Walking inside of Central Kitchen feels like stepping onto an outdoor terrace in the wine country. Sunlight streams through the ceiling's glass windows down onto the diners seated at mahogany wooden tables. Located in one of the fastest growing food corridors of the Mission district, Central Kitchen has many notable neighbors including Flour & Water, Sightglass Coffee, Salumeria, and its next door neighbor, Trick Dog. Sourced from local purveyors, this thoughtfully cooked food is well worth trying.
The modest portions (or small portions depending on who you are talking to) fit this refined and casual atmosphere. The best way to dine here is by either sharing several courses or to try the prix fixe menu. My dinning companion and I shared the following four dishes:
Chickpea Panisse with yogurt, sunflower seeds, and a cilantro sauce. This Middle Eastern inspired dish arranged quarter-sized, lightly fried chickpea-flower patties, on a dollop of yogurt, surrounded by a moat of cilantro sauce. The sunflower seeds added a crunchy texture to the crispy chickpea dough.
2. Clam Escabèche with peas, octopus, and miso. This Mediterranean dish most likely initially rose to popularity due to its acidic nature which helped to preserve food when refrigeration was not prevalent. Loaded with herbs, the oil and vinegar sauce brighten the peas and octopus. The miso adds an extra umami flavor to the already multi-dimensional seafood dish.
3. Black cod with artichoke, borage, and fiddlehead ferns. The fiddleheads stole the spotlight for this dish. Neither too crunchy nor too soft, these curly foraged ferns are a whimsical, seasonal treat. We ate the fiddleheads in between bites of the supple cod which was sheltered by a crispy and blackened skin. The borage, an edible star-shaped purple flower, was used primarily as garnish but also added a subtle cucumber-like taste.
4. Matcha cake with white chocolate and meringue. The dense and fluorescent green cake was cubed and and contrasted in texture with the shards of meringue and pillowy white chocolate tufts. A true surprise and a real treat!