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Central Kitchen, is it worth it? [San Francisco]

s
slchorne May 9, 2012 09:00 AM

Is there a new trend for expensive restaurants? I just saw the menu for Central Kitchen and I'm wondering if it is overpriced, or if I have unrealistic expectations on what to pay in SF these days. What do you expect to pay for a meal?

Poached hen. young potatoes. créme fråiche. dill and scallions: $24
Glass of wine : $9
Healthy SF: $4 (just a guess)
Tax+tip: $11
Total: $48

Dinner for 2 with no starter or Dessert: $100 (because you will round up the $96 anyway)
Entree, Main, and 2 glasses of wine will run you $ 80/pp
The tasting menu will run you $160/pp

(And that doesn't include the taxi to get there, because there is sod all parking in the area, or the extra cocktails you will consume at the bar next door while waiting for a table)

  1. possumspice Jun 30, 2012 08:26 AM

    Went to Central Kitchen last night and really enjoyed it. We managed to walk right in (7:30 on a Friday night) and get seated at the communal table. A line did seem to form as the night progressed, so we may have gone just early enough to beat the rush.

    After some sort of tangy seaweed amuse (tasty), we started with the beet salad and crispy rabbit as starters. My husband loved the beet salad, and I enjoyed it, but found something to be slightly off balance about the dish. I would have loved more of an acid component or maybe some greens to lighten the dish, which was quite intense (almost like a dessert, which I guess isn't too surprising considering that the other ingredients included raspberries and cocoa nibs). We both loved the crispy rabbit, which was very tasty and satisfying in the way only (well-executed) fried food can be.

    We then had the squid, which had a nice smoky char. I liked this dish more than my husband. I thought it had a nice balance of flavors and the squid was charred but tender, more difficult to find than you might think.

    We then had the sea bass and roasted hen. The sea bass was perfectly fine. A nice piece of fish and well cooked, but did not stand out among the other things we ordered. The hen, however, was a knockout. So flavorful and moist, but with a crisp skin. I was convinced it had been cooked sous vide because of how tender and evenly cooked it was, but the server told us it was poached and then fried in a pan to crisp the skin. Honestly, quite possibly the best chicken I've ever had (my husband, not normally a huge chicken fan, agreed).

    We finished with the cheese plate, which is very attractively presented. Honestly, I was completely stuffed at this point and really only managed a tiny sliver of Red Hawk. The portions were very generous (I found). The way the menu is structured, I assumed a starter, a larger appetizer (secondi? whatever the middle section is), and a main course would be the appropriate amount of food, but I think honestly I would have been happy with one item from each of the top two sections (but then I wouldn't have had that amazing hen).

    The bread was fluffy caraway oat rolls served with very nice, deep yellow butter.

    1. t
      tjinsf May 31, 2012 12:37 AM

      Had a very solid meal at Central Kitchen. Service was excellent, food came out promptly and was perfectly prepared. The entree portion was smaller than I expected (and I prefer European size portions). The food was creative and heavy on foams and deconstructions but was accessible with a focus on fresh local flavours.

      Our server suggested we order 4-5 dishes but with 3 smaller dishes and one entree size we were completely happy. The menu is set up very similar to AQ with three dishes at 12-14, three at a couple dollars more and then three entrees at 24-28

      We had the salad greens with egg yolk. As my spouse says eggs make everything better. This was a very addictive dish with a green herbaceous sauce. It was mix of cooked and raw greens, deceptively simple yet very satisfying.

      The next dish was the artichoke hearts and salt cod with white beans. Again the sauce which was a foam really brought the dish together even if I find foam unappealing looking. The creamy texture was contrasted by the salt in the fish and artichoke hearts. I would get this dish again.

      The next dish was the sardines with avocado. The spouse really liked this dish but I thought the texture was to similar in all the ingredients.

      The final dish was a duck served confit and seared with greens and barley. The duck was cooked just right, the fat render and the meat tender but not over cooked. The portion of meat was small though even for western fine dining. It was served with lots of grains and greens which only highlighted the smaller portion of meat.

      At the beginning of the meal we were served an amuse although it was larger than amuse usually is, a mix of a lime sorbet in a seltzer.

      For dessert we got 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.

      They gave us a small box of cookies with the cheque.

      The atmosphere is pretty causal with the wait staff in denim but the service was professional.

      I've never been that impressed by Flour + Water finding it not very different than many common Italian restaurants in Europe but Central Kitchen shows more of the chef's personal style mixed with his love of good ingredients.

      I'm planning on going back for the tasting menu. The table next to us was having the tasting menu and it looked quite good.

      1. b
        bluex May 25, 2012 09:22 AM

        Went here the other night and was a little underwhelmed, although that could very well be because of our high expectations. We ordered almost all of the starters and an entree. Everything was good but nothing made enough of an impression for me to want to come back to eat it again.

        In contrast, we went to St. Vincent last night and can't wait to go back. 4 out of the 5 dishes we ordered were so delicious, I kept raving about them all night. I realize they're not the same kind of restaurant, but I was disappointed that I didn't leave Central Kitchen feeling anywhere near as satisfied with the experience as we were with St. Vincent.

        The service at Central Kitchen was excellent, however. Everyone was very friendly, helpful and welcoming. I realize that they just opened so I'll probably give them a few months and try again.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bluex
          t
          tjinsf May 25, 2012 01:26 PM

          thanks for the report back. Do you remember what you have a t central kitchen. Also would love to here what dishes you like at St. Vicent's.

          1. re: tjinsf
            b
            bluex May 25, 2012 03:11 PM

            Yep.
            Central Kitchen: the ham, asparagus, poached artichokes, spring onions and mackerel as starters and the salmon for our entree. The spring onion dish was our favorite.

            St. Vincent: Our favorites were the curried pickled egg, bone marrow, vidalia onion soup and the burnt milk ice cream and honeycomb dessert. I still can't get over how good the egg and onion soup were but we'd order all of the above again. We also got the egg with potato chips and speck, which was good but not memorable like the other dishes.

        2. v
          vulber May 19, 2012 10:46 PM

          parking is super easy in that area; not sure where you were looking....

          2 Replies
          1. re: vulber
            Atomica Jun 20, 2012 08:31 PM

            Ridiculous. That is BY FAR the worst place to park in the Mission, at least in the daytime. BY FAR.

            1. re: Atomica
              v
              vulber Jun 21, 2012 01:59 PM

              the restaurant is only open during the nighttime, hence my comment. that area clears out at night

          2. t
            tjinsf May 19, 2012 05:03 AM

            so has anyone tried Central Kitchen? I'm going next week and am curious about whether to try the tasting menu or go a la carte. The tasting menu is 83. I think Flour and Water is overrated and overhyped but I'm interested to see what comes out with a more refined cuisine and style.

            1 Reply
            1. re: tjinsf
              b
              bluex May 19, 2012 10:29 AM

              I'm going next week too but will probably get the a la carte. Really want the tasting menu but the friend I'm going with always prefers the a la carte options and I'm stuck.

            2. d
              dunstable May 9, 2012 11:02 AM

              That sounds a little on the cheap side, yeah. I'm not saying it's not still expensive, but it's typical.

              Here is the menu for oft-mentioned Nopa, which I think people here would consider medium-level with respect to cost:

              http://nopasf.com/menu/dinner/

              1. Robert Lauriston May 9, 2012 09:08 AM

                $25 to $27 for main courses including sides is average or slightly below for SF restaurants that use top-quality ingredients.

                The published menu has a $1.95 health and dental charge.

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