We like to think we have a pretty diversified palate, what with the vast range of international restaurants in SF. But we had yet to introduce our taste buds to Sri Lankan cuisine.
That is, until 1601 Bar & Kitchen opened in SoMa.
Indeed, it is the first restaurant in the city with serious influences from this island south of India. Chef and owner Brian Fernando drew on his Sri Lankan heritage, mixing the piquant spices and coconut-infused dishes he grew up on with the French cooking techniques he mastered at Le Papillon.
For starters, sip on a vermouth-based aperitif ($9) while nibbling on a raw kale salad tossed with coconut meat in a black garlic and lime vinaigrette ($9). That said, the standout appetizer is definitely the Traditional Hopper ($9), a humble, organic egg soft-cooked inside a crepe-like, edible bowl and accompanied by a fiery sambol sauce.
Entrees are filling and artfully prepared: Roasted quail pops with chai spice and toasted buckwheat ($16). Succulent cinnamon-spiced lamb and pork meatballs are doused with a green chickpea relish ($13).
To cap off the meal, we ordered the warm banana fritters ($8), sprinkled with cinnamon and covered in Greek yogurt.
Our foodie passport has been officially stamped.
1601 Howard St. between Van Ness Ave. and 12th St.; 415-552-1601 or 1601sf.com