Tag Archives: watermelon

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.)