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Erzulie

The New Resident Goddess of Love

There are no secrets behind esteemed Belden Place alley's newest tenant Erzulie. As you saunter into the intimate yet airy space, you'll feel welcomed by the two chefs who man the open kitchen much like it was their home. David and Ryan, childhood friends from Memphis, are happy to share the tale of Erzulie's founding.

Not that the corporate-types who flock to Erzulie's to taste the restaurant's unique menu and to escape downtown's more standard lunchtime fare necessarily know the whole story. Nor perhaps does the happy hour crowd slaking the day end's thirst with $3 well cocktails, including the house special habanero-infused margaritas and vanilla vodkas. A little probing, however, gets the two talking about Dave's apprenticeship at Pac Rim restaurant in Memphis and subsequent tasting sojourn through Southeast Asia. Ryan's more intellectual exploration of food with San Francisco's area farmers introduced him to the never-ending array of local produce. Thus did Erzulie fortuitously land into the SF landscape; which has been in sore need of Creole offerings. Now just over a half-year old, Erzulie comes with Creole roots coupled with a worldly reach.

It's little surprise that no entree on Erzulie's dinner menu is the least bit circumscribed by stereotypical Creole overtones. Linguists describe the term "Creole" as that which is derived from a variety of origins. Erzulie extends this metaphor to each of its own entrees, accenting Creole baseline notions with Caribbean flair and Pacific Rim emphasis on indigenous freshness. In Chef Dave's words, Creole cuisine is "food of the diaspora". The house specialty "Pan Roasted Grouper" ($20) which comes paired with a Puerto Rican Mojito and grilled frisee, or an equally delectable "Pecan Crusted Snapper" ($19) with Tasso Grits (a Cajun highly-seasoned, cured ham blended to Southern classic grits) and Creole sauce encapsulated these divergent yet fused tastes. For the meat-inclined, several options abound among which stands out the "Grilled Double Cut Pork Chop with Black-Eye Pea Salsa and Cuban Mojo." Small plates do the job too, be it the "Shrimp with Habanero-Vanilla Cream & Mango Salsa" ($9), which is anything but small, or the "Fried Potatoes" with a triumvirate of dipping sauces ($4.50) reminiscent of our Belgian friends.

The journey around the world at Erzulie, our "goddess of love", ends with classic Creole "beignets," small fried doughnuts lightly dressed with powdered sugar. The sweet taste lingers even after the last bite--just as one would hope with budding love affairs between a city and its new local goddess.