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The Early Word on Central Kitchen in the Mission

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Thomas McNaughton of Flour +Water opened the highly anticipated Central Kitchen, a Northern California-centric restaurant with an emphasis in California terroir, two months ago. As executive chef, McNaughton and chef de cuisine Michael Gaines have sculpted a menu highlighting local ingredients (nothing sourced beyond 150 miles) that McNaughton describes as more refined than nearby Flour + Water. The $83 tasting menu, he had noted, is a “ridiculous value,” with five course including dessert from pastry chef Lisa Lu. And the reviews thus far? Check out the early word:

The Terroir News: “The short menu is an ode to California cuisine, with dishes such as sardines with avocado and a tangy pine nut mousse ($15),” writes SF Gate’s Allen Matthews. “[McNaughton] and the sous chefs go foraging on the coast (they harvest their own sea salt, as well). Honey is being produced on the restaurant's roof, with a soft herb garden and a full greenhouse to come,” reports Lauren Sloss for Serious Eats. Vogue’s Francesca Gilberti notes the “Small details, like candles wrapped in clippings from an old California cookbook that dot the communal tables, gesture at that larger theme.” And Urban Daddy describes the place as “the restaurant equivalent of driving a convertible down Highway 1—right down to the retractable roof.”

The Food News: “McNaughton has been playing (to pleasing effect) with avocado, pine nut mousse and salty cured fish on the à la carte menu,” writes Tablet’s Kate Thorman. Foodhoe reviews: “Fried Head Cheese with fava bean puree, which were funky little bites that melted in your mouth once you bit through the crunchy fried crust. Really good.” On Twitter, Rishi Mandal (@rmandal) tweets “Poached hen is among Top 5 dishes I've ever had in SF!” and Nana Joe's Granola (@nanajoesgranola) tweets, “Hands down best meal of the year. Loved the sweet savory play on entree & caramel meringue w/ chicory sauce blew my mind.”

The Decor News: “Paxton Gate owner Sean Quigley and lead designer Todd McCrea chose a mixture of ‘blue-collar modern with an artisanal twist’ to pay homage to the building's former incarnation as a sausage factory,” reports SF Gate’s Sarah Adler. “Inside is an airy, industrial-looking dining room with an open kitchen, where you can ogle the work of chef Thomas McNaughton,” writes Thorman for Tablet. Outside seating Foodhoe describes as “whimsical,” where a “steampunkish water fountain burbles, and festive strings of Edison bulbs add a mellow glow overhead.”

The Tasting News: “Go for the tasting menu,” writes Foodnut. Matthews at SF Gate explains “[the] tasting menu ($79 per person; the entire party must order) [is] like a Barbary Coast dice game because the staff won't disclose what you'll get.” For Thorman at Tablet it started with “an almond gratine amuse bouche that was better than words,” and “the baked halibut with egg yolk has been a recent standout.” Foodhoe reviews, “The yolk resembled a ripe fruit, it was incredibly soft and yielding but when I cut into it, I was transfixed by the incredibly rich and velvety texture, it was as if King Midas had transformed everything into gold.” Top Chef Trail enjoyed the Pig Trotters noting that the “green and white dollops set his dish apart on the taste index, each trotter melted in my mouth.”

The Dessert News: Foodhoe describes “a delicate loquat sorbet, cherries, crisped meringue and pistachio.” as  “Wonderful vivid bites that disappeared all too soon.” Chowhound reviewer tjinsf comments “the chocolate financier with chocolate sorbet & a honey comb crisp which at 10 dollars was small, rather bland and not a financier in any sense of the ones we eat in France.” While FoodNut writes that the cherries with toasted buckwheat ice cream was “a nice low key dessert.”

The Ambiance News: “With 22 indoor tables, an equal number on the heated patio and six bar seats, the space feels like an archetypal California restaurant, with glowing browns and greens and a slight breeze.” reviews SF Gate’s Allen Matthews. “And the music,” Urban Daddy writes, “they’ll only be playing records—as in vinyl—from before 1979. Which coincidentally was the golden era of coal-roasted duck.” -- Chloe Schildhause

· All Central Kitchen Coverage [~ ESF ~]

Central Kitchen

3000 20th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 415 826 7004

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