By Marcia Gagliardi, 7X7 Magazine
Great patios are few and far between in chilly San Francisco, but we still host a few restaurants whose outside spaces double as secret oases (Foreign Cinema, Saison). Now Central Kitchen—the second venture from Flour + Water partners David Steele, David White, and chef Thomas McNaughton—joins the posse with an indoor/outdoor spot down the street from their original restaurant.
Here, a 700-square-foot courtyard with a retractable roof, heated concrete floors, and foliage and green paint throughout evokes the feeling of summer even when the weather is 60 degrees. Designed by Sean Quigley and Todd McCrea of Paxton Gate, the indoor dining room, small bar counter, and patio are filled with a good-looking crowd drinking organic domestic and international wines. A soundtrack of vintage vinyl—Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, and Talking Heads—gives you the sense that you’re jamming to tunes wafting from the kitchen.
Further dissolving the wall between the burners and your dinner table is the open, custom kitchen—a focal point with gleaming Mauviel pans overhead. The cuisine is rooted in Northern California ingredients, but chef McNaughton allows European influences to shine in his composed plating style. While simplicity reigns in the ingredients, there’s no pizza or pasta here, and the execution is contemporary. A small ceramic bowl of raw salmon belly comes topped with a sorrel emulsion the color of a wheatgrass shot, and a dish of mussels and clams brings with it dehydrated seaweed and decadent bone marrow vinaigrette and horseradish.
Even if it sounds fancy, the $79 tasting menu is a relative steal with a flurry of canapés, five courses, mignardises, and a treat to bring home. The savory à la carte menu features a playful version of a ham-and-cheese sandwich with house-made ham from Devil’s Gulch Ranch, Cabot cheddar, and marinated sourdough bread. There are also spit-roasted meats, like a juicy pink slice of lamb leg served with braised neck and belly confit.
Desserts are inspired, thanks to former Jardinière pastry chef Lisa Lu, whose pea-green lemon verbena sherbet with brûléed Szechuan meringue, thin slices of cherry, and hazelnut streusel might be delightfully likened to Fruity Pebbles.
With the neighboring Salumeria open during the day, soon to be joined by The Parlour by Humphry Slocombe and the Bon Vivants’ Trick Dog bar, this corner complex is going to be one hot spot—even if the weather outside says otherwise.