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The Elite Café

Sexy, Laid Back and A Little Bit Luxurious

High-backed wooden booths ensure near-seclusion from the bustling Upper Fillmore oyster bar scene. Old-world details ensure a welcome confusion: "This feels Parisian. No. New Orleans. Wait. San Francisco. This is very San Francisco."

And it is. With a chilled tray of oysters on the half shell and sparkling wine in hand, one can't help but feel a part of San Francisco's dining dynasty when enjoying a simmering date or old friend's company at the Elite Café. Chef Lalo Valenzuela's take on the Elite's standard Creole menu affords the discerning diner with beautiful, simple salads and rich, hearty etouffee, famous ribs and the most incredible duck confit jambalaya we've ever had the pleasure of tasting. In fact, let's just talk about the jambalaya for a moment.

Normally when you think jambalaya, you think saucy red rice, chicken, shrimp, etc. etc., with a nice roux to deepen and texturize. Oh no. Valenzuela's jambalaya is in another class entirely. Spooned thick, dark and velvety around a half-dome of tasso pecan rice, the stew is a luxurious stuffed leather couch of a dish, rife with savory duck confit, robust sausage plump shrimp. Sweet Baby Jesus, it's the best. The best the best the best. The chef says the secret's in the roux. D*mn right. Followed by flaming Bananas Foster, the meal may kill you, but you'll be happy about it. Promise promise, kiss kiss.

At brunch, the Elite Hash with poached eggs is a winner: tender, shredded filet mignon fried up with potatoes, aromatics, and cayenne served in a cast iron skillet with two pretty dollops of perfectly soft poached eggs. Beignets with coffee round out the meal. Healthy!

We have no real complaints about the Elite Café. We like it a lot. It's a class joint with rich food and great cocktails, seated high in the upper echelon of reputable San Francisco neighborhood destinations for casual luxury. While it's comfortable enough to wander in with your tennies for some oysters and Champagne, the New Orleans-in-the-forties interior is sophisticated enough to promote your illusions of grandeur, thus generating the desire to shout from within your secluded wooden booth, "Waiter! More Champagne! Another round of Bloody Marys for the table!" And you'd better have gotten that raise, because once you've dripped a little cocktail sauce on the white tablecover and dropped a few drinks down your nozzle, it isn't hard to convince yourself that it's New Year's Day every day ("more oysters!") and a $150.00 brunch is par for the course in your lovely, lovely world.