Early Bird Special: Chilango

J. Birdsall
Tacos de suadero are typical of Chilango's balancing act.
An early nibble from the Weekly's Wednesday food review.

Roberto Aguiar Cruz has to be among the most agile young chefs in the city. At two-month-old Chilango (235 Church at Market), the Nayarit-born Cruz is infusing neighborhood Mexican with an authentic aura of D.F.-derived antojitos. It's well-constructed cooking that can't veer too far from the taco-enchilada format most norteƱos -- even in a city with cosmopolitan sensibilities -- expect from the sort of place designed as a weeknight alternative to firing up the burners at home. SF Weekly critic Cal Foster drops in this week to assess how Cruz is doing, and leaves impressed. From the stock in the pozole to the shredded duck in the flautas, Cruz succeeds by focusing on flavor, and by hewing close to his dishes' street-y pedigree. Read Foster's full report later today at SFWeekly.com. Sucker for a spoiler? Read our extended excerpt after the jump.

Cruz has weaved together a stunning and sustainable menu (beef is grass-fed, poultry is free-range, pork is Niman Ranch). The masa dough is organic and spiked with cactus, giving the tortillas -- which are cooked to order -- a distinctive chew. Chips are gnarly, dark, and greaseless -- a great foil for the chunky guacamole. Some of the 30 items on offer are enough for a meal, but it's a good bet to order two: one sublime, one sexy.

The pambazo, a fluffy, guajillo-sauced bun smothered with black beans and chorizo, had all the carnal satisfaction of a chili cheese dog. Another "drowned sandwich," the torta ahogado, combined avocado with carnitas. Ceviche de pescado demonstrated Cruz's facility for finesse: Stunningly bright bits of orange, avocado, and Serrano blended with cubes of four-minute-marinated mahimahi for a dish to linger over.

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