas, which seem to get thumbs up so far. One of the recent articles about the restaurant said that they're going to serve tlayudas--I'll be interested to see if they do, and how well they execute them.

                      1. re: Rapini

                        I'm all for local differences and variations, if they are as good or better as the original. Mateo Granados and his Cocina Latina in Healdsburg is a great example. I described the tamales I'm used to for comparisons sake, not because I was expecting exactly that. As for Comal's carnitas, I'm comparing it to the local item, from my neighborhood taquerias to Nopalito to Lolita's Mkt in Petaluma. All of them are better,
                        Actually, part of my heightened expectations came from two recent, new ethnic Mexican food experiences in Marin of all places. Everything I've had at El Huarche Loco in Larkspur Landing has been excellent, tasty, and soulful. Family run, this is their first restaurant here after some time with a food truck. Different stuff than Comal, but they do do a very good chicken mole. The family has roots in the restaurant business in Mexico City . The other was from the new regime at the Shoreline Coffee Shop in Mill Valley. Excellent Conchinita Pibil and duck tacos and pickled vegetables here. New chef, also from Mexico City.
                        As for Oaxacan Tamales. the real thing is available at Karina's Mexican Bakery in Petaluma. They also have Tlayudas and sell pasta de mole negro straight from Oaxaca that can be easily reconstituted at home and is much darker and more complex than the mole negro at Comal. I've not been to La Oaxaquenia in the mission, but it is related to Karina's and may have the same tamales.

                      2. re: gumbolox

                        The red mole I had on the duck last week was excellent, but if I ordered a tamale I'd expect that the would be mole steamed inside with the rest.

                        A wide variety of pork dishes are called carnitas. Some are braised, that's perfectly traditional but around here it would probably be smart to warn people that it's not what they might be used to.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Indeed, sometimes meat dishes that aren't made of pork are called carnitas. (though I wouldn't). My daughter tells me that she had halal 'carnitas', made with lamb, at a catered event in LA recently.

                          Curious if they had a wine list, and if you (or others) checked it out?

                          1. re: susancinsf

                            Short wine list includes some surprising items, such as Valle Isarco Kerner and Valle della’Acate Frappato by the glass.

                            Beer list is surprisingly lame compared with the other drinks.

                            http://www.comalberkeley.com/menus/

                  2. Tried a few more things.

                    The chicharrones ($3) were funky and good, like you'd get from a Mexican butcher. The wood-roasted heirloom carrots with Bellwether ricotta ($10) were great though a very small serving for the price, only item I've has so far that was not a good value. Jicama and cucumber with chile, lime, and salt ($4) were classic and refreshing.

                    I got the "de ese," which the server said was Oaxacan, large fresh corn tortillas and fresh hoja santa wrapped around beans and cheese ($10), unusual and delicious. Similar to traditional Sonoran burritos except for the tortilla.

                    I had a few bites of the quesadilla with al dente cauliflower, wild nettles, and mole amarillo ($9), good though quite subtle after the de ese.

                    Piquito beans refritos ($5) were fantastic. Don't order them if you're a vegetarian.

                    1. Tried the tetelas, "Avocado leaf black beans, queso fresco, salsa ranchera $10." Kind of like a triangular pupusa. Really good, deep and complex flavors.

                      Guacamole was first-rate, best I've had in a restaurant.

                      Had a bite of the chicken tamale with mole negro ($9), only dish I've had there that was not a winner. The mole was too sweet, too fruity, and not complex, bitter, or earthy enough for my taste,

                      1. Tried the 22-oz. rib-eye for two, $49 includes grilled bok choy, black beans, green rice, three salsas, and tortillas. Very good, good portion for two, good value.

                        I tried an Abuelo Sucio cocktail: Siete Leguas Reposado, Minas Real Reposado Mezcal, grenadine, house bitters, lots of orange peel, one of those giant ice cubes ($11). Oddly, given the ingredients, it tasted a lot like a Manhattan. Tasty.

                        They said they expect to open the patio Thursday.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                          Would you say the rib-eye is a "very good, good portion for two" if you don't order any starters, etc?

                          1. re: lmnopm

                            Depends on how hungry you are, but it seemed like plenty of food to me. Minus the bone that's probably over half a pound of meat each. The only starters we had were the jicama and cucumber and the grilled corn on the cob.

                            I forgot to mention the corn. It was the best version of that everyday Mexican street snack I've had. Quite traditional except for the use of chipotle aioli instead of plain mayonnaise.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              since many elote stands give the option of dusting the corn with chile powder, I imagine the taste is actually fairly traditional as well.

                        2. Went last night and I think I'll have to go again to try some of the things that Robert raves about. My own meal was ok but nothing to write home about yet except for the Palomaesque cocktail (Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, Cocchi Americano, grapefruit, lime, honey, salt, soda), which had a great balance, just like all of the Camino cocktails I love so. Chicharrones were the dense kind and the carrot habanero sauce added nice acidity. They made me appreciate that skill it must take to make the 4505 chicharrones so light and airy. Wood grilled white shrimp with a salsa Veracruzana (tomato, green olives, cooked onions) were served with head on, which I appreciated, but the salsa when eaten with the shrimp overwhelmed its delicate taste I thought. Shrimp quality was good but not great. I made the mistake of ordering a second dish with a tomato-based sauce: tamale w english peas, green olive, salsa ranchera. No discernible pea taste, green pepper and yucca (I think) inside, no olives. Red sauce very straightforward. A bit one dimensional for me. I I tired of eating it after half because of my previous dish. Masa was tender however. I'd focus on ordering dishes with different sauces/salsas next time for a better experience. Really nice space and the patio looks particularly inviting (full bar outside too). However, the bar stools for dining counter/bar are very uncomfortable for short people like me. Service still needs some work but it's early days.

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: rubadubgdub

                            I was there last night too. The patio is very comfortable, they have a very sophisticated heating system.

                            Spring vegetable soup ($8) was a variation on typical Mexican caldo: long-cooked carrots, potato, tomato, some kind of winter squash or rutabaga?, and chayote?, briefly poached favas, peas, and corn. It was so good I asked the server if they used meat broth, he said it was 100% vegetarian.

