Saturday, May 07, 2011

San Fran Hip - Flour + Water

As I think of my year in the Bay Area, I have discovered that San Francisco restaurants are adept at producing stylish, creative cuisine at prices that 20-somethings can afford. Yes, there are some extravagant restaurants and, frankly, some rotten ones, but SF has a mid-budget culinary swagger that few cities can match. Perhaps this is a function of the fact that SF is a youthful, vibrant city and a city where people dine out: seven meals at $150/per is more Silicon Valley than Noe Valley.

Several restaurants might be named as fitting this category: Delfina, Zuni CafĂ©, among others. But as I managed to snare a rare reservation at Flour + Water, a sophisticated modern Italian restaurant in the Mission District - a restaurant that is Pizza-plus – F+W is my text. Flour + Water charges $17 for pasta, $16 for pizza, and $21-24 for their secondi. The restaurant is well-priced and always filled. It is the Eternal Seating.

Flour + Water - San Francisco - May 2011

My companion and I ordered a pair of antipasti, two pasta, and a secondi, and were, in general, quite impressed: three of the five were distinguished. Pork belly with broccoli salsa gribiche, asparagus, sofritto, and fresh coriander was marred by a small and overly crispy pork belly. It was pretty, but not truly delicious. In contrast, the halibut crudo with strawberries, favas, and fennel blossoms was a cool tribute to spring. The fish was sweet and the accompaniments added layers of textures. The tasting notes were just right.

Flour + Water - San Francisco - May 2011 - Pork Belly with Broccoli Salsa Gribiche, Asparagus, Sofritto, and Fresh Coriander

Flour + Water - San Francisco - May 2011 - Halibut Crudo with Strawberries, Favas, and Fennel Blossoms

The path of pasta diverged. One was fabulous, the other sounded fabulous when read on the menu. Less successful (and not a choice that our server recommended when asked for pasta advice) was Aleppo Spaghetti with Ink Braised Squid, Mint and Chili Oil. Aleppo is a mild Syrian pepper. While the pasta was properly cooked, the plate with its black and brown tones was not inspiring and the flavors, presumably intended, seemed a bit off. Mint and chili did not match well. Braised squid was not as pleasing as the grilled version.

Flour + Water - San Francisco - May 2011 - Aleppo Spaghetti with Ink Braised Squid, Mint and Chili Oil

In contrast, the Taleggio Scarpinocc with Rosemary and Aceto Balsamico (which our server enthusiastically admired) was stunning in its simplicity. These oddly shaped raviolis (shaped like wooden shoes) were luscious, and were as fine a filled pasta as any I have had for months. The cheese was astonishingly tangy.

Flour + Water - San Francisco - May 2011 - Taleggio Scarpinocc with Rosemary and Aceto Balsamico

The secondi – slow cooked cod with artichokes, spring onion, asparagus, pounded herbs, and fennel – was lovingly prepared, elegantly presented, and carefree. If it was not as savory as some main courses, its subtlety carried the night. The lightness of the fish made it float away.

Flour + Water - San Francisco - May 2011 - Slow Cooked Cod with Artichokes, Spring Onion, Asparagus, Pounded Herbs and Fennel

With Flour + Water only a few blocks from Humphrey Slocombe Ice Cream, a post-modern ice-creamery (Brown Butter Ice Cream and Malted Dulce de Leche), we didn’t test the F+W desserts.

We left F + W with wallets only slightly lightened and hearts greatly so.

Flour + Water
2401 Harrison Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

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