All posts by Josh

Central Kitchen

There was a promising start but overall a disappointing showing here.

We arrived shortly before open and were offered seats at a table (which we’d need to keep an eye on time at for an upcoming 7:30 reservation) or we were welcome to sit at the bar. The bar is where the wine is served but diners face the room, not the staff. We thought 1¾ hours seemed plenty of time so sat.

The space is beautiful. We sat in the courtyard, full of natural light in the early Summer evening. We were finishing a glass of prosecco from next door and ordered a glass of cremant brut rosé while we decided what to eat. Perhaps the early tippling led to the ordering of six dishes but if nothing else we set up for a large slice of the place. We ordered as there distinct courses, but responding “yes” to the server’s question about sharing may have led to the dishes coming out one-at-a-time.

First up was a delicious fig-topped liver pâté that set hopes high for the rest of the meal. It was so good, and such a pleasant blend of savory and sweet that I held on to it throughout the meal and had the last bit for dessert. Second in line was a carrot-and-whey dish. The pickled carrots had a pleasant crispness and the whey — almost like a less-sweet crème fraîche — fascinated Rosy and was enjoyed as a spread on the Kitchen’s great bread. While definitely worth having once, it’s not something I’d return to.

Third came a watermelon-and-tomato salad with house-cured pork. The stars of this dish were the watermelon, pickled rind, baby cress, purple basil, and sesame dressing. Sadly, those components made up only a fifth of the dish and the rest was uniformly disappointing.

Fourth came a roast-onion, whipped crescenza, and tomatillo salsa dish. This one was interesting but wasn’t a home-run. The onions had a wide range of done-ness. The more tender sections worked well with the delicious cheese and punchy tomatillo.

About this time I asked to taste a pair of reds in preparation for our entrées. After she left them, another server appeared and uttered one of the strangest introduction-apologies I’ve heard: “I’ll be taking over for your server because she is taking her federally-mandated 30-minute break.” I can’t help but think “your server had to step out but I’ll take care of you until she gets back” would have been less jarring. Around this time I noticed it was nearing 7 pm and we’d been warned to be done by 7:15, though no one had since mentioned timing to us. Speaking of timing, the remnants of those two tastes sat on the table for a long time before someone came by to ask which one we wanted.

What came out next was the low point — a “mixed grill” of pork, every slice bulbous with thick fat: loin, belly, and head-cheese. (I couldn’t tell the head-cheese from the belly, so I have to take the server’s word on that.) I am fine with fat, and it doesn’t normally turn me off, but this was just too close to being served thick slices of lard. The cuts were also nearly indistinguishable in flavor and texture, offering no option for the adipose-phobic. Once slice of belly I served to Rosy had gristle so inedible she had to spit it into her napkin. They took the item of our bill, and it sounded like we weren’t the first to be taken aback by the presentation. A warning might be in order.

The final dish was squid a la plancha, a relatively standard presentation with olives and eggplant. While cooked well its flavor and overall impression were just “fine.”

Rosy thought all the dishes past the first two were surprisingly bland. She also found the various white wines she tried quite similar (all bone-dry and heavy on minerality) and many not worth the steep glass prices. Some brought to mind far more successful dishes at St Vincent, some just left us scratching our heads. Overall there is little chance we’ll come back. Great bread and pâté can’t make up for a two-for-six record. Combined with inattentive service this is not the recipe for return visits.

(Cross-posted to Yelp.)

Eat Drink SF 2014

Rosy and I helped out Eman (and Bartlett Hall) by plating his dish at Eat Drink SF 2014. In exchange we got VIP/staff access for free. While we were putting together tiny octopus salad bites most of the time, we did get to stroll around the event and try lots of different foods and drinks, including free champagne. We got to go to the evening event as well.

While there was lots of good food and spirits, and even some good cocktails, the wine was uniformly disappointing.

Another thing we noticed is how much better-run Bartlett Hall’s station was than other stalls. Despite a near-constant stream of takers we never quite ran out of plates to grab. The supplies held until moments before the end of the event. We also had quite a few people come back near the end for a second taste and to tell us they liked Eman’s dish the best.

Liberty Bar

This is one of my favorite bars ever, and I have been to many, many bars.

Rosy and I spent three and a half wonderful hours here one warm and sunny Monday afternoon in the entertaining company of bartenders Hayley and Willy and their infectious love of the art and craft of cocktails and the community that surrounds them. Over the course of six cocktails, one beer, little tastes of the liquors we discussed, and four sushi rolls (in itself mind blowing that quality sushi and cocktails find a home together) we fell in love with this place. You might think entering “Awesome” for their name in the POS system would be presumptuous but no, when you read “Your server was Awesome” on the bill you can only agree.

We had one or two drinks from the menu, a mescal mule, and series of “something with that local barrel-aged gin” (Copperworks) or other local bottles. All these lead up to the pièce de résistance: after having so many good off-the-cuff drinks, a conversation about PDT in NY, and the chopsticks laying on an empty plate, I had to ask for a soy sauce cocktail. Hayley quickly disqualified the bloody Mary option and set to work. What arrived, an opaque and creamy concoction of soy sauce, wasabi, tequila, and blood orange was a sight to behold and a pleasure to taste. There was much discussion about a name, but I think I won, with “On a Roll.”