                            Squash blossom quesadilla with whole epazote leaves and salsa verde ($9) was great. I had a bite of the carnitas tacos with salsa verde ($12), fabulous, tasted like a different salsa verde. They make different tortillas for different dishes, the one for the quesadilla was thick and probably as big around as a burrito flour tortilla, the ones for the tacos were thin and delicate.

                            This is better Mexican food than I've had in a restaurant in this country before.

                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                              First visit:

                              We enjoyed our cocktails - I had a "agua fresca con carne" - great name. Given the choices of aguas frescas available, I wanted to taste the jamaica before committing to it in a drink with rum. It was quite tasty, and house made.

                              We then shared the spare ribs for2 - with corn, tortillas, rice, beans, and 3 salsas.

                              (1) The ribs - excellent. The best spare ribs I've had in awhile. The rub was so good I didn't want to put any sauce at all on the ribs.

                              (2) The corn - excellent. Not much more to say,

                              (3) The tortillas - very good.

                              (4) The rice - good, nothing special.

                              (5) The beans - good, nothing special, although with the flavor of the ribs and the corn, it is possible that any nuanced seasoning was lost.

                              (6) The salsas - 2 red, one green. I just wasn't a fan of any of them. They were all ok. I didn't use much. Perhaps they tasted exactly as intended, or would have been better on other dishes, but ... 'nuf said.

                              The portion for 2 ($48) was a good value. No starters, no room for dessert. So full, so full.

                              1. re: lmnopm

                                Ok, about a month late on this reply, based on my visit to Comal about a month back.

                                I was actually somewhat disappointed with the ribs, as were the six people in our party. They were tender and meaty and you get a ton of ribs. The problem was the rub: for all of us it was way too salty, and for me anyway it seemed like I had stuck my tongue in a big pile of salty chili power. Maybe they just over-did it that night or for our batch.

                                Corn was great, and I loved the guacamole: chunky and avocadoey, and had clearly not been sitting around but was made fresh. The tortillas also got raves from our party.

                              2. re: Robert Lauriston

                                Well, that's quite a recommendation...I'll make this place a must-visit this summer. I lived in Chicago 2003-2006 and loved Rick Bayless' Topolobambo and Frontera Grill, which hands-down serve the best Mexican food I've eaten anywhere, including Mexico. Comal surely can't be on that level? The menu is more limited, but the prices are definitely lower.

                                1. re: ptrichmondmike

                                  Not as good as Topo (best Mexican in the country, IMO) or Frontera but still very good and worth visitng.

                                  1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                    Agree. I can't say Comal is as good as I remember Topolobambo and Frontera, but I'd recommend it nonetheless.

                            2. I had a very enjoyable meal at Comal tonight.

                              We started with the Rabbit tinga, pea shoots, & mole amarillo enchiladas, and were pleased with how flavorful and fresh it was.

                              The yucca fries were cut long with a 1cm x 1cm face. I would have expected a place this nice to know how to cook yucca, but they were starchy, flavorless, oily, and chewy. The chipotle aioli was their only saving grace.

                              The Roasted beets and carrots with Bellwether Farms ricotta, citrus-piquin chile vinaigrette was a great fusiony dish.

                              The Sweet corn soup was served with a serrano chile-cilantro oil and thin strips of tortillas. The soup was very homey, and it had a flavor reminiscent of oatmeal, but in a good way.

                              I really enjoyed their fish tacos. Tonight it was wood-grilled rock cod, spicy pickled cabbage, and avocado aioli. Grilled fish often gets hidden by the mayo flavor in grilled fish tacos, but the fish flavor came through nicely.

                              The beer-marinated carne asada, nopales, chipotle salsa were a strong point. They used a good quality meat, you could actually taste the beer, and the nopales retained a crunchy enough texture to balance out the meat.

                              The corn on the cob w/ chipotle aioli & queso fresco was very good, but at $7, I was expecting more than a single cob of corn cut into seven pieces. This is the most ridiculously marked up item I've eaten in recent memory. Seriously ... the best corn on the cob I've eaten was at Cafe Habana in NYC, and I remember nearly having a heart attack at its $4.25 price.

                              We finished with the flan which was very silky. Overall, I was very happy with the meal, especially the emphasis on fresh vegetables.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: hyperbowler

                                Huh. I'm pretty sure I paid $5 for that corn on the cob dish, which struck me as a bit of a mark-up, but I liked the dish enough that it didn't bother me. The queso fresco they use is really, really good. And I'm pretty sure the corn is cut from two or three smaller ears rather than one large ear.

                                $7 is pushing it, though.

                                1. re: abstractpoet

                                  There was only one tapered end on the plate which led me to believe there was one large ear.

                                  Yes, the queso fresco is excellent. It crumbles nicely and isn't overly salty.

                              2. Went for a late dinner Thursday night. The kitchen was closing so in a rush I over-ordered. Hours have changed a bit: bar opens at 5 daily, kitchen at 5:30, kitchen closes at 10 / 11 Fri. & Sat., bar stays open for another hour.

                                Those fish tacos are insanely good, one of those dishes that put me in some kind of gluttonous trance.

                                The halibut ceviche was fantastic, maybe the best I've had. Great texture and seasoning.

                                Had a vegetarian tamale, squash blossom and cheese? with a red sauce. Simple but good. I don't know why they can't do better with the chicken and duck tamales.

                                The tlayuda was big and sloppy to eat but very tasty.

                                The meatballs were very good but more similar to dishes I can get elsewhere than most of the other stuff.

                                Beans and vegetable sides excellent as usual.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                  I had some leftover tamale for lunch, it was fresh corn and chiles. Really good.

                                2. I went last night and my experience was mixed.

                                  I loved the space. The cocktails were amazing. We each had two, plus a mezcal shot. All were wonderful, and i really liked the chicharrone salt that came with them.

