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Four New Restaurants to Try Right Now

Afro-Caribbean in the Fillmore, modern Italian in the Mission, and knife-shaved noodles in Oakland Chinatown.


Fried plantains from Isla Vida.

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The Mango Mateo at Isla Vida.

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Rotisserie jerk chicken in the wood-fire oven at Isla Vida.

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FOB Kitchen

Photo: Shaughn and John

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Photo: Aubrie Pick

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Isla Vida
Back in the day, the Fillmore bustled with jazz clubs, barbecue joints and other hallmarks of black culture and cuisine. Not anymore. You could fill a book with the hows and whys of displacement, but, for now, let us take hope in Jay Foster’s efforts to spark a new golden age for black-owned business in the so-called Harlem of the West. While the chef of the recently shuttered Farmerbrown is best known for soul food, Foster’s new fast-casual restaurant, Isla Vida, shifts focus to the bold tropical cuisine of the Afro-Caribbean diaspora: succulent wood-fire rotisserie jerk chicken shot through with the lip-tingling heat of Scotch bonnet chiles, slow-smoked spareribs glazed with tangy-sweet guava barbecue sauce and Cuban-style tostones in all their garlicky double-fried glory. Say it louder for the people in the back: This is the kind of vibrant Fillmore food spot the neighborhood’s diverse residents have been hungry to see. 1325 Fillmore St. (near Ellis Street), 415.678.5171 ‌‌–Luke Tsai

FOB Kitchen
In the cozy remade space that once housed Juhu Beach Club, turquoise tiles now greet you at the entrance, and palm frond patterns decorate the walls—lovely tropical touches to complement a menu of smart yet unpretentious Filipino cuisine. Fans of FOB from its pop-up days will find chef Janice Dulce in fine, familiar form, whether she’s sticking to the playbook with finger-licking lumpia or riffing on tradition with a vegetarian adobo. From a jicama-and-mango salad spiked with sesame oil to a grilled ribeye seasoned with soy sauce and lemon, the food pops with flavor, and under the watch of Brandi Dulce, Janice’s spouse and business partner, the dining room’s welcoming warmth is unrivaled. 5179 Telegraph Ave. (at 51st Street), 510.817.4169 –Josh Sens

“New-school Italian” can mean a lot of things. To Anthony Strong, former culinary director of the Delfina restaurant group, it suggests a mingling of East and West. His concise, creative menu, in the Mission district space that once housed Hog & Rocks, stars such gently hybridized dishes as guanciale-wrapped mochi bathed in balsamic and bedded on radicchio, and Korean rice cakes with an earthy complement of pine nuts, nettles and black trumpet mushrooms. This isn’t fusion. It’s more understated. And the Italian traits are always at the fore. Take the pliant pappardelle—its dough mixed with creme fraiche. Tossed with beef cheek sugo and grated Parmesan, it’s a modernist dish with the home-cooked comforts of old-world cuisine. 3431 19th St. (at San Carlos Street), 415.483.1112 –JS

Huangcheng Noodle House
Even though the dim sum cart and the Cantonese barbecue shop might still get top billing, for years now, Oakland Chinatown has starred a more varied ensemble cast of Chinese regional cooking. Perhaps most promising of these newcomers is Huangcheng Noodle House, the kind of snug comfort-food restaurant that features the red-checkered tablecloths of a spaghetti shack and a soul-warming selection of noodle soups. The specialty here is Shanxi knife-shaved noodles, but this is a kitchen that eschews regional orthodoxy. The menu darts repeatedly to Sichuan, in particular, with chile oil-tinged classics like the water-boiled fish and the crisp, bracing salad of shredded potatoes. And those toothsome wavy-edged noodles find their way into a whole range of non-Shanxi dishes, not the least of which is the sublime Chongqing street noodles that will please every part of your palate with their spicy-savory red broth and toppings of toasted peanuts and well-seasoned ground pork. 734 Webster St. (at eighth Street), 702.481.3124 –LT


Originally published in the January issue of San Francisco 

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