For this installation, my guest judge is none other than my better half, DPaul Brown. We've been to Colibri once before, with our good friend Anita, who knows from good Mexican food. I've been looking forward to returning for some time, especially for the purposes of this project, but also because I just plain like the place.
I'm not exactly sure what makes Colibri a bistro as opposed to a restaurant, but I'm not splitting hairs. One thing is for sure -- while we have no shortage of Mexican food in San Francisco, we have a terrible dearth of quality places above the taqueria level. Colibri stands out as possibly the leader of the pack in this category.
One important note about Colibri's guac: If you're seated for a meal, they make it tableside in one of those rustic stone pestles (molcajetes). At the bar, it just shows up already made. They also spice to order. Though DPaul and I are major pepperheads, we ordered it medium spicy so as not to overwhelm the guac experience itself. Let's get on with the evaluation.
DPaul: 7.5 -- 7 at the bar, 8 at a table.
Sean: 6 -- The price-to-value ratio improves when they make it tableside for sheer theatrics, but $9 is a lot of money for a bowl of guac by any metric.
DPaul: 8 -- There were nice chunks of avocado and the onions added to the crunch. It was mostly smooth, the avocado was ripe which was good. An unripe avocado is not a good thing.
Sean: 9 -- My kind of guac: Great mix of chunky and smooth, chunks not so large as to be hard to handle. Nice crunch from tiny minced onions, noticeable citrus presence and a gentle tingle of chili pepper. The only thing that kept this from guac nirvana was a slight undersalting. This might have been less of an issue if they served chips, but with fresh tortillas, the guac needs to step up.
DPaul: 8 -- At $9 a pop you do get a nice portion though by sitting at the bar you miss the experience of watching the server make it fresh for you. A small ding for not having chips but the fresh tortillas are nice. I think the portion was good for 2-3 people, 4 people may have found it a little small. A little salt would have made it better, but the little tray of salsas helped out a lot. The whole experience at Colibri was really good, everything is very fresh from the drinks to the tortillas (even the service).
Sean: 9 -- I like this place a lot. I like the carved wood bar with more tequilas than you can shake a maraca at. I like the way they play vintage Mexican movies and, um, Cuban music. I like the margaritas with honest-to-god lime juice. I like that you get a serving of fresh tortillas with three housemade salsas as a bar snack and at the table. I don't even mind that the bartendress felt it necessary to dumb down poblanos as "a mild chili" and epazote as "kind of like oregano" since it was clearly well-intentioned. And I like that it's as enjoyable as a bar experience as in the dining room.
DPaul: 8 -- Fun place, good drinks and the food is real tasty.
Sean: 8 -- Guac is just the tip of the iceberg. The fresh tortillas are very nice, steaming hot and pliable, and the salsas are each unique and flavorful. I really liked the chubby little quesadillas and the tilapia al pastor tacos. The food is fun, fresh and delicious. Highly recommendable.
There you have it: Top-notch guac in a fun and festive atmosphere with rockin' margaritas. Who could ask for more?
Colibri Mexican Bistro
438 Geary St (btwn Mason and Taylor)