La Urbana is a tough one to pin down.
In concept, everything is perfect. Mexican food with upscale ingredients is right up our alley. Mezcal? Love the stuff. Keep a few bottles at home. And you know we love a dark, "skeleton-y" Mexican vibe for ambiance.
But like an overstuffed fancy taco (only served at brunch), these features begin to fall apart a bit once you poke at them.
The food is solid, but not incredible, and on the high end of SF pricing. We're down to pay for good eats, but once you cross the mid-twenties rubicon, we'd like to think a few dishes should be excellent and worth the return visit. The drink list talks big mezcal game, but then puts it in uninspired (margarita) or kind of weird (sake martini? Mixed with cacao?) cocktails. The room is still pretty cool, and the atmosphere is good. No complaints there, it's entertaining to scope various dates in progress and guess at their outcomes. Lots of hand gestures are a good sign, right?
Ultimately, it's just hard to figure out where La Urbana fits into a good restaurant rotation. We'd definitely eat the scallops, corn, and carnitas again. We'd probably enjoy kicking back a Mexican light lager at the bar and watching the people mingle. But are we going to run back to do either? Doubt it.
Various acidified fish in a jar, with smoke! Sadly, a much cooler magic trick than food item. The fish was fresh but not punching with flavor.
Huarache de Carnitas
Juicy pulled pork on top of brioche bread "sandals." Basically high-class Mexican bruschetta. We approve.
Overcooked and dry, which kind of puts a downer on the appetizers.
Costillas de Res
A decent short rib, but not above the standard of a good Grandma's pot roast. That's the litmus test, Grandma, and we're sticking to it. We hope you're proud.
Nice and juicy, flavor packed. If everything on the menu were as good as the scallops, we'd be talking a high score.
A bowl of corn with lots of butter, cheese and other fats. Tasty, obviously, but kind of a gimme.