                                  The food - hit and miss. The two of us split four dishes. I liked the chips and salsa - I thought the three salsas were excellent, though there weren't enough chips. The compressed watermelon and pimento de padron salad was excellent, but for $12, I expected more than two peppers, 4 cubes of watermelon and some cucumber chunks. The rabbit quesadilla was meh. Tortilla was a little too thick, and I didn't find the dish had a lot of flavor. The braised prawns were very good, but I didn't like how they served them with the heads on. I felt like they did that to make the dish look more impressive than it was - because otherwise it's just 4 medium prawns in a bowl of tomato sauce. Everything tasted fine, but nothing knocked my socks off.

                                  The service - horrible. We had a 30 minute wait which wasn't a big deal. The bar was full except for one seat. So I sat down and my husband stood next to me. They would not let us order chips and salsa unless both of us were sitting down. Eventually a second seat freed up and we were allowed to have chips.

                                  Then when our table was ready, they moved us to another bar. We were not actually given a table. We then waited a long time for someone to take our order. We put in our order for the mezcal shots and food. My mezcal shot came after we had finished the first of the three dishes. Halfway through the second of the three dishes, they told my husband that they were out of the mezcal that he had ordered. It was not until we were almost done eating the third course that his shot arrived.

                                  I liked the drinks enough that I want to go back and I think the food has promise, but I'll give it a few months for them to work out the kinks before going back.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: arugulove

                                    I thought things were running pretty smoothly before the rave review in the Chronicle, but I'm going to avoid peak hours for a while. Service was very efficient at 9:55 the other night.

                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                      When I read the Chron review, my first thought was "stay away for a month."

                                      1. re: lmnopm

                                        It's Berkeley. If you eat late, you can always just walk in.

                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                          Good to know. I went on a Saturday night at 6:30 p.m. and the wait was an hour and 15 minutes for two. We went to Ippuku instead. 5 minute wait. Was delicious.

                                  2. Outstanding restaurant! The service had no flaws the night I went. I had the Jack Satan cocktail which was very tasty, small, pricey and not particularly potent but well "constructed". The food was fantastic. The three salsas were each very good. The duck enchiladas were terrific and the colorado sauce and cheese toppings were perfection.

                                    But seriously, the best service you could possibly ask for. Despite only being open a few months, this place is humming along very smoothly.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: Andrew H

                                      3 of us went last night and had flawless service, delicious food, and enjoyed the attractive space. We were on the patio and were able to carry on a conversation with ease. All of our dishes were delicious. Highlights of the dinner were the enchilada, the tripe and chick peas in a chile broth, the bok choy that was served with the ribeye steak, the flan with blackberries and the chocolate budin.

                                      I hope they eventually put out a cookbook with recipes for some of these fantastic dishes.

                                    2. Front bar and communal table were almost empty when I walked in around 7:45, totally full within half an hour.

                                      Jack Satan was very good. If that's not completely original I'm not familiar with the model.

                                      Fries ($5) were exceptional: crisp, nicely seasoned, came with a delicious chipotle aioli. Oddly there were a few limp ones, I wonder how that happens?

                                      Tripe guisado ($9) was fantastic, deep and complex chile broth, chickpeas, one of the best tripe dishes I've had.

                                      Grilled shrimp ($14) were four big prawns, interesting prep, head and tail left on but shell stripped from the body. Good though the brains were kind of meh. What really made the dish was the salsa Veracruzana, chunky tomato sauce seasoned with an unusual mix of capers and herbs.

                                      Tetelas ($9) were good but a little bland, corrected that with bites of the pickled jalapeño served with them. Really should come with an appropriate salsa.

                                      Tried a few wines by the glass, it's really an interesting and thoughtful selection.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                        I had the fries again recently and they were perfect, all very crisp, best I've had in a while.

                                      2. My wife and I ate here last night on a rare date night.
                                        It was: good. Not great, and definitely no better than other upscale Mex I've had.
                                        Break it down:
                                        The drinks we ordered, Del Rio and Joaquin Murrieta, were very tasty.
                                        Chicharrones -- too dense, chewy. Doesn't hold a candle to 4505.
                                        White bass ceviche -- good, in that way that all ceviche is, but not special.
                                        Tripe guisado -- quite good, if you can stomach (ha!) tripe.
                                        Lamb quesadilla -- very tasty, and made for a good leftover.
                                        Pork enchilada -- good, but nothing special.
                                        Oaxacan chocolate budin -- an average pudding.
                                        Flan -- this is the one thing I would come back for in a heartbeat. Might have been the best flan I've ever had. Not at all eggy or rubbery. It held its shape on the plate, but the moment you put it in your mouth, it melted away. SO GOOD.

                                        1. Had a great new dish the other night, olive oil-poached local albacore, charred gypsy peppers, Emergo beans, watercress, chiles ($14). Seemed like a variation on the Italian classic tuna and bean salad.

                                          The heaters are all working in the patio and the firepit was going.

                                          1. Finally went here a few weeks or so ago. had a couple of Del Rio cocktails: Tequila Ocho Blanco, Hidalgo fino sherry, St. Germain, orange bitters, grapefruit zest - wonderful. i asked for something not sweet and this was it. our server was very knowledgeable about all the cocktails. with dinner, she steered me to the dry rosés. she was great.

                                            we had the local halibut ceviche, the duck mole enchilada, the compressed watermelon with cucumber, padron peppers, and feta, the squash blossom quesadilla, and the cod tacos.

                                            the only things that faltered for me were the quesadilla - the tortilla was just too thick, hard to chew, a bit dry - the one dish we didn't finish. the other thing was the compressed watermelon. not bad but nothing special - i've had this dish in other restaurants and this one just didn't stand out. i loved the fish tacos - perfectly light and crispy and served with a delicious creamy avocado aioli. also loved the mole - one of the better ones i've had (now don't get all upset people, i'm not an expert on moles and have not had all that many.) we also ordered their very good guac and chips and three salsas. none of them were very hot but the hottest was my favorite - i think it had chipotle in it. i would ask for a big bowl of just that one next time.

                                            i love the space, i love that it's so spacious and yet you can hear each other talk (and we sat at a communal table), i love that Berkeley is getting some very decent mid-level places to eat. i'm certainly going back.

