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1300 on Fillmore
Classed-Up Urban Soul Food
by Chrissy Loader on May 16, 2008
With the latest blast of urban renewal in the Western Addition, homeowners' (and developers') hopes are high for the proliferation of fancy shops, sleek restaurants, and at least one less Shabu Shabu joint in the freshly renamed Fillmore Jazz Preservation District. On the other hand, some people simply want juicy ribs, flaky biscuits and a classy bar with stiff drinks.
With both perspectives in mind, Monetta White and her husband, Jamaican-born chef David Lawrence (formerly of the Hilton and the Carnelian Room), have brought their classed-up, southern-style specialties to the ‘hood, looking to revive the late 50s/early 60s era when White's mother and grandmother lived in that once-thriving, African-American community of black-owned jazz clubs, businesses, and restaurants.
Though pricey, 1300 on Fillmore succeeds in this, while holding a firm footing within San Francisco's foodie pantheon -- a feat unachieved by most of the area's newer jazz supper clubs. With the Fillmore Auditorium and the new Yoshi’s within 2 blocks, there’s the makings of a mean trifecta in the W.A.
1300’s menu includes tastes from classic southern comfort food, with nods to epic flavors and archetypal combinations from haute cuisine’s greats. This means foie gras and rabbit right alongside hushpuppies and black-eyed peas.
The interior has the downtown feel of a big, historic hotel, though 1300 on Fillmore can't completely escape its milquetoasty, developer-loft environs. Still, 1300's comfortable, masculine lounge is set with a plethora of luxe, leather lounge chairs beneath a wall tastefully encrusted with well-lit black and white photos from the Jazz era; it's easily one of the city's nicest cocktail lounges.
A long wooden bar glows with warm lamplight and, with its peek-a-boo window, overlooks a spacious, formal dining room set with traditional white tablecloths and large booths that call to mind big nights and hearty, old-school meals.
Plump little Cajun barbecue shrimp ($14) have a nice bit of summer char and a fairly authentic bayou preparation, served atop rich, creamy grits made decadent by a generous helping of mascarpone and butter. (This helps distract from the disappointingly few shrimp in this starter.)
In turn, an organic baby arugula salad ($9) provides a nice bit of green and acid for contrast, while a lovely, warm poached egg salad ($9), made with cabbage and thick bacon, is a southern rendition of frisée lardons, a French standard.
A delicate sliver of pan-roasted black bass with salsify, artichokes, and shrimp nage ($27) is tasty, but the somewhat meager portion and light flavors are easily overwhelmed by entrees like the much-lauded Fulton Valley Farms organic black skillet-fried chicken ($23) and the maple syrup slow-braised beef short ribs ($28). However, colleagues recount rather more ethereal experiences with the fish entrées on solely pescetarian visits.
But we didn’t come to 1300 for light, and if covetous behavior is any indication of favor, the chicken and ribs tested our manners on a recent visit. The slow-fried chicken has received somewhat controversial reviews; many, like some at our table, find the chicken to be close to perfection, while others declare overkill in the heavily cumin-seasoned breading, the truffle-whipped potatoes, and the pan gravy, particularly in the musky flavor department.
On the other hand, the short ribs provide perfect juxtaposition to their buttermilk chive mashed potatoes. The ribs are thick and juicy, with meat so sweet and tender it simply falls off the bone. Yeah, yeah -- you’ve heard this one before, but really, this is tasty pork, with the added allure of a sizable fried onion ring garnish.
Sides like spiced fat fries and caramelized sweet ham hock braised greens (each $6) are tempting, but deciding to "go healthy" we ordered the roasted brussels sprouts ($6)…and the macaroni and white cheddar cheese ($6). The delicate brussels sprouts were trimmed prettily and flavored to perfection, but the mac and cheese is a complete dream -- rich and creamy, with the slightest hint of cayenne.
Yes, it seems impossible, but we saved room for dessert. Somehow. Our server helped us decide, suggesting the sorbet with petits fours and the warm chocolate beignets (each $9). The warm beignet fingers, dusted with cinnamon and sugar, are filled with warm chocolate and served with a side of coffee soda for dipping. Delicious!
The cocktails next door at Yoshi's are more refined and up-to-date than 1300's dot com-era concoctions (think whiskey, peach puree, and lemonade), but 1300's cuisine is more successful within its niche. Thanks to our very adept server, the lovely mood lighting, and tasty treats like the mac and cheese, we found this joint to be not only tasteful, but also taste-worthy and taste-making -- definitely worth a visit. If this is what gentrification tastes like, we'll take another helping.
by Chrissy Loader on May 16, 2008