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1601 Bar And Kitchen

1601 Bar And Kitchen

Our second visit to 1601 Bar & Kitchen was just as magical as our first. Once again we opted for the tasting menu and had planned our visit accordingly – taking our time, dinner took about 2 hours and was a delight from beginning to end. No rush and wonderful food! And although a tasting menu, we were completely satisfied and full when we finished.The tasting menu is a bit of a splurge, but is very much worth it. Every item is meticulously prepared and the sequence of dishes is like a symphony building to a finale followed by a short coda of dessert. Starting with an intriguing amuse bouche of uni ice cream with caviar (!) which is a totally unexpected taste sensation through to the “main course” of goat stew (why don't we see goat on the menu in the US more? it's scrumptious) and wrapping up with the dessert, we were delighted with the preparation and presentation of each item. The wine pairings were eye opening: normally my experience has been that wine pairings are not particularly inventive or well thought out. Not the case here! Every selection paired beautifully with its associated dish. Each came slightly before the dish so we could experience it on its own, and then we tried the dish on its own. The real magic happened with the combination of the wine and the dish that caused an explosion of flavors. New tastes became evident and the complexity of both the wine and the dish were revealed. The sommelier is a genius!Service was attentive, but didn't hover, and the server explained each dish and wine carefully. This added to the enjoyment of the meal quite a bit. The staff is friendly and outgoing and the entire dining experience was simply delightful. We can't recommend 1601 Bar & Kitchen highly enough!
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1601 Bar And Kitchen

The best San Francisco restaurant that you’ve never heard of makes what I’m pretty sure are the city’s only Sri Lankan–inspired dishes. It is, I know for certain, the sole spot in SoMa that dusts its palate teasers with a ground fruit called goraka and spikes its 15-course degustation menu with Maldive fish and lime pickle. Its name is 1601 Bar & Kitchen, and its chef and owner is Brian Fernando. Like his restaurant, Fernando is not entirely Sri Lankan. The chef grew up in Sacramento on his Sri Lankan–born father’s home-cooked favorites, staples of a cuisine whose toasted curries, savory crepes, and cod cutlets are happy consequences of colonial currents that washed across the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea from Portugal, India, England, and beyond.
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1601 Bar And Kitchen

Located in Western Soma, 1601 Bar & Kitchen is a small, independent, husband and wife owned and operated casual fine dining restaurant. Chef Brian Fernando refers to his technique-driven interpretations of Sri Lankan cuisine as ‘contemporary Sri Lankan’ or ‘Californian Sri Lankan’ and prepares a menu of colorful, vibrant and thoughtful explorations of his personal heritage. We offer an a la carte menu of small plates as well as a multi-course prix-fixe menu accompanied by optional beverage pairings. We are happy to create a vegetarian or vegan tasting menu upon advance request (24 hours’ notice). The restaurant’s atmosphere is comfortable for conversation and the noise level is low.
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1601 Bar And Kitchen

A wine list should, and often does, support the overall style of a restaurant. In the case of 1601 Bar & Kitchen, it reflects a sense of sophistication and knowledge that’s consistent with the food and decor.
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1601 Bar And Kitchen

Like many chefs before him, Fernando has struggled with the question of just how much of his culture he should mine. In the early days of 1601 Bar & Kitchen, which has been open for over two years, he soft-pedaled its Sri Lankan accents, right down to the restaurant’s humdrum name. He has since reconsidered, at least where his cooking is concerned. While his food remains a far, haute cry from curry in a hurry, his revamped menu speaks more feistily to his heritage: unafraid to throw its elbows, unapologetic about its fire and funk.
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1601 Bar And Kitchen

My first visit to 1601, and will certainly will go there again. The quality and preparation of each course was fabulous. We were there for Valentine's Day, and every dish was a special treat! We all highly recommend the smoked salmon, the short rib, and the kale salad. The atmosphere and attentive/friendly service lends itself to both a romantic evening or a social gathering at one of the community tables. We're coming back!
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1601 Bar And Kitchen