                                            15 Replies
                                            1. re: mariacarmen

                                              they're quite possibly the best cali-mex place in Alameda county, and for that reason we'd return. we sat at the cook's counter, right next to the expediter, on this night one of the owners. he spoke passable kitchen Espan~ol, made sure the plates' appearance/presentation was correct, but we didn't see him taste anything, and he didn't act or look like someone who'd developed his palate doing prep or working the line for Bayless or Fernan Adria (or Tracy Dejardins for that matter). suggested to him that he might taste the masa of the tamales, 'cause to our palates it had too much salt. did not comment on the fresh but rubbery tortillas, because of all the folks we watched prepping food, the two women making tortillas, quesadillas, tlayudas (their hand sink was directly in front of us) had the strongest indigenous features and spoke but few words in two hours. with incentive and coaching (tweaking the masa maybe) they'd probably produce fine tortillas.

                                              the mole we tried was just average ; if you get a decent prepared concentrate from a good Mexican grocery you can make a better one at home, and if their kitchen adapted one of the recipes out of a good cookbook they'd come up with more depth and complexity.

                                              from these reports it appears no one has tried the pescado zarandeado, one of the most expensive entrees on the menu. a dish like that (price aside, if they use a high quality fresh fish of decent size and proper execution their tariff isn't outrageous) should not even be offered if they don't have great confidence in the grill/sauce cooks. the last time we had the dish was from the hands of a master in LA at about half the price (a while back, so it could be higher now) in more humble surroundings of course.

                                              the nuts and bolts of a place like Comal -- the labour intensive nature of the food prep means the profit margin for drinks is immensely greater than for the foods. by only taking reservations for the earliest seating and providing a pleasant space to wait and buy drinks, they've created a formula that has to keep the food good enough to induce the customers who eat at conventional 1830-2030 hours to tolerate waiting 30-70 minutes. if great food comes out of that formula it isn't necessarily by design.

                                              1. re: moto

                                                I don't believe keeping people waiting was part of their plan. They took reservations at the beginning but were overwhelmed by the crowds, and you can eat at the bar.

                                                1. re: moto

                                                  I keep meaning to report on my visit to Comal, but time gets away from me. It isn't clear to me whether you have tried the pescado zarandeado or not, but I did on our visit. I thought the price was reasonable for quality and surroundings.

                                                  I did think the drinks were pricey, particularly the Joaquin Murieta, which was very good, but a small portion for the price. When my friend thought one of her drinks was too sweet, they immediately remade it, cheerfully and without charge, even though she'd drunk half by the time they came back to check on us and got her comment. Overall service was great, the heated patio was very nice.

                                                  Anyway, back to the pescado, it was every bit as good as the pescado zarandeado I had at Mariscos Chente with Sergio Penuelas cooking a few years ago (I am guessing this is the same master chef in LA you are referring to). Very well executed, perfectly fresh fish. We were asked if we wanted the entire fish head and all or wanted the head removed before serving. Duh, no brainer, of course we wanted the whole thing and the whole thing was demolished. The size was more than decent. Note that they charge by the fish; IIRC at Mariscos Chente the charge was by weight, and to be honest while it was cheaper at MC it wasn't half the price when weight is taken to account. However, I don't believe it is always on the menu at Comal, or even on the menu all that often, which could account for lack of reports (?). I presume they only put it on the menu when they can get the fresh fish which is as it should be.

                                                  I am with Mariacarmen on the watermelon salad and I have to admit that I couldn't taste much flavor difference (or even that much texture difference) between compressed watermelon and regular watermelon, although it was refreshing.

                                                  It isn't a Topolobampo (Bayless' flagship restaurant) but it is half the price of Topolobampo.

                                                  By the way, I won't tolerate waiting 30 to 70 minutes. We went in a group of four on a Saturday night, but we made reservations for 5:30 and were seated promptly. Indeed, the two of us that arrived first were seated right away, and offered drinks and appetizers, while we waited for our (somewhat late) companions. They were very gracious about it, and we never felt rushed, although folks without reservations were indeed being told that it was quite a long wait.

                                                  I will go back, but I wouldn't go back on a Saturday night without reservations. (unless I went very late). Not sure if it is a formula or the fact that, let's face it, good Mexican restaurants, or good Cal-Mexican restaurants, are not easy to find in the bay area, but there are ways around the crowd issues.

                                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                                    I think the rib-eye and chicken are always on the menu and the third plato fuerte alternates between ribs and fish.

                                                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                      Could be, although my impression is that the fish option isn't always pescado zarandeado. right now the plato fuerte options (for the menu from last night) are ribs, chicken or rib-eye:

                                                      http://www.comalberkeley.com/menus/

                                                      1. re: susancinsf

                                                        I've seen several different whole fish on the menu.

                                                    2. re: susancinsf

                                                      thanks for the comments on the pescado zarandeado. Bayless' overhead at Topolobampo is probably considerably higher than Comal's, and he probably pays some of his staff very well, to keep the best working for him or coming to Chi to work for him.

                                                      keeping your good will by remaking the cocktail is of course valuable in itself, but the high profit margin for drinks probably means they still make money after the second one. if they plan their meals around selling x-number of covers and portions and consistently reach a high per cent of it while moving lots of alcohol, there's little material incentive for them to offer any reservations after the sole 5.30 allocation. but it's essentially a snub to customers who can't make a 5.30 and have to travel a distance or have another time constraint, by imposing a significant variable time investment on them. offering a limited number of later reservations would be a gesture of thanks to the clients who value eating there enough to make an advance commitment.

                                                      1. re: moto

                                                        If they've got people waiting for an hour or two, why should they lose money holding empty tables for reservations?

                                                        The crowds are unpredictable. As noted above, I walked in at 7:45 on a Saturday and the front bar and communal table were almost empty.

                                                        1. re: moto

                                                          apart from the higher overhead issue (not sure it would really be all that much higher, however, given relative square footage costs in Chicago and Berkeley, not that I am an expert), Comal just isn't on the same level as Topolobampo in terms of execution and complexity of the dishes. But I would have been amazed if it were, given the relative prices. (I've only had the pleasure of dining at Topolobampo once, and got a tasting menu; cost was just north of $150 just for me with some drinks, tax and tip, IIRC). But, this isn't a ding on Comal, which is much more of a casual place. Welcome addition to the East Bay dining scene, however, IMO.

