Many moons ago I won a fundraising auction for a table for four at the as-yet-unopened Central Kitchen. We could be one of the first to dine there. I was very excited. I informed our friends of the wonderful news and we aligned calendars. That proved more challenging that we though but we eventually had a table booked for November. My husband was in an accident at the end of September and was still not mobile by reservation time so we had to put it off. Finally, he was up, walking, off the crazy meds and we could enjoy a weekend in San Francisco. I booked the table for a Friday night.
We got up to the city with just enough time to check into our hotel, change clothes, hop in a cab and get over to the Mission. We were a little confused about where to enter the restaurant. We ended up going through the salumeria but cut through the back door when we saw our table mates were already seated.
The tasting menu had a few things that neither I nor one tablemate could eat but the kitchen was amazingly accommodating. The first course was fine for all though: A taste of pork. The pork rinds, as I called them as I ate them by the bag as a kid, or cracklins, were fine, crispy but not much to them aside from crunch and they were slightly oily inside. This was seriously the only minor disappointment all night. The pickles alongside the cracklins were crisp-sour-salty-tangy-wonderful and the pork consomme….THE PORK JUICE! Cup-o-heaven. Wayyyy too small of a glass of this broth. It is the basis for every good soup you could think of. It was gone far too quickly.
The pork fat was sadly left behind but we didn’t miss it long as a light, refreshing, and beautiful plate of Hamachi, kumquat and insanely thinly sliced hazelnut was delivered. Clean flavors, cool and crisp.
When I read there was geoduck coming up next I was taken back to Sooke Harbour House on Vancouver Island. We were brought a plate that looked caprese-like. Tomatoes, cucumber…not cucumber, geoduck. Raw geoduck very much resembles cucumber in appearance and not at all in taste. This was not the case at Central Kitchen. It was served in a bowl with quail egg, and amazing lemongrass broth. Between this and the pork broth, I just wanted a vat of each to soak in. Whoever is in charge of making the broths deserves a medal.
I assumed the mussel, smoked sturgeon, black cioppino dish was going to be a seafood stew but not at all! The sturgeon which, at first bite, was overwhelmingly smoked seemed to be tamed by the…well, black cioppino sauce??…it was jet black. It was thick. It was rich and so good.
A couple of months ago we went to a restaurant in San Francisco that will remain unnamed. It was a very large dining room…huge in fact. We had lovely oysters and good wine and then I ordered the duck and the waiter said, “The chef suggests it be cooked medium.” I very much disagreed. That is far overcooked for duck. I said, “Really?! Odd. I want it medium rare.” The waiter said, “I’ll see if he can do that, you know, duck is very hard to cook.” Ummmm…right. Note that there was no discussion of how to cook the duck at Central Kitchen, it just came out perfect with thin slices of kumquat and celery root puree.
The palate cleanser was the perfect pregnant lady’s drink (my friend is expecting) and when I was pregnant with my son I couldn’t get enough lemons. This was Meyer lemon ice with whey and topped with celery salt. I actually ordered her a second one :) Even not pregnant, I would have loved a few of those!
Last but surely not least we were destroyed with a wooden bowl of chocolate death: Dark chocolate, caramel, sesame. I was stuffed but not so much that I couldn’t move. Perfectly stuffed. We had the wine pairings which all matched beautifully and were all over the map and not at all familiar which was a rare treat.