3/18/2013 03:45:00 PM

Sneak Peek at 1601 Bar & Kitchen, SF’s First Sri Lankan Restaurant

Look for this traditional Sri Lankan street food at 1601 Kitchen
Speaking of hot new restaurants, we’re told that 1601 Bar & Kitchen, the city’s first Sri Lankan-inspired restaurant is hoping to open in SoMa by the end of March, possibly as soon as late next week. To recap, 1601 Bar & Kitchen is the brainchild of chef Brian Fernando, a Sacramento native with Sri Lankan heritage and a CV that includes tapas bars in Spain, a stint at Chez Panisse and eight years as chef de cuisine of the contemporary French restaurant Le Papillon in San Jose. The format at 1601 will take a page from those tapas bars and will offer guests a wide selection of affordably priced seasonally driven small plates and beverages to share during happy hour for a causal dinner. But Fernando also plans to draw on his years of fine dining to infuse the casual neighborhood spot with a heaping soupçon of service.

As you’ll see from the draft copy of the opening menu, the dozen or so seasonally driven food offerings (plus three dessert choices) are a marriage of modern French and Southeast Asian ingredients and techniques. So what exactly does Sri Lankan-inspired food look like? The tiny island shares culinary elements of its neighbor India but also of its European colonizers (Portugal, Dutch and British). Offerings run the gamut from housemade Sri Lankan pickles and local halibut ceviche with preserved cucumbers to a reenvisioned Mulligatawny soup and roasted quail with chai spice. But what’s likely to be 1601’s signature dish is the egg hopper, a crispy bowl-shaped crepe made fermented rice flour and coconut milk that’s a popular Sri Lankan street food. The hopper, shown above, is made to order in a mini-wok primarily designed for the hopper. Fernando plans to always offer some version of it—the opening menu features an egg hopper filled with a Jidori egg and served with a sampling of sambals. Also in frequent rotation will be curries, a mainstay of the cuisine, such as a black curry of braised sturgeon served with preserved maitake mushrooms.

Despite the restaurant's name, the beverage program (for now) focuses on beer and wine only. Fernando’s former Le Papillon colleague is consulting on the wine list, which features bubbles and food-friendly whites and reds that pairs well with the Sri Lankan spicing. The 50-seat spot (with 25 seats in the dining room and another 15 at the bar) will juxtapose dark walnut and zinc elements with brightly hued batiks that have been preserved in clear resin tabletops and a lush variety of potted plants. Reservations can be made (eventually) via SeatMe or phone.

1601 Kitchen and Bar: coming soon to 1601 Howard St; 415-552-1601

1 comment :

  1. When is 1601 opening? Every article I've read since November says next month!?!? Can we get a real opening date target please?