Thursday, November 15, 2007

1300 on Fillmore

(This post is way overdue, but better late than never, right?)

A couple of weeks ago, Karen took me out for a fabulous birthday dinner at 1300 on Fillmore (1300 Fillmore St; 415-771-7100), a new restaurant located in the Fillmore Jazz district of San Francisco. Having opened only five days prior to our visit, 1300 on Fillmore features American food with a Southern flair. Indeed, their website describe their cuisine as "Soulful American". Opened by Executive Chef David Lawrence and his wife Monetta White, 1300 on Fillmore is located in the Heritage on Fillmore high-rise, next to the soon-to-be-open Yoshi's Jazz Club.

Arriving at the restaurant, Karen and I initially walked right by the nondescript wooden front door. Once we realized our mistake and made our way through the entrance, we found ourselves surrounded by the dark walls of the stylishly appointed space. Designed by the MCCARTAN design firm, the restaurant exudes sophistication without feeling overly formal. Covering its walnut and chocolate brown walls are portraits of famous legends of jazz, an homage to the heritage of the surrounding Lower Fillmore neighborhood. Strategically placed rows of indirect and spot lighting provide just right amount of illumination to offset the dark walls without losing the intimate and cozy feel.

When we arrived, the restaurant had ample availability (not surprising given its recent soft opening and the time of our mid-week visit), so the hostess led us to a four-top near the Eddy Street-facing windows in the main dining room. Since it was my birthday, we started off our dinner with a little bubbly - I enjoyed a glass of Gloria Ferrer as we perused the menu.

Both of us were pretty hungry, so we ordered two appetizers: the freshwater shrimp hush puppies and the bourbon braised pork belly. These hush puppies differed from ones that I had eaten in the past as it appeared to have a simple cornmeal coating as opposed to a layer of deep fried cornbread batter. Accompanying the basket of shrimp hush puppies was a small ramekin of spicy ancho chile remoulade. The Louisiana-style remoulade was different from mayonnaise-based ones that I've made myself, but it provided just the right amount of heat to accent the flavor of the piping hot and tasty hush puppies. After polishing off the shrimp, we started in on the pork belly. The generous portion of braised meat was fall-apart tender and simply succulent. However, I didn't care so much for the shelled white bean puree on which the pork was served. Normally, I like the combination of sweet flavors with pork (ever tried pig candy?), but in this case, the sweetness of the bean puree just did not work for me in this dish.

For the main courses, Karen and I split the skillet fried chicken and the maple syrup braised beef short rib. The fried chicken is one of the house specialties and requires 30 minutes of prep time. The chicken was excellent - its crunchy coating was packed with flavor (highlighted with cumin, if I'm not mistaken) and sealed in the juices, resulting in a savory and moist entrée that's well worth the wait. The side of truffled mashed potatoes with pan gravy was tasty as well, but it is the chicken that is the highlight of this dish. With three pieces of chicken per order, there is plenty of goodness to share. Our other main course was delicious as well. Our order of short rib had only a small sliver of bone, which meant that we were able to enjoy a generous portion of tender beef between the two of us. I don't normally associate sweet flavors with beef, but it definitely worked in this dish, in marked contrast to the braised pork belly. The sides of mashed potatoes and braised greens were good, but it was the short rib that was the headliner on this dish. We liked both of our selections quite a bit, but if there was a small complaint, it was that both of these dishes came out to us a bit on the cool side. The plates were each very hot, but the food itself was less so. Nevertheless, the chicken and beef were very good, despite cooling off quickly. We just chalked it up to newness of the restaurant; hopefully, they'll be able to work out the kinks quickly.

The service at 1300 on Fillmore was impeccable. Our server, Annette, was very friendly and attentive to our needs, as were the bussers who kept our water glasses from going empty all evening long. Since it was a bit slow that evening, Annette stopped by our table frequently, not only checking to make sure that everything was going well, but also chatting with us about the restaurant when we expressed interest. Both Chef Lawrence and his wife paid a visit to our table in order to welcome us to their new venue as well as to pass along birthday wishes, which I thought was quite nice. At the end of our meal, Annette brought us an order of chocolate-filled beignets, on the house, topped off with a birthday candle. The freshly made beignets were accompanied by chocolate and vanilla dipping sauces - they were a delicious end to a very nice meal.

While it was a bit slow during our visit, I suspect that soon it might be difficult to land a reservation there, especially on weekends. During our dinner, a large party came in to the semi-private 22-person party room, located just off the main dining area. Apparently, they had already been receiving some requests for that party room, even though they had not yet started taking reservations officially at that point in time. Once Yoshi's opens, I think that they'll be getting a lot of the spillover traffic from its next-door neighbor, especially since they will be serving dinner until 11pm and a lounge menu until 1am. They have also applied for permits so that they can host live jazz entertainment, which will be quite nice once they start up their weekend brunch. We plan to pay them a visit again soon.


Cagey said...

Great review - I am a blogger for and I will definitely make sure this restaurant is added. Interestingly though, it seems the food is more cajun in nature/flavor than just "southern".

Dammit - now I am craving a beignet. Thanks a lot!

Loren said...

Hi Cagey,

Glad to hear that you liked the post! You make an interesting observation about their cuisine. Perhaps the French influence combined with the Southern cooking comes across as a Cajun in style.

The beignets there were *good*. I definitely recommend giving them a try!