                                                          1. re: moto

                                                            I appreciate that there's a good option where I can have a spontaneous Saturday dinner out, as opposed to a lot of the great restaurnats in the East Bay where I have to make a reservation a week or two in advance to get a table at a decent hour. Comal has an awesome outdoor seating area where you can have a snack and drink while waiting for your table which makes the wait totally fine.

                                                            Per their email, it's not a snub it's a very sensible business decision to optimize seatings:

                                                            "We now seat people on a first-come, first-served basis. The primary reason for the policy shift is the high unpredictability of turn times – some parties are in and out in 45 minutes, other are here more than two hours. This unpredictability makes slotting reservations very difficult and often inefficient. We’re finding that wait times during busy stretches are significantly reduced with our new policy, as we are able to seat tables as soon as they become available."

                                                            Topo is a silly comparison - it's a totally different league of restaurant. Frontera is a better comparison - and I've enjoyed my meals at Comal as much as Frontera (FWIW Frontera also has a no reservations policy)

                                                            1. re: Morton the Mousse

                                                              of course it functions fine for them and they might not even be aware how potential clients might feel -- and the policy will essentially screen the clientele (favoring folks who enjoy and have the time to drink and hang out). the folks who might have work hours or health limitations or travel time issues who have to eat there only on rare or random occasions will put up or do without. my post's mention of Bayless didn't compare Comal to his Chi flagship ; another person brought it up -- the context of my mention of Bayless was rather different, about the impression the expediter/owner gave me about his knowledge and quality control about the foods.

                                                        2. re: moto

                                                          i've made mole at home and was unimpressed, using one of the many-steps-many-MANY ingredients recipes i found. but like i said, i don't know much about mole.

                                                          i'd forgotten that they were making all the tortillas by hand! thanks for the remind. and i did notice that everyone in the kitchen was very indigenous looking - commented on that to my friends.

                                                          1. re: mariacarmen

                                                            home cooks rarely or only randomly have access to ingredients of the highest degree of quality and consistency that the best cooks use ; part of gaining mastery of cooking is learning how to identify quality components. there's a big variation in intensity and flavour in the many spices, fruits, nuts that go into moles. just with something like almonds, for instance, if you get the best quality raw almonds and toast them carefully, the flavour is different than anything you get from packages or bulk food bins in supermarkets ; the in-shell, organic walnuts from one farm in Sonoma county we get each fall taste very different than other walnuts (less tannic, just one significant aspect). when Mateo Granados gave us a quick tour of his kitchen and showed us a spice/herb paste they prepare (similar in several respects to mole), he explained that the components get combined, ground, and dried, and then go through grinding and drying twice more, adjusting technique and intensity at each stage, so he can rely on consistent flavour/concentration, texture, moisture content.

                                                            it's also quite unlikely, unless you find a high end establishment that keeps several master cooks working in the same kitchen on different regional specialties, that you'd find a dish like pescado zarandeado in a place that makes good moles. from our experience and from some of the other commentaries, Comal doesn't consistently execute their fresh tortillas, so variability with more complicated items wouldn't be surprising. the mole you tried could well have been better than what we were served.

                                                          2. re: moto

                                                            We shared the pescado last week and the whole fish was great, but the sides of rice and beans were not (the rice was cold and pretty flavorless, and the beans were oversalted though at least the epazote was discernable and the tortillas were just OK), so the overall impression was value was not really there (though not completely out of line with the rest of the place). The tuna appetizer was great, as Robert reported. As others noted, the salsas are not picante enough and while the cocktails are good, most skew a bit sweet.

                                                            We were seated in the middle of the middle section where the second bar is located. There is a high ceiling and in this space the touted sound system was not effective - it was too loud to hear table-mates and hard to communicate with the server. On a prior visit we sat in the front dining area, where the system seemed to function as advertised: you could hear the music, and conversation was not difficult.

                                                            As to not taking reservations being because they are uncertain how quickly a table will turn, the reasoning is weak. It is not at all a unique problem and definitely gives the restaurant the advatange - which will work so long as there is enough draw; I expect in the future they'll reinstate resevations.

                                                            1. re: foodeye

                                                              It's not unusual for restaurants not to take reservations.

                                                              If the music's too loud, just mention that to your server. They have zones they can adjust independently.

                                                        3. We had a great meal there last week . . .

                                                          1. Post on their blog says they have tamales de chepil.

                                                            1. Decided to see if Comal had an opening after watching a movie at the nearby California Theatre ("Porco Rosso"). The hostess said no tables available at the moment (8:45 pm) but thought plenty of tables would open up soon. By the time we arrived 10 minutes later, we were seated immediately in the heated patio.

                                                              Since it was just me and my husband, we couldn't sample everything -- but we did try the Papas Fritas (great chipotle aioli), the Guajillo Adobo Pork Spareribs, and the Flan. The spareribs were exceptionally tasty (I liked the rub) as was the grilled corn. The flan was possibly the best I've ever had, ethereal texture (rather than rubbery). Great meal!

                                                              3 Replies
                                                              1. re: Nineteen

                                                                I think the flan is the best thing on the menu. It's so much better than other flans I've had around town, and yes, something about the texture that makes it special, creamy but still with some hold.

                                                                1. re: singleguychef

                                                                  Is it Yucatec-style flan Napolitano (also called flan de queso) that derives its velvety texture from sweetened condensed milk and cream cheese?

                                                                  1. re: Melanie Wong

                                                                    Sorry, I don't know. It doesn't say on the menu (other than calling it "tradicional").and I didn't ask the server what kind of style of flan it was. I was too busy gulping it down. ;-)

                                                              2. Went last night at 5:30 thinking that since per the web site they take only "limited reservations" we'd be able to walk in. No, the place was fully booked and the bar was full.

                                                                9 Replies
                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                  Robert, we were a party of four Saturday night. No reservations, 1-1.5 hour wait . . .

