Eight-month-old modern Mexican restaurant La Urbana has won over a diverse clientele on the Divisadero corridor, both for its casual but lively atmosphere and its inventive spins on Mexican flavors. The food is, as it was when they first opened, better than it promises to be, with minimal dish descriptions belying a ton of attention to detail, thoughtful combinations of ingredients, and some beautiful, high-end plating.
On a recent meal I was impressed with an asparagus salad that came tossed with mache, avocado, and nopales in a cilantro dressing; as well as "huevo con chorizo" appetizer, in which spicy chorizo, pickled jalapeño, and potato purée are served inside a hollowed out eggshell with a soft egg yolk hiding at the bottom.
But the star of the meal was a deceptively complex, well-executed spin on arroz con pollo, in which chef de cuisine Julio Aguilere serves a perfectly juicy, crisp-skinned boneless chicken breast over plump, al dente farro cooked in what seemed to be tomato and chiles, and topped with fresh pea shoots and greens, queso fresco, as well as his grandmother's, mildly spicy chicken gravy. It's served with crema and fresh blue-corn tortillas on the side, and it's both a comforting dish and a cleverly updated one, with all the flavors and textures elevated beyond the humble dish that inspired it.
La Urbana - 661 Divisadero Street at Grove - Reservations here