We picked 1601 for a special event with 2 foodie couples and it was as wonderful. The food was exceptionally yummy, a careful blend of mild and spicy, ethnic traditional and contemporary. If you have guests from out of town who want a San Francisco dining treat, this is the right place. For foodies you have to do the tasting menu which is the best prix fixe menu in the city. The egg hopper is a must have, as is the okra, smoked salmon and chicken curry. And make sure you do the chocolate parfait with dark curry spices. Its on my list of best things i ever ate
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1601 Bar And Kitchen

Coaxed along by poised, attentive service, meals at 1601 unfold at a gentle pace. The understated backdrop of the dark-walled dining room smacks not at all of Southeast Asia—but very much of South of Market chic. Not everything served is perfect: The cod cutlets tasted pretty much exclusively of potatoes. And certain ingredients repeat so often—lime pickle with the octopus, the kale, and the scallops; coconut nearly everywhere—that even ardent fans might desire a break. But those are minor shortfalls of a sharp and delightfully surprising restaurant—a restaurant, I confess, that I first thought of as a misfit.
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We came back to 1601 for our first wedding anniversary dinner–we had our wedding reception there, too. The service and the food are always great. The pacing of courses was excellent, too. Definitely get the mulligatawny soup and the Ceylon tea semifreddo. Amazing!
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vipOpenTable Diner (San Francisco)·Dined on December 18, 2016An amazing hidden gem. A surprisingly short walk from Hayes Valley. Unusual menu options from Sri Lanka that were all exceptional. Not a full bar, which disappointed us since the name of the restaurant infers that it is also a “bar” but this was easily overlooked once we began eating our apps. No wonder Michelin gave them an honorable mention. We will definitely return! Thanks!Was this review useful to you?Yes·No·Reportfood5ambience4service5
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vipOpenTable Diner (San Francisco)·Dined on December 18, 2016An amazing hidden gem. A surprisingly short walk from Hayes Valley. Unusual menu options from Sri Lanka that were all exceptional. Not a full bar, which disappointed us since the name of the restaurant infers that it is also a “bar” but this was easily overlooked once we began eating our apps. No wonder Michelin gave them an honorable mention. We will definitely return! Thanks!Was this review useful to you?Yes·No·Report
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vipOpenTable Diner (San Francisco)·Dined on December 18, 2016An amazing hidden gem. A surprisingly short walk from Hayes Valley. Unusual menu options from Sri Lanka that were all exceptional. Not a full bar, which disappointed us since the name of the restaurant infers that it is also a “bar” but this was easily overlooked once we began eating our apps. No wonder Michelin gave them an honorable mention. We will definitely return! Thanks!
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What he is creating is yet another example of what I consider today’s most exciting dining trend – chefs who use their heritage to make a personal statement and take diners on a magic culinary ride. That’s why I love what Mourad Lahlou does with Moroccan food at Aziza, Nick Balla’s Eastern European-inspired food at Bar Tartine, and the Basque leaning of Piperade under Gerald Hirigoyen.
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Fernando’s background – his father is from Sri Lanka and he grew up eating Sri Lankan food – is a starting point that’s overlaid with French influences. He’s been in the Bay Area for 18 years, worked a year in a tapas bar in Spain and, after an internship at Chez Panisse, spent a decade at Le Papillon in San Jose.
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It’s clear that the chef has a fine-dining pedigree, because the staff is well trained and knows some finer points of service. They carry utensils in a wooden box and dole them out between courses, and regularly wipe down the table. They also course out the order rather than doing what many small-plates restaurants do – leaving it to the whim of the kitchen. On several occasions, when the staff realized we were sharing, they split the soup order in the kitchen.
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That much is apparent from the first bite. Whether you choose the à la carte option or the prix fixe, the kitchen starts you off with a gift that, depending on the night you visit, may be shrimp toasts. Crisp, puffy, sweet and sour, they’re more compelling cousins of the chicharrón. Their sourness comes from a purple shower of powdered goraka, a tamarind-like fruit—one of the many elements in Fernando’s arsenal that you won’t find listed in your Larousse.

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