                                                                  BUT (in the FWIW Dept.), there are 2 or 3 picnic-type tables out back, behind the outside bar, where you can side, order food and drink while waiting for your table . . . those are open seating, first -come, first-served; just as with the bar seats -- you can indeed get food there.

                                                                  1. re: zin1953

                                                                    Can you order from the full menu at those tables? I was told by other customers that you could only order a few items back there. Any idea if that's accurate?

                                                                    The back area is great, but on a busy night, it takes forever to get a drink. In those situations, I've had good success at walking to the front bar and had little to no wait.

                                                                    1. re: hyperbowler

                                                                      You can only order chips and salsa/guac in the bar area.

                                                                      1. re: The Dive

                                                                        You can order from the full menu at the bars themselves.

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                          yes, but I think it is frowned upon to then bring the full menu items to the picnic tables. When I asked a couple of Saturday ago about getting more than chips at the picnic tables (as I saw the folks at another table with tacos and the like), I was told by our server "I don't know where that food is coming from, but it upsetting the whole system"!!

                                                                      2. re: hyperbowler

                                                                        a) I've only ordered appetizers, as we were still waiting for our table, so the answer is "I don't know."

                                                                        b) I usually order directly from the bartenders at *either* the back or front bar -- drinks AND food.

                                                                      3. re: zin1953

                                                                        The host didn't say that was an option, just that there was nothing for two. Maybe they were already full, like the bar.

                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                          Hey all, reporting back after taking my sister for her birthday dinner @ Comal. We were very pleased with the vibe and look of the restaurant as we checked in with hostess. Six pm on Friday night, we were told an hour wait. The hostess did not let us know about the back patio, but I knew about it, so we went back. It was unbelievable to find such a great outdoor space with lots of seating and fire pit plus another bar in Berkeley! BUT, even though the cocktail waitress said yes there was service at the tables, we had quite a while to put our order in. The community table we sat was not cleared of the previous occupants' salsa/chips order--even when our salsa and chips were delivered, the items were not taken away! It was busy, but come on! The chips came before the drinks. Then, we were texted that our table was ready (the way they do it) and the wait staff had little idea how to deliver our items to our table---we had to do it! And, as far as I know, you can only order chips and salsa at the outside tables. Other than those weird glitches, food drinks and overall service was great, and we'll be back!

                                                                          1. re: walkoffdinner

                                                                            You can order from the whole menu at the non-self-seating outdoor tables.

                                                                    2. We had a pretty good meal there last night - the bok choy was excellent, and the cucumbers and jicama are great. The rabbit tinga quesadilla and the chile relleno seem to be the two things to order at present. The menu is very seasonal. Also, fantastic Mojito. Seems like a good place for a large group.

                                                                      1. Tried a few new or new-to-me dishes.

                                                                        Ensalada picada (chopped salad) with little gems, beets, avocado, goat feta, and cilantro-yogurt vinaigrette ($9) was great, really nice combination. I think there was also some baby hearts of palm.

                                                                        Quesadillas with rabbit tinga, pea shoots, and mole amarillo ($13) were really good, the earthy pea shoots paired nicely with the slight bitterness of the rabbit and added a nice crunch. Some pieces were very messy given how they cut them.

                                                                        Brussels sprouts and autumn squash with pequin chiles and pepitas ($7) was a really smart and good combination, though I'd have preferred a higher proportion (say 50%) of Brussels sprouts. I'm going to try making something like that at home.

                                                                        Fish taco as usual the highlight of the meal. Just insanely good.

                                                                        1 Reply
                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                          i forgot i went back a few weeks ago and also had a good night. fish tacos, as you say, always excellent. also the ceviche.

                                                                          new to me, we had the guajillo adobo pork spareribs - enough for three and even to take some home. nice and tender, good smokey flavor, i would have them again. the rice and beans on the side, however, were pretty flavorless, and we didn't eat them. took them home to a friend who loves bland food. the roasted corn on the cob, however, was absolutely delicious, and the extra traveled well.

                                                                        2. We tried a new "plato fuerte," roast turkey with three moles and greens ($42). The bird was delicious and juicy. The coloradito and negro moles were good, the amarillo was great. Too much food for two, probably enough to split four ways if you got some appetizers and extra sides.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                            I had the turkey again yesterday, it's really delicious. Half a small bird. This time two of the moles seemed bitter and the third wasn't very interesting, maybe I just wasn't in the mood. Didn't really matter as the turkey didn't need anything. Why is chicken so common in restaurants and turkey rarely seen outside of sandwich places and hofbraus?

                                                                          2. Tried the ribs, they were great. Not smoked but delicious. St. Louis cut.

                                                                            I'm still baffled by their only-at-5:30 reservation policy. Called at 4:45 last night and they said they could not give us a reservation. Walked in at 5:45 and they said they could seat us at 6:15, so we had a seat at one of the patio tables in the uncovered area all the way at the back. (The covered area is all reserved.) Went back to the host station at 6:15 and they seated us in the covered area at a table that had been empty the whole time. So effectively they gave us a 6:15 reservation, we just had to be there in person to make it.

                                                                            I can understand not wanting to seat the whole place when the doors open and slam the kitchen, but if you have no space immediately available for walk-ins until the second seating, why not offer reservations throughout the first seating?

                                                                            1. Went on a Monday night with a bunch of friends (6 of us total) and had an enjoyable meal. Everyone was prepared for a wait due to the no-reservation policy, but even though the restaurant was pretty full and buzzing with energy, we walked in at 7:30pm and were seated in 10-15 minutes. The space is surprisingly large. Lots of hard surfaces. If you are one who hates speaking loudly to your dinner companions, this is probably not the place for you. It's not so loud that you have to yell or feel your ears ringing afterward, though.

