Where to Eat the Coolest Cuisine from the New Asia
San Francisco’s taste for the flavors of the Southeast Asia shows no signs of slowing. New restaurants bring the food of Guam and Sri Lanka to the city while an established restaurant defines the food of Indonesia in elegant style.
Neighborhood: San Francisco, SOMA
Located on a quiet stretch of Howard Street, 1601 Bar & Kitchen shines like a beacon to those seeking the unique flavors of Sri Lankan cuisine. The flavors of this island located off of India’s southern coast - chile and coconut, chutney and curry – embolden a tapas style menu of small plates from chef Brian Fernando. Dip your toes in via the a la carte menu to experience delights such as a creamy watalappam coconut custard topped with sea urchin roe and compressed cucumberor Hokkaido scallop deftly seasoned with goraka fruit and champagne vinegar. Cooked and served inside a banana leaf, duck lamprais with eggplant and preserved quince is a subtly sweet nod northern European and south Asian influences. Choose the chef’s tasting menu and wine pairing to fully experience the brilliant range of flavors on offer.
Neighborhood: San Francisco, Mission
The island cuisine of Guam gets its turn at Prubechu. Prubechu, or “you’re welcome” in Guam’s native Chamorro language is a casual, family-friendly place in the heart of the Mission. The work of chef Shawn Naputi and fellow expat Shawn Camacho, the cuisine is influenced by Spanish and Pacific Rim flavors from the traditional keleguan (grilled, citrus-cooked chicken with fresh coconut) to the modern Californian (seasonal pickled vegetables). Fiesta style whole roasted pig is a regular special and is not to be missed.
Neighborhood: San Francisco, Tenderloin
Open for 20+ years, Borobudur is not new but its elegant preparations of Indonesian food place it front and center of San Francisco’s burgeoning southeast Asian food movement. Rijstaffel, or “rice table,” perhaps the original chef’s tasting menu, reflects the Dutch influence in the area but this nine dish meal tastes purely of Indonesia’s 13,000 islands. Stuffed lumpia and chicken sate Ayam with peanut dressing are instantly familiar but Sumatra beef rending and Oseng Oseng, a Javenese soy bean cake with tofu and Gado Gado, a salad of tofu, potato and peanut explore new territory.