Curry Shrimp, Curry Goat and Jerk Chicken from Scotch Bonnet.

Curry Shrimp, Curry Goat and Jerk Chicken from Scotch Bonnet. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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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.

Co-owner and Chef OB Matterson (R) and staff filling containers with Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce.
Co-owner and Chef OB Matterson (R) and staff filling containers with Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce. (Wendy Goodfriend)
Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce
Scotch Bonnet Pepper Sauce (Wendy Goodfriend)

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.

Menu at Scotch Bonnet.
Menu at Scotch Bonnet. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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.

Scotch Bonnet space in Rincon Center.
Scotch Bonnet space in Rincon Center. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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.)

Staff preparing food at Scotch Bonnet.
Staff preparing food at Scotch Bonnet. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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.

Jerk Chicken at Scotch Bonnet.
Jerk Chicken at Scotch Bonnet. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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.

Curry Goat at Scotch Bonnet.
Curry Goat at Scotch Bonnet. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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.

Curry Shrimp at Scotch Bonnet.
Curry Shrimp at Scotch Bonnet. (Wendy Goodfriend)

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.

Co-owner and Chef OB Matterson (R).
Co-owner and Chef OB Matterson (R). (Wendy Goodfriend)

Scotch Bonnet
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)
Facebook: @scotchbonnet510
Twitter: @scotchbonnet510
Instagram: @scotchbonnet510

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Author

Kim Westerman

Kim Westerman has been writing about food and wine for most of her adult life. Originally from North Carolina, she moved to Berkeley in 2006 to pursue the California dream, which, it turns out, is all it’s cracked up to be. She’s a farmers’ market junkie, a lover of all things tomato, and Champagne-obsessed. She loves to cook with her kids, eight and three, and she makes frequent pilgrimages to International Boulevard in search of her next favorite Mexican dish. She spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about food and wine pairing, often starting with the wine and working backwards when planning menus. She is a Level I Sommelier and a Licensed Q-Grader. Her work has appeared in KQED’s Bay Area Bites, Forbes.com, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, Tasting Table, Fodor’s Travel Guides, and lots of other publications. You can follow Kim on Twitter and Instagram @throughtraveler.

Author

Wendy Goodfriend

I am the Senior Interactive Producer for KQED Food. I have designed and produced food-related websites and blogs for KQED including Bay Area Bites; Check, Please! Bay Area;  Taste This; Jacques Pepin’s websites; Weir Cooking in the City and KQED Food. When I am not creating and managing food websites I am taking photos and video of Bay Area Life and designing online navigation systems. My professional education and training includes: clinical psychology, photography, commercial cooking, web design, information architecture and UX. You can find me engaged in social media on Twitter @bayareabites and on Facebook at Bay Area Bites. I can also be found photoblogging at look2remember.