Canela Bistro and Wine Bar: Reviews

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Canela Bistro and Wine Bar: Reviews | restaurant info + video | full episode video

Scott Shafer
Name: Scott
Occupation: Journalist and Radio Host
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Canela Bistro and Wine Bar
Reviewed Canela Bistro and Wine Bar: Friday, April 12, 2013

Canela is a welcome addition to the food scene in the Castro, which has often lagged behind other neighborhoods. It opened two and a half years ago in a space previously occupied by Capri, a run-of-the- mill pizza place on Market Street.

The small space has been transformed, with each nook and cranny occupied by tables or bar space in a cozy and friendly ambiance. The lighting helps to create an intimate environment without being stuffy or pretentious. The wait staff is informal, friendly and helpful with suggestions.


The innovative menu is inspired by Spanish cuisine but the food has a definite Californian flair. There’s plenty to choose from; appetizers, classic Spanish tapas like garlicky gambas, pimientos de piquillo, jamon iberico and a variety of substantive entrees, usually at least one each of fish, chicken and lamb/pork/beef.

Some of the recipes reportedly come from the families of owners Mat Schuster and Francisco Cifuentes.

To drink, the waitress steered us towards Crianza, a Spanish red that fit our price range and our food – big enough to stand up to the steak and lamb but not overpowering the lighter dishes.

We began with a bowl of asparagus soup with a chicken stock. Unlike most asparagus soups I’ve had, this one wasn’t pureed. Instead the vegetable was diced and perfectly cooked with other vegetables. I thought it was salted just right, although my companions thought the chef went a little overboard.

Among the four entrees we ordered, the halibut was the standout. It was lightly prepared with fresh peas, roasted lemon and sautéed peppers. The steak and lamb dishes had lots of flavor, although I thought the lamb was a little heavy. The chicken stew was our least favorite dish – a little bland.

We saved room for dessert and boy were we glad we did! Both the Arroz con leche (Spanish rice pudding) and Crema catalana (Spanish crème brulee) were fantastic. We were tempted to order more but refrained.

Canela isn’t cheap, but it’s not overpriced either. Tapas run mostly between $8 and $15 while entrees are mostly in the $20-25 range. In some ways the smaller dishes – tapas, flatbreads, etc. – are the most satisfying. It’s a great place to take a date or dine out with friends – lots of tasty food to share, easy to have a conversation and reasonably priced wines with friendly service.

Christopher Powell
Name: Christopher
Occupation: College Student
Location: Palo Alto
Favorite Restaurant: The Refuge
Reviewed Canela Bistro and Wine Bar: Sunday, April 14, 2013

Canela Bistro Bar is, in a few words, a special place. The moment we walked into the doors there was a warm and genuine greeting from the host. We didn’t have a reservation and it was around 6:30pm on a Sunday but we were immediately seated at what I thought to be the most desirable table right next to the window in the front. The overall atmosphere was upscale and nice without feeling pretentious; they had interesting art on the walls, music, and a small but adequate bar. The tapas are on the smaller side but if you would like larger portions they are available; we found that ordering around six or seven plates was enough to sate our hunger. The food arrives almost faster than you can imagine- dim sum fast. Our server took our order and within two minutes our first plate arrived. They pace the meal well; we never had more than two plates on the table at a time, which was great. The sangria was delicious and they were very willing to bring us more of each type. As our dinner was finishing we were greeted by one of the owners who helped us choose our last plate, the piquillo peppers with goat cheese and kale. The “can’t miss moment” was the dessert, the person I was dining with never liked churros, I repeat, NEVER LIKED CHURROS, she now likes churros because of how amazing they are at Canela. I cannot fully express what makes them so amazing, they simply must be tried. $60 is generally more than I like to spend for a meal, but eating at Canela feels worth the money. From the start the place is charming, it’s very well decorated, the dishware is interesting, and the restrooms have hand towels instead of paper towels. Those aspects really felt like there was more to the money I spent than just the high quality food. The service is friendly without being intrusive, with waiters who are knowledgeable about the menu, and willing to give recommendations that were excellent. Canela is a nice place to have both a fancy meal or amazing clams and churros; I will definitely be returning.

Joan Rosenberg
Name: Joan
Occupation: Marketing Director
Location: Oakland
Favorite Restaurant: Little Shin Shin Restaurant
Reviewed Canela Bistro and Wine Bar: Tuesday, April 2, 2013


We walked in to Canela hoping for authentic Spanish tapas and fare. Though we were very satisfied with our overall experience, the cuisine fell short of some of my favorite tapas from Spain. Don’t go expecting to see paella on the menu or aioli with patatas bravas, but the tortilla espanola with red pepper sauce and stuffed Spanish peppers were fantastic. It was nice to see that tapas could be ordered in regular or “racion” (large) portion sizes, but we all agreed that most dishes were under-seasoned and lacked salt. The homemade bread that is served as a dipping vehicle for the sauces must be enjoyed! The parking can be a challenge, but the staff was nice enough to seat one of our party of three while we looked for parking. Servers were knowledgeable and attentive, but the wait for a bottle of wine took a while. The high ceilings made it a little difficult to hear our waiter but it was easy to carry on our conversation and enjoy the time with friends. The décor was chic and modern all the way down to the hand towels in the bathrooms. Overall, however, we thought it was a bit expensive, and to top it off they don’t take American Express. While we probably wouldn’t go out of our way to have dinner there, we would definitely eat there again if we were in the neighborhood.