1300 on Fillmore will transport you to another time, another place.
The glamorous San Francisco supper club greets you like a contemporary Southern belle with attitude from the moment you step inside its massive, heavy doors.
All warm, chocolate brown leather and polished wood, the lounge features a dramatic wall of back-lit black and white photos of the historic Fillmore Jazz District that surrounds the restaurant, a short drive from the Hotel Kabuki San Francisco.
Indeed, there’s live jazz in the lounge regularly, and even gospel performances during Sunday brunch.
Recently, I was invited to be a guest of the four-year-old restaurant to try Executive Chef David Lawrence’s singular take on Southern specialties. Lawrence owns the restaurant with his wife, Monetta, who greets guests in the dining room as if welcoming them to her own home.
He is English-born, of Jamaican heritage, and French-trained — all of which shows on his plates. The food has the comforting quality you want in Southern cooking, but here it’s done up with far more flair and refinement.
Warm triangles of cornbread, crusty on the outside and tender within, arrived at the table with a pot of sweet-spicy red pepper jam. You will have to summon all the willpower you have not to eat every single one.
An amuse arrived — a large plate with a small crater in the center, cradling thick, rustic grits with tomato marmalade and blue cheese. It had nice balance, because even with the addition of the pungent cheese, you could still taste the lovely sweet corn flavor of the grits.
Little Gem salad ($8) brought crunchy long leaves drizzled with tangy buttermilk dressing, and scattered with spiced molasses glazed pecans and crunchy croutons made from more of that wonderful cornbread.
Barbecue shrimp and grits ($14) carried a lovely hit of spice, as well as irresistible fried garlic chips that made the dish memorable.
Of course, who can resist fried chicken at a Southern restaurant? You need to allow 20 minutes for this one ($24), as it’s cooked to order. This is not your fried chicken with crunchy curlicues of crisp batter enveloping it. This is more your neat, civilized version of fried chicken. First off, it’s boned out. Second, Lawrence uses a marinade-brine to keep it super moist, then dredges it in organic corn flour seasoned with a touch of cumin, before shallow-frying it in cast-iron skillet. Take a bite and it’s more of a chewy crunch rather than a shattering one, with the flesh tender and juicy. The chicken is served with mashed potatoes and gravy, plus the lightest, most buttery chive biscuit ever.
Pan-roasted diver scallops ($26) arrived beautifully seared with sweet potato mash with a hint of cinnamon, and a carrot-cardamom sauce studded with crispy bits of pancetta.
We couldn’t pass up a side of white truffle macaroni and white cheddar cheese ($7). This is not your heart-attack version drowned in paste-thick, cheese sauce. Instead, the macaronis are coated in a thinner, more restrained sauce that’s still dreamy-creamy and satisfying.
For dessert, you can’t go wrong with banana cream pie ($9). It’s not served as a wedge here, but as an individual tart with a filling that’s more pleasingly custard-like than pudding-ish. Swirls of caramel-lime sauce add a little more sweetness to this very fresh tasting dessert.
Like any good supper club, 1300 on Fillmore takes you to another place — one so comfortable that you won’t want to leave anytime soon.
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