As most ambitious restaurants do, Central Kitchen has been growing into itself over its first year. While not blessed with the same instant, universal critical acclaim of other 2012 openers Rich Table and State Bird Provisions, the Flour + Water spinoff has been holding its own and maturing in its first twelve months, enough that it won over GQ critic Alan Richman, who recently named it one of the "Most Outstanding New Restaurants of 2013." We decided to check it out recently and found many things to like, and nothing that bored us. Executive chef Thomas McNaughton and chef de cuisine Ryan Pollnow are composing some beautiful, multi-layered and textured plates that are evocative of the season, and pay particular homage to green spring vegetables like asparagus, peas, and fava beans.
While a couple of things, like a dish combining pork belly, chorizo, and octopus, felt over-worked, the majority of the dishes were vibrant, complex, and unique. For example, a dish of halibut with an olive crumb, heirloom beans, artichoke, and octopus soffrito was balanced and delicious, with just the right number of elements. And a dish of a simple black-trumpet mushroom croquette served with a deeply earthy, perfectly seasoned mushroom broth on the side was a loving, and soulful preparation that elevated the humble mushroom, and presented it in its most flattering and ideal form.
All in all, McNaughton's voice as a chef finally has a new, less pasta-focused venue in which to sing, and it remains a fascinating show.
See some photos below, and see the current menus here.