Huge congrats to chef-owner Telmo Faria for opening his dream restaurant, UMA CASA, an homage to his native Portugal (he was born in the Azores). It’s a pet project that he has been planning and working toward for years, so it’s great to see the restaurant swing open its doors. His business partner and right-hand woman is Nora Furst (previously Belga, Lolinda), who is also the beverage director—but more on that in a sec!
Faria has been working with Tacolicious since 2009, and he diminished his role in 2015 in order to start working on this project. His menu pays homage to classic Portuguese dishes, like rissois de camarão (shrimp turnovers), pasteis de bacalhau (salt cod fritters), and caldo verde (a hearty soup with potatoes, linguica, collard greens). Of course seafood plays a big part on the menu, but there are meaty dishes that are perfect for this rainy season, like carne de porco à Alentejana (braised pork, tomato-wine sauce, clams, fingerling potatoes, cilantro, $22) and homey dishes like frango churrasco (grilled half Mary’s chicken, piri piri glaze, fries, greens, $22). Nothing on the menu is over $28, so you can see how Uma Casa wants to be a good neighborhood hangout.
Faria wants San Francisco’s sole Portuguese restaurant to educate and expose local diners to the canon before branching out into some of his newer interpretations; look for more of his individual expression to come in time. He wants the food to be approachable and to highlight the shared maritime heritage that San Francisco and Portugal have. Lisbon in particular is very San Francisco-like, with its coastal position, hills, trolleys, and it even has its own version of the Golden Gate Bridge (check out my past jetsetter post on Lisbon).
Noe Valley’s former Incanto has been given quite the facelift and is now much lighter and airy. There are 82 seats, with 10 at the bar, and two large maple communal tables for room for 14 walk-ins or when you just want to swing by for some snacks and drinks. You’ll see some traditional Portuguese elements, like classic blue and white tiles, mixing with postmodern-style chairs to give things a taste of the present. You will also be greeted by a raw bar display of seafood on ice when you come in, a nod to something many restaurants in Lisbon do.
Nora Furst has assembled quite the beverage list. Even though Uma Casa just has a beer and wine license, she tells me she looked at it as an opportunity and not a challenge to explore categories more deeply, like fortified wines. There are five low-ABV cocktails, including the signature WPT (white port and tonic), made with a less-sweet port that is actually a bit more saline and acidic, served with Carpano bianco, Mixwell dandelion tonic, lime, and seasonal botanical garnish. There are five in all, $10 each, and they look fantastic. In the aperitifs section, there is a selection of vermouths—from Italian to French to domestic—available over a big ice cube and served with different garnishes, plus some sherries and more.
Her wine list is almost 90 percent Portuguese, with a few California producers that use Portuguese methods or varieties. They wanted to offer a large by-the-glass selection so guests can explore Portuguese wine and taste and learn. Look for the list to expand by a third in time. There are also some fun beer selections and cider as well.
Look for the 18-seat private dining room to be coming next. It’s going to pay homage to Faria’s and Furst’s family heritage, from his Portuguese roots to her father’s past as a chef. Large-format dinners will be offered, from suckling pig to seafood feasts.
Hours are Tue-Thu and Sun 5pm-10pm and Fri-Sat 5pm-11am, closed Mon. Brunch should be coming by spring or summer. 1550 Church St. at Duncan, 415-829-2264.
Uma Casa partners Nora Furst and Telmo Faria harvesting touriga nacional in Chocapalha in Portugal. Photo courtesy of Uma Casa.