Floating around in there, along with the seafood, were strips of red pepper and okra and grains of rice, but all this substance was somehow secondary to the tasty murk it was suspended in.
Jambalaya is also available in more than one size, but here the downsized version ($18.50) seemed rather niggardly: a small cast-iron pan filled with shrimp, chunks of andouille sausage, shreds of duck confit, and a token sprinkling of rice. I would pronounce this dish a disappointment were it not for the confit, whose dark and glossy richness was redemptive.
Blackened redfish ($26) that Paul Prudhomme classic from the 1980s is made with real Gulf redfish and is worth the carbon-footprint penalty points. There is a local fish, sold under the name red snapper but actually a kind of rockfish, that also has reddish flesh and is sometimes substituted in these sorts of dishes, but it's no match for the buttery intensity of the Gulf variety. The kitchen does give the dish a distinctly California elaboration, though, with a salad of fennel ribbons, quartered artichoke hearts, fresh green peas, salsify, asparagus, and roasted red-pepper coulis.
Cajun fries ($4.75) could have been a little crisper, I thought, and were underseasoned, but they were served with a chipotle mayonnaise that was like silky fire. Even simpler were spicy collard greens ($5.25), slow-cooked to a deep, gleaming green and deeply satisfying. This might be the most authentically Cajun dish on the menu and also, in its direct simplicity, the most Californian.
Despite a long presence (the restaurant's predecessor, Lincoln Grill, opened at the Fillmore Street location in 1928) and an attention-getting name, the Elite Café seems slightly anonymous at the moment. When people think about New Orleans food in San Francisco, they think about other, newer places, and more power to them. Let the Elite Café remain a secret for the happy few.
Dinner: Mon.Thurs., 610 p.m.; Fri.Sat., 610:30 p.m.; Sun., 59 p.m.
Brunch: Sat.Sun., 10 a.m.2:30 p.m.
2049 Fillmore, SF
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