517 15th Ave E
Seattle WA 98112

(Cross-posted to Yelp.)

A Gentle Kombucha Cocktail

Long ago Gabe made me a kombucha margarita when I brought some in as a challenge to the Beretta bartenders. On the way home from a walk Rosy and I picked some up and experimented. Gin seemed like a logical choice, but alone didn’t quite do it. A few drops of lime juice rounded it out. Of course, this was a Rosy-made cocktail, so we have no idea of the proportions.

ginger kombucha

pour ingredients over a big rock

The European

For a bar and restaurant to execute this well (if not as fast as one might hope) on a soft open is a great sign.

Starting with the Parisienne gnocchi covered in Camembert the only complaint might be for a funkier cheese but the texture of the gnocchi was great. Portion size was good (in a practical sense) but seemed small for the price.

Quality prawns came with an assortment of accompaniments including an interesting yuzu mignonette and a horseradish salt that could have been more punchy.

The pork jowl bacon was like a marriage of bacon, lardo, and prosciutto: hot and savory waiting to be heaped with bright ricotta on delicious pita. You can almost hear your heart begging you to look away.

The burger’s bun could be firmer (perhaps simply more toasted) but the Vegemite butter and vidalia onions kept me me coming back for bites even after I finished the great fries, dipping them in the Hollandaise-topped egg presented in its shell.

Adam, Sarah, and the rest of the bar crew serve an impressive lineup of new cocktails and quality versions of standbys. There are a number of lower-alcohol aperitif cocktails that all escape the too-sweet and uninteresting fate to which most lighter options fall. The menu is helpfully divided by style and presentation, moving on from the lighter options to rocks, ups, downs, and spiritous options. Among them is the Can Can, my favorite of the night, with an initial dramatic note of lavender that soon settles into a dangerously drinkable combination of whiskey, maple, and bitters. Whatever you may think lies outside your normal preferences I urge you to give these drinks a try. A drink with strawberry wasn’t at all too sweet. A drink with vodka managed character. A drink made with Sauternes was unmistakably a cocktail without losing the character of the wine.

I have no doubt my rating is destined to rise as the service is polished to match the excellent fare. Come now before you’ll never get a seat.

(Crossposted to Yelp.)

White Wine What?

“You know what this would be good with? Campari.”
“Like a kir royale. It’s getting a cherry, if that’s OK with you.”
“Now it needs a rock.”
“It’s missing something, a little heat. Maybe vodka. Or gin!”
“Yeah, gin.”
“Hm, now that I look in the liquor cabinet, how about rum? Smelling them together makes me think this is a good idea.”
“Ok, go for it.”

Surprisingly tasty. Surprisingly beautiful.

1 gl sauvignon blanc
1 Luxardo cherry
Campari to taste (just enough to taste it clearly)
big rock
rum to taste, maybe ½ oz. (I used Mt Gay)

Hannah’s Betrayal

a.k.a “Hannah’s Sorrow” or “Hannah’s Woe,” Rosy named this after Mia Farrow’s character in Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters. Why? It has at least one scene set in Central Park in the fall and I thought the name had to evoke Manhattan in the autumn.

2 oz bourbon (e.g. 1½ oz Rendezvous, ½ oz Four Roses)
½ oz allspice dram
splash Gran Classico
splash Carpano Antica

stir over ice, strain over a big rock

Perfect Perfect Manhattan

The title isn’t a typo, this may be the perfect Perfect Manhattan. At least it would be if I’d remembered what “Perfect Manhattan” actually meant: I thought it referred to the 2-1-2 bourbon-vermouth-Angostura recipe (212 being the area code for Manhattan) but apparently it refers to the 1 being ½ sweet and ½ dry vermouth. Regardless, this is the best 2-1-2 Manhattan I’ve ever had, and it’s a 100% Rocho production. This is also when I found out she’d quietly started drinking my Rendezvous — I’d though it safe since she initially expressed a strong preference for bourbon, but much like her taste in beer her taste for rye (or at least for rye Manhattans) is evolving.

2 oz Rendezvous Rye
1 oz Carpano Antica
2 d Angostura Bitters

Stir on ice, strain over a big rock.


Getting a bottle of allspice dram was exciting. What could we do with it? We don’t have anything like a full bar so it’s hard to just look up “tiki drink” and be able to make what you find. There’s a lot of interpretation and experimentation.

The name is atrocious but the drink delicious. I welcome suggestions for a better name, since this one is just a stupid pun on “my tiki drink” and “mai-tai” though it has nothing to do with a mai-tai.

2 oz Mt Gay Rum
¾ oz allspice dram
¼ oz Carpano Antica
⅛ oz agave nectar
½ Meyer lemon

Combine (squeeze and include lemon) in shaker. Serve over crushed ice.