Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Dish on Dining: 1300 on Fillmore

Soulful Sounds Drift from Every Dish
1300 Fillmore St. (at Eddy), San Francisco
Fillmore Jazz Preserv
ation District
PH: 415.771.7100
Open for dinner, Sun.–Wed., 5–11 p.m.; Thu.–Sat., 5 p.m.–1 a.m.; Sunday brunch, 10:30 a.m.–2:30 p.m.
Reservations, major credit cards accepted

So much has been written about 1300 on Fillmore, I really wonder what more I can add to all the chatter in the food blogosphere? But when something’s good, I really can’t keep quiet about it.

Opened since late 2007, 1300 on Fillmore is one of two anchors of a luxury development in this neighborhood once known for its jazz but in recent years have been neglected by major commerce. But 1300 on Fillmore, along with the massive Yoshi’s jazz venue and restaurant (I’ll be visiting Yoshi’s next week), has attracted new interest in the lower Fillmore.

1300 on Fillmore is the first venture for chef-owner David Lawrence and his wife, Monetta White. Chef Lawrence has attempted to bring Louisiana Southern comfort with the sophistication of the French cuisine he’s been cooking for years in the city at other locations. The restaurant is a handsome locale that’s part speakeasy, part jazz homage and part neighborhood gathering hole.

In the lounge area, there’s an entire wall of historic photos of some of the jazz legends who’ve set the tone for the neighborhood and for the restaurant. You can dine at the lounge, in the main dining area or in a private dining room that can be reserved for special parties. I visited 1300 on Fillmore both times on my own, so I simply saddled up to the tiny bar in the center of the restaurant.

My first visit was on a Sunday soon after the restaurant started serving brunch (its first brunch service was right before Easter Sunday). When I perused the menu of buttermilk pancakes and hang town fry, I settled for a poached egg salad and the barbeque shrimp and creamy grits. Turns out both of these items from the brunch menu are also available for dinner, so I really didn’t get the full brunch flavor. Oh well.

First up was the Warm Poached Egg Salad ($9) with savoy cabbage in a roasted garlic-bacon vinaigrette. The dish looked beautifully presented, and the poached egg was quite sizeable. It wasn’t a problem getting the warm golden yolk to cream all over the savoy cabbage, creating a glistening salad that was part crunchy and part wilted, in a very interesting way.

Then came the Barbecue Shrimp and Creamy Grits ($14). The plate was definitely an appetizer portion, but it was just as beautifully presented. There wasn’t a very strong barbecue sauce on the shrimp, but it was more a subtle light brown sauce. I didn’t think barbecue when I ate the dish, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. What was really the eye-opener for me was the creamy grits. I don’t eat grits that often, but I never had it so creamy and so flavorful. I really felt like I was somewhere in the south.

With my food I ordered a Bloody Mary and chatted with the bartender, who was very friendly. I found that the people behind the bar really create a neighborhood feel, chatting with patrons like they’ve been coming for years. When I returned a few weeks later for dinner, I got the same bartender and she recognized me right away, welcoming me back like an old regular.

This time with my Mint Julep in hand, I ordered the Bourbon Braised Pork Belly ($12) as a starter. The chunk of pork belly came out sitting on top of a white bean puree and dazzled with a reduction of the bourbon braise. The pork belly was quite tender and was amazingly comforting with the bean puree.

For my entrĂ©e I got the Oven-roasted Halibut ($25) with white and green asparagus. The portion size was only slightly larger than the appetizers, but the price is a considerable leap. That’s why I think I was expecting more. Still, it was beautifully plated and I liked the combination of both white and green asparagus. The fish itself had a nice golden color and tender, flakey flesh, but the taste was light—not very bold like some of the other flavors.

Side note: The cornbread, brought to the table on request, is light and crumbly, just like how cornbread should be. It’s served with butter or a house-made tomato sauce, almost like a cocktail sauce.

I should also note that there are a lot more interesting traditional Southern dishes that Chef Lawrence has undoubtedly added his own twist to on his menu. Things like Maple Syrup Short Ribs, Po Boys, Fried Chicken, Sweet Breads and Hushpuppies. But if you know these dishes, you know that most of these are deep-fried. And you know I’m not a big fan of the deep fried, so I passed on many of them.

But despite skipping all the fried goods and not being tempted by dessert, I enjoyed both my visits to 1300 on Fillmore and plan on going back. Its interesting menu, handsome setting, and friendly bar service makes this a dining destination that can bring back the crowds to this historic neighborhood.

Single guy rating: 4 stars (the soul of the city)

Explanation of the single guy's rating system:
1 star = perfect for college students
2 stars = perfect for new diners
3 stars = perfect for foodies
4 stars = perfect for expense accounts
5 stars = perfect for any guy's dream dinner

1300 Fillmore on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Chef Ben,
Someone was just asking me about this place, I'll refer them to your review! It sounds like a good spot. I love shrimp and grits, that pork belly dish looks delicious and the poached eggs on cabbage sounds so interesting!