Jamaica native and chef Abraham “OB” Matterson serves up the flavors of his childhood at Scotch Bonnet, a new restaurant in Rincon Center.
We knew we’d landed in the right place when we saw the Jamaican flag flying in the window of the as-yet unadorned Scotch Bonnet space in Rincon Center in downtown San Francisco. Staff were scurrying about filling containers with hot sauce and cleaning up from the lunch rush when Chef OB Matterson walked out, letting us know that we could take photos, but that they were still in the soft-opening phase, so the place was going to get a whole lot prettier. He has colorful art planned for the long white wall parallel to the kitchen that will evoke the feel of Jamaica.
For now, gleaming with that new-kitchen look, the space is abuzz with the small staff multi-tasking at various stations to turn out the beautiful menu items, which currently include plates, burritos, patties and a la carte items full of Jamaican goodness.
Matterson, along with his wife Loris Mattox-Matterson, have owned and operated the popular Scotch Bonnet food truck parked on Sansome Street during weekday lunch, as well as at Off the Grid locations throughout the Bay in regular rotation. Matterson says the food truck will continue, but logistics are up in the air as they establish the new sit-down space.
We tried three plates, all of which were exquisitely prepared, bright in flavor and presentation, and deeply satisfying. (Coincidentally, all plates happen to be gluten-free.)
Perhaps the most traditional recipe on the menu, jerk chicken is one of those things that looks easy to make, but whose subtle complexity makes it fairly challenging to pull off. Chef OB does so with aplomb, using a secret method that likely involves brining and smoking the chicken after marinating it in a pungent sauce laden with chile, onion and lots of savory spices. The meat is tender and juicy, rich with flavor.
Curry goat is equally rich, long-stewed in homemade curry sauce with a mild chile kick. You won’t find goat in many places, locally, with the exception of some African and Mexican restaurants. The meat is a bit gamey, like lamb, and tender like some stew cuts of beef, with just enough fat to soften the protein over time.
Lastly, and my surprising favorite, the curry shrimp has a definite current of heat running through it, and the generous portion includes six large shrimp, meltingly tender and perfectly cooked. I ended up taking the sauce home to pour over rice for dinner.
All plates come with the best fried plantains you’ll find for miles, along with a rice and beans combo and salad.
There’s a selection of imported non-alcoholic drinks, as well as homemade sorrel: sweetened hibiscus tea with ginger.
Scotch Bonnet’s welcome new brick-and-mortar restaurant is a perfect introduction to Jamaican food for the newcomer, as well as a soulful culinary journey for anyone craving a return to the island.
101 Spear St.
San Francisco, CA 94105 [Map]
Ph: (510) 706-0720
Hours: Tues-Sat, seatings at 5:30pm and 8:30pm
Price Range: $ ($9-$13)