                                                                              We ordered several small plates to share- the guacamole and chips, the sigil pak (a pumpkin seed and eggplant dip), shrimp ceviche and the chile relleno. The chile relleno was quite large for a starter, so it made it easy to share. All the starters were good. The guac and sigil pak came with a trio of salsas which were okay but not terribly interesting. The chips were freshly fried tortillas, very crunchy. A little oversalted but not unpleasantly so. The guac was surprisingly spicy, and had a very fresh taste with lots of big chunks of avocado and plenty of lime juice. The sigil pak was creamy and fairly un-spicy, almost like a nice hummus. The chile relleno was tender and had lots of cheese and a flavorful sauce, everyone loved it. The ceviche was excellent- sweet fresh seafood, a nice balance of salt and lime and a restrained hand with the raw onions.

                                                                              For entrees, my friends got the tamales, mahi mahi tacos, enchiladas, and vegetarian mushroom quesadilla, and everyone liked what they got, especially the quesadilla. A friend and I split the roast chicken. The roast chicken was like Zaki Kabob House's rotisserie chicken, very moist and heavily seasoned. It was a fair bit on the salty side but still very tasty, and the skin was nicely crisp without being hard. It was a whole chicken, cut up, and meant to be shared among 2-3 people. The chicken was served over roasted fingerling potatoes, and on the side they had a chile rice (very spicy yet bland), a big bowl of soupy black beans (just bland) and small flour tortillas.

                                                                              We were full but not so full we couldn't all demolish a shared flan. As noted earlier in this thread, their flan really is excellent. Super tender custard, almost barely holding its shape, with a not-too-sweet sugar sauce and nice candied kumquats. A perfect finish.

                                                                              The server forgot one of our orders, but he was otherwise quite funny and attentive, and filled our water glasses regularly. I ordered one of their daily agua frescas, a coconut-pineapple-guava juice that was very tasty.

                                                                              We ended up paying about $34 a person, and several people had wine and margaritas. I'd go back.

                                                                              4 Replies
                                                                              1. re: greymalkin

                                                                                >>> The space is surprisingly large. Lots of hard surfaces. If you are one who hates speaking loudly to your dinner companions, this is probably not the place for you. It's not so loud that you have to yell or feel your ears ringing afterward, though. <<<

                                                                                I don't find the space to be that loud at all -- especially given its obviously hard, flat surfaces. The reason behind that is all the money they spend on acoustic engineering -- see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f-QFK-... for the explanation.

                                                                                1. re: greymalkin

                                                                                  The surfaces aren't all hard, there are a lot of acoustic panels hidden behind decorative fabric. On top of that, the Meyer Sound system works something like noise-cancelling headphones.

                                                                                  http://www.meyersound.com/news/2012/c...

                                                                                  1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                    Thanks zin1953 and Robert Lauriston, that's good to know. It wasn't painfully loud, and it wasn't a negative for me personally. And you're right, it is much easier to talk in there than in similar spaces. I have family members who are sensitive to noise and can't hear well if there is too much ambient noise, so it's something I try to notice. We had a group of six with normal hearing and we were occasionally leaning across the table saying "What?" if someone didn't speak loudly enough.

                                                                                    I wonder if perhaps some of us simply had speaking voices that matched the ambient noise cancellation from the Meyer sound system too well. I don't know enough about such technologies to know if that's possible, but that would be interesting.

                                                                                  2. re: greymalkin

                                                                                    good to hear about the chicken - and more so because i've not yet tried Zaki Kabob's chicken. the Comal prep with the potatoes sounds really good.

                                                                                    i agree on their rice and beans. very bland.

                                                                                  3. A friend and I went again last night. We were sort of pressed for time and let the server know. We got seated immediately during the height of dinner hour, got drinks, tizers, and entrees and were out of there in 25 minutes. The food was as excellent as always but seriously, this place has the best service of any resto I've ever been to.

                                                                                    I had the chicken tamale, it was great but I wish I'd gotten tne the turkey enchiladas.

                                                                                    Starting a restaurant? Go to Comal and see how they do it.

                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                    1. re: Andrew H

                                                                                      Agree about the great service. We did table 30 (set menu for parties of 8-10) for my father's 76th birthday. The food ranged from good to excellent, but it was the service that really stood out. The few special arrangements we had made (simplified dishes for the under 10s, an extra dish and a chair with a back for my father) were all handled flawlessly. Our server was outstanding. The meal was well paced, dishes were cleared (and packed to take home) as needed, drink orders/reorders were prompt...

                                                                                      Additionally, the sound system is all it is cracked up to be. My father has a hard time in loud venues. Comal manages to sound buzzy and alive, while allowing diners to converse without raising their voices. I hope that this tech spreads to other restauarants; it makes for a very pleasant experience.

                                                                                    2. had a "snack" here last night after a movie. we arrived at 8:45 and were seated immediately at the community counter.

                                                                                      for cocktails, we had Jack Satans and Margaritas - perfect. two of us spit the chips and salsas, the chili relleno and those amazing rock cod tacos.

                                                                                      the chili relleno was new to me (here) and absolutely wonderful. the tomato sauce screamed freshness, and i loved the eggy coating, which wasn't a bit soggy. and it's HUGE. this dish alone is enough reason to come here.

                                                                                      the chips/salsas and the fish tacos were delicious, as usual. i noticed that they took the ribs off the menu which is a bummer, but they have a bone-in rib eye steak now, which looked amazing.

                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                      1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                        They do three "platos fuertes" a night, rotating among ribs, chicken, turkey, whole fish, ribeye, and pork loin.

                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                          ah! good to know. thx.

                                                                                      2. Tried a bunch of dishes that were new to me: white shrimp ceviche ($14), chile relleno ($9), white emergo bean and quintonil soup ($8) that tasted very Italian despite the exotic greens, lamb barbacoa quesadilla ($13), pork enchiladas with excellent mole coloradito ($14), all great. Sikil pak didn't seem as rich as the last time I ordered it.

                                                                                        1. Went on Friday and got the usuals (guac, meatballs, compresed watermelon salad, all really good as always) and some new-for-us items, such as the mole chicken wings, potato-cheese flauta, chile relleno, corn on the cob and the whole chicken. Aside from the meatballs (which are simply some of the around), big hits were the wings, corn and chicken. We had a wait quite a bit for a table (got there at 6:10), but they had a cart in the back patio with chips, wings, flautas, beers that you could buy from directly. Great time as always.

