Lolinda's Wood-Fired Cuisine - San Francisco

The gaucho approach to grilling

It takes Alejandro Morgan, chef at Lolinda, almost three hours to build a proper wood fire under his grill.

The effort is worth it: Wood fire cooks almost half of the dishes on the new Mission restaurant's menu, giving them a rustic, primal cast.

Lolinda is billing itself as an Argentinean-inspired steakhouse, which means a mixed grill that includes skirt steak ($27) in addition to rib eyes ($38 for 18 ounces), and the weaving of South American flavors through much of the food.

We found ourselves skirting the steak in favor of small plates such as the pulpo salad ($11), a warm salad of grilled baby octopus, white beans and frisée, and the calabasas ($5), or grilled baby pattypan squash tossed with chimichurri butter.

Morgan, a Costa Rica-born chef who last ran the kitchens at Ozumo, doesn't limit himself to prime cuts of beef. He imports Argentinean morcilla ($8), creamy-centered links of blood sausage, and grills each link just enough to paint it with smoke.

And his mollejas, or sweetbreads ($9), may not be grilled, but they pick up a fine crust on a searing-hot pan, which pairs beautifully with the murmuring heat of a rocoto chile aioli.

You won't miss the creamed spinach.

Lolinda, 2518 Mission St. (at 21st St.); 415-550-6970 or