Mackerel with avocados, pickled celery, and pine nuts.
Yes, Central Kitchen has gotten much press. It’s been called “hotly anticipated” and referred to as an “upscale” spinoff of Flour + Water — we ourselves have called it “the poor man’s Saison,” which is meant to evoke the vibe and style of the food, not to mention the proximity to the two-Michelin-starred Saison nearby on Folsom Street, which is now one of the priciest tickets in town. After all the hype, executive chef Thomas McNaughton and chef de cuisine Michael Gaines are doing their damndest to live up to it. They are putting out a bevy of inspired, fresh, deceptively simple but refined dishes, as evidenced by a recent meal we had there.
We opted for the tasting menu and can’t yet speak to the à la carte side, which changes nightly and features a mostly different set of plates. The restaurant is still in its infancy, and much like Saison we expect it to find its footing and increasingly refine its voice over the coming months. But, the stuff is pretty solid already, and for your food-porn pleasure, here’s a glimpse of how things look at this early stage.
Central Kitchen - 782 Florida Street at 20th - 415.565.7003
Earlier: Exclusive: First Look Inside Central Kitchen, Opening Thursday
Things kicked off with a Meyer lemon soda and buttermilk granita as an amuse.
Two small pork head cheese canapés followed. Not pictured: pickled vegetables and roasted padron peppers with whipped lardo.
Clams and turnips, bone marrow, and horseradish.
A diversion from the a la carte menu: ham, greens and herbs, white cheddar, and marinated bread.
Peas and curds, mint, walnut, and rye crumble in a delicious broth.
Seared mackerel with pine nuts, pickled celery, and avocado. Our favorite dish of the night.
Slow-baked halibut, fava leaves, artichoke purée, and a 64-degree egg yolk.
Roasted veal breast with porcinis and pine. These mushrooms were meaty, huge, and amazing, and the meat was pretty great too.
A palate cleanser of Meyer lemon sorbet with sorrel granita and blueberries.
We then shared three desserts from pastry chef Lisa Lu: First, Apricot puree with a lavender cookie.
Chocolate financier, caramel meringe, and chicory syrup.
Fresh strawberries with balsamic vinegar, smoked milk ice cream, and a rich, marzipan-like almond shortbread.