                                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                                          1. re: The Dive

                                                                                            We had a 5:30 reservation on Friday and when we got there there was already a line out the door and the place was packed, but we got a lovely table in the back. Wasn't even too noisy. If possible, I think that's the way to go. Food was great, too.

                                                                                          2. Had a new-to-me item, quesadilla with squash blossoms, epazote, and habanero salsa. Earthy and delicious. Despite the habanero it wasn't particularly spicy.

                                                                                            11 Replies
                                                                                            1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                              was the quesadilla made with a tortilla, or was it hand formed masa around the filling, more like an empanada?

                                                                                              1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                Fresh. They use different masas for different dishes.

                                                                                                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                  I think she is talking about the sort of quesadilla that is not made with a tortilla. The sort that is found in Mexico City.

                                                                                                  1. re: wally

                                                                                                    If you want one without traveling to DF, Mijita does a good version of that type that is like a fried empanada, made with masa that is not first pressed into a tortilla, and they serve it with a guacamole garnish.

                                                                                                    1. re: foodeye

                                                                                                      I think I've had that style at El Huarache Azteca, though they do tortilla-style ones too.

                                                                                                      1. re: foodeye

                                                                                                        yes, I was definitely wondering if it is what I think of as Mexico City style (which is where I first tasted them, at least 40 years ago...), because Comal strikes me as a place that could do that style well, and I am always looking for versions further north than in DF (or LA). not a fan of the ones at Mijita (or really of Mijita in general, though I do sometimes like the one at the ballpark as a pre-game option). I've tried them a few times, thought they were bland, and once underdone. I usually order the albondigas there. Perhaps if the Giants ever decide to start winning other than at Chavez Ravine :-) I will go back and try their version again.

                                                                                                        1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                          I wouldn't be surprised if Comal did those empanada-style quesadillas sometime since they like to experiment.

                                                                                                          1. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                            Chilango, at Church and Market, does DF-style quesadillas.

                                                                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                              Chilango -- one of my favorite Mexican places in SF.

                                                                                                              1. re: Tripeler

                                                                                                                Glad to hear Chilango is still worthy -- haven't been since March 2010, though it was good. I see they don't use the green masa anymore.

                                                                                                    2. re: susancinsf

                                                                                                      I had that yesterday, and it was made with a very nice, tender blue corn tortilla, and was not cooked in any fat, just on a dry comal.

                                                                                                  2. Dinner last night or the first time – wasn’t wowed. Had a comically obnoxious waiter, so I’m sure that didn’t help. Flavors all seemed muted, I prefer bolder. Had the chips and quac with three salsas – quac is good, but nothing special about it, same for the salsas, flavors a little too mild or my tastes, chips were a little thick. Chicharrones were average and even the habanero hot sauces served with them didn’t have much of a kick. Chile Relleno was great as was the corn that came with the ribs. Cocktails were very good though my wife who doesn’t drink was trying to get the bar to make an interesting non-alcoholic cocktail but all the waiter could offer was “I can make you a lime-ade”. Eventually we asked another server and got a great berry agua fresca. Ribs were good and large portion, but boring and came with black rice and black beans – the black rice was just black beans mixed with rice, so it seemed kind of redundant to serve it with black beans, which were pretty bland. Oh yeah, there was a hair in the chile relleno we discovered halfway through. The other server we flagged down immediately replaced it and took it off the bill.
                                                                                                    The waiter was very young and had a sort of fake obsequious demeanor. “shall I bring you anther cocktail sir” and responded to each request and sort of a bow with “yes you may sir”. Stood on the side of the bar sort of staring at us, but didn’t change out plates or check on us until asked, and even then asked “should I change her plates as well”, huh? Yes you should its covered in sauce from the chile relleno and I need to make tacos with my ribs. Also the ribs and other big platters are supposed to come with house made salsa but he forgot to bring them we had to ask for them. The hostess and other server we dealt with were great, but losing the waiter lottery can really strain a meal.
                                                                                                    The space it great, we ate in the back room and loved it during sunset, really beautifully done, warm woods, super high ceiling. If I lived nearby I’d go in for cocktails and try some tacos maybe, but wouldn’t drive across the bridge to eat here again.

                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: sunnyside

                                                                                                      We lucked out on a reasonably good waiter but otherwise our Comal experience was similar to yours (minus the hair in the food, LOL). As a "bar with food" it's one of the better ones, but the standard for those isn't terribly high, sadly.

                                                                                                      Be glad you weren't with us at Roka Akor last week. It was almost comical how below-average the service was at those $125+/pp prices!

                                                                                                      1. re: sunnyside

                                                                                                        The standout regular menu items for me are the tripe, the corn, and especially the fish tacos.

                                                                                                        1. re: Robert Lauriston

                                                                                                          The tripe is by far my favorite thing on the menu.

                                                                                                          1. re: JonDough

                                                                                                            i too love those fish tacos. going there tomorrow night, pre-movie. re the tripe - are you talking about the guisado? or is there another tripe prep, at times?

                                                                                                            the memelas sound good too.

                                                                                                            1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                              The guisado, yes. Seems like it's always on the menu.

                                                                                                              I don't think I've had the memelas. The Oaxacan dish changes daily.

                                                                                                              The fries are also excellent.

                                                                                                              1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                Robert is correct. It is the Tripe guisado.

                                                                                                                1. re: mariacarmen

                                                                                                                  we split the guisado and the fries, and had jack satan cocktails.

                                                                                                                  i love a spicy cocktail - this one's one of my favorites.

                                                                                                                  the fries were ok - really liked the coriander lime salt and the chipotle aioli, but the fries themselves were rather tough to me.

                                                                                                                  the tripe was amazing - such a depth-ful sauce, so full of different flavors - a rich, smokey, yet mellow sauce. we just loved it. a very homey dish i'll gladly have again. thanks for the recommendation, Robert and JonDough. our bartendress highly recommended it over the albacore, simply because not enough people order it and she thinks it's fantastic. she's right. we ate it up with their homemade tortillas.

                                                                                                          2. Closed tomorrow for the annual staff party.