1601 Bar & Kitchen resides in a transitional part of San Francisco.
It’s right near a major freeway on-ramp to Highway 101. And as you sit at a table by the window, you might spy a homeless person or two rifling through nearby dumpsters.
But none of that should dissuade you from trying Executive Chef-Owner Brian Fernando’s captivating take on Sri Lankan food.
Fernando is of Sri Lankan heritage, so he knows the warm, earthy, sometimes fiery flavors of this Indian Ocean island well. His French training shows through, too, as the presentations are beautiful, from what I evidenced on a recent visit when I was invited in a guest of the restaurant. Fernandez honed his skills in tapas bars in Spain, followed by a stint at Chez Panisse in Berkeley before going on to Le Papillon in San Jose.
The bright space with soaring ceilings is done up in shabby-chic with weathered bar stools and a large, striking mixed-media art piece of Abraham Lincoln hanging on one wall.
The restaurant offers up small plates to share, with lighter ones listed at the top of the menu and heavier ones at the bottom.