Canela Bistro…. A San Francisco Treasury for Spanish Food & Wine – 9.5 (95/100 Pts) – James Melendez

Earlier this year I had the privilege of sitting with Mat Schuster and Paco Cifuentes.  I had visited Canela Bistro for their second year anniversary in business.  San Francisco is such a tough restaurant town–both because of the many competitors and very particular tastes and culinary interests of San Franciscans.  Spanish restaurants are not as numerous as Italian or other fares in the City.  But therein lies the opportunity to present the best of Spain food in San Francisco.

Mat and Paco are bookends when in comes to the dining experience.  Mat is the chef and interpreter of Spanish cuisine and Paco is the wine expert.  They compliment each other not just in the food and wine department but are life and business partners as well.  Canela Bistro has mastered the fine art of service and superb Spanish cuisine.  Elegant and graceful service is the cornerstone of any restaurant and combining both local and Spanish ingredients is evident.  Paco has assembled a well-edited Spanish wine list.  In northern California, Northern California wines often outpace wine lists from other regions but at Canela Spanish wines are the star.  Not just wines from the usual suspects of Rioja, Rias Baixas or Priorat but Reuda, Ribera del Duero, Campo de Borja and Cariñena.

Mat is most comfortable not just directing his food but loves to be making food.  While many chefs are busy in the office Mat enjoys and prefers cooking.  Mat has a great link to Spanish cuisine–Paco’s mother.  Paco’s mother has passed many glorious recipes to him and through experience Mat has perfected each dish.   I asked about what patrons want and expect in Spanish cuisine and Mat said that Bay Area residents like heat in their cuisine and sometimes expect that in Spanish cuisine.  It is hard to imagine for some that Spanish cuisine is not like Mexican food.  If you look at other Latin American cuisine they are not based on a hot and spicy canon.

Mat and Paco love their neighbourhood bistro; a rare address of Market Street is easily accessed; and I love coming into this comfortable zone from a busy main street in San Francisco.   Mat strives to keep on his game to present the best of Spain in San Francisco and wants the world class always to shine here.  Mat often utilizes Tempranillo in many of his dishes thus reinforcing the Spanish through and through approach.

I tasted the following dishes with Paco and Mat:

  • Tortilla Española
  • Gambas
  • Patatas Bravas
  • Lamb Skewers
  • A selection of Jamon Serrano, Chorizo and Manchego

Tortilla Espanola

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Each dish was well executed and beautifully plated; the Gambas and Lamb skewers were superbly fresh.  The portions were larger than I expected.  Canela is a place to share each plate with your guests to get the full allotment of flavour discoveries.

The Spanish wines are very well selected and the servers are well educated in picking up what each patron is seeking and suggested wines to fully express and optimize with the foods selected.

A great experience and one that I will have a repeat visit.

¡Buen provecho y Salud!

James Melendez

James the Wine Guy


Canela Bistro

2272 Market Street

San Francisco, CA  94114

415 552 3300







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About James Melendez

I love wine and have had the privilege of working in the wine trade as a senior national wine marketing manager for a wine, food and home goods retailer in 30+ US States. I executed into making wine experiential and made 'wines of the world' programme work in a highly regulated framework for a successful business proposition. My "wine" site also incorporates those categories intimately involved with wine such as food, travel and lifestyle. This site incorporates my many dimensions of interest. I love to review and also talk about many aspects of wine. I have been privileged to visit many wine countries and find them enthralling no matter how many times I visit. I love all aspects of wine: viticulture, history, winemaking, brand development, wine regions and many more aspects. This is a living tradition that needs documentation, education, reporting and reviewing. Do I have favourite varieties and styles? I love so many varieties and often it is situational and yet there are time honoured wines that I anticipate and I am passionate about. I like all colours of wine and all styles. I have had a mad passionate affair with sparkling wines and they are always top of mind. Wine nourishes our soul and is the key to connecting with other people at our dinner table. Salute, James © 2014, 2017 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy. James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and other social medias.
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