First impression: Cuerno

posted on February 1, 2008 at 5:46 am
View from my table (I know you can’t et enough of these iphone pics!)

I’ll never forget my first taste of Spanish cuisine. My father, the ever-seasoned world traveler, fed my sister and I treats like jamón ibérico and croquetas de jamón while we stood at a tapas bar on a little side street after a bullfight one night in Sevilla. While I was living in Paris with a Spanish family, I was lucky to travel to Madrid and Barcelona for business with my boss (I still don’t know how I swung that), so I got to learn much more about the intricacies of the cuisine. Needless to say, I was hooked and have been ever since. So, you can imagine my excitement when I heard Riccardo Ullio was opening Cuerno.

The restaurant feels very much like Europe–the design firm did a great job of capturing the warmth of Spain with the rich colors, wood, and textures. My dining companion could not stop commenting on the metal bull smack dab in the center of the restaurant complete with glass cojones. There were some bets placed involving the bull, but he chickened out–dude, you owe me five bucks.

Since it was only two of us, we did not want to order a lot of food (which we ended up doing anyway), so we chose the croquetas de jamón, fabada Asturiana, ensalada de pulpo (octopus) and the paella Valenciana. The croquetas came out first and they were spectacular. No grease and full of ham-y goodness. The fabada was another winner. The sausage was delicious and the gigantes (Greek lima beans) were soft and well seasoned. My table mate and I could not stop dipping our bread in the thick broth once all the beans were gone. The pulpo was the only loser of the night and it wasn’t because of execution. The octopus, perched on top of potato medallions, was slightly fishy (a common issue with octopus unless you are by the sea) and very chewy. It was seasoned well and looked beautiful on the plate, but Bliss doesn’t eat fishy octopus. Our server, Eric (?), was attentive and overall sweetheart throughout the whole night. When we decided to send the octopus back (something I rarely do), he didn’t seem put out at all and quickly whisked it away from the table. The main event, the paella, came to our table looking lovely. They place the paella dish on a thick cast iron trivet with a wooden spoon for serving yourself. The paella was delicious, but we could barely finish half of it because we were stuffed by this point. Not a bad thing considering the reasonable prices. Each grain of Bomba rice was perfectly intact and seasoned well. My favorite part of the paella, aside from the perfect socarrat (the toasted ‘crust’ of rice on the bottom of the paella dish), were the massive prawns and tender rabbit. An overall great meal and I am anxious to try more dishes especially after the restaurant hits their stride. If chef Ullio keeps things consistent with our meal last night, Cuerno might just be a regular stop on my restaurant rotation.

Preliminary verdict: The restaurant has only been opened for a couple of weeks, but I have to say that my experience left me wanting to make a return visit to sample more of the dishes—especially the paellas. The bill was around $80 bucks (before tip and after the removed the octopus from the bill) including a nice bottle of Spanish red. An overall good value for the amount of food you get. Just an FYI: The parking situation is a bit annoying (you need to use the $5 valet in the Wachovia if you don’t score one of the few street spaces), but I am used to parking limitations from San Francisco so it didn’t bother me much.

Address: 905 Juniper St.
Phone: (678) 904-4584
Payment: Cash and all major credit cards

Cuerno on Urbanspoon

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  • Re: First impression: Cuerno
    posted by: Anonymous · February 1, 2008  7:46 AM

    Was it better than Beleza?

  • Re: First impression: Cuerno
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · February 1, 2008  7:48 AM

    Much better, but it is a different cuisine so it is hard to compare. My one and only meal at Beleza was god awful and I have not been back since. But, I should go back since they have a new chef and tweaked menu.

  • Re: First impression: Cuerno
    posted by: Sudhir · February 1, 2008  9:14 AM

    I had a similar experience at Cuerno and was very surprised that they were delivering such a strong product this early in its life. The paella was very tasty, but I did not get much of the crust that paella is famous for. Truth be told, it was the worst paella I’ve ever had, but the only other place I’ve had it was in Madrid in a place renowned for its paella.

    I have heard similarly bad things about Beleza, but I can’t complain about the atmosphere or the cocktails, which are both great.

  • Re: First impression: Cuerno
    posted by: The Blissful Glutton · February 1, 2008  9:19 AM

    I agree with you about the cocktails and atmosphere at Beleza, Sudhir. But, man, was the food just pricey and unsatisfying on so many levels.

  • Re: First impression: Cuerno
    posted by: David · February 1, 2008  2:46 PM

    About the parking: there is almost always plenty of street parking on Piedmont, which is one block east of the restaurant.

    I was under the impression that this place was more expensive. Now I have to check it out. Thanks for the review!

  • Re: First impression: Cuerno
    posted by: Leslie · February 1, 2008  5:29 PM

    This place sounds delicious, I can’t wait to try! Thanks for the review.

  • Re: First impression: Cuerno
    posted by: Anonymous · February 3, 2008  8:00 AM

    It is expensive if you order the entrees.

    2 tapas, a paella, and sparkling wa wa = under 40 bones….

    with wine still under 80 bones

    eric(K) rawks

    ask for one of his tables

  • Re: First impression: Cuerno
    posted by: Anonymous · February 4, 2008  1:02 PM

    Thanks for the info everyone, I am headed there tonight and I will make sure to post tomorrow…

  • Re: First impression: Cuerno
    posted by: Anonymous · March 15, 2008  4:27 AM

    i just dont get it beleeza is beautiful but the food is no where. its just trendy nothing really to sinkn into. maybe it should just be a bar.. and CUERNO that is not paella its like rice soup.. someone needs to go to Spain and get a refresher

  • Re: First impression: Cuerno
    posted by: Jonathan · June 11, 2008  11:03 AM

    Went with the wife a few weeks back, the octopus is just plain BAD – chewy, salty, fishy. I ordered it, so I didn’t send it back. I guess I should have it turned me off the whole place.

    The Fabada was good as was the scallops à la plancha. But entres are very spendy and with the bad octopus, I doubt we’ll be back.

  • Re: First impression: Cuerno
    posted by: Brad Turnbull · April 30, 2009  5:14 PM

    Not sure how to email you anymore but this will do.

    We just finihed eating the celebration of Basque tasting menu at Cuerno. It was great and a great value- four courses plus wine pairings for $40! Score!
    Here is the link – it is available until 5/3

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