Flour + Water is one of those places that burst onto the scene in 2009 with some great notices in a neighborhood that wasn't necessarily the best place to go and dine at a fancy restaurant. Five years and that restaurant is still doing well (it's hard to sometimes get a reservations) and the neighborhood is pretty much ground zero for the locals versus techies gentrification wars that permeate San Francisco. (That's my political coverage for today--so now back to the food) I hadn't had a chance, a desire, a thought to get all the war over to that hood and try them out but they had been on my radar as a place to try eventually. Opportunity knocked one day as my friend Ms. K snagged some seats on a weeknight and was looking for some dinner chatter so I took her up on her offer and hopped on the #12 Folsom to get over there. (Ugh, a long bus ride and story for another time!)
Our table was for just right after they opened for dinner so the mostly dark wood covered space was a little empty. This didn't last long and it filled up fast and got loud, even at our small table in the back. Supposedly they had a curated playlist for that evening but I'd be surprised if anyone would have noticed had they not done a little print out on the tables. Seriously, you couldn't hear it over the chatter. Anyway, noisiness aside, I can just have an extra glass of wine and concentrate on the food, of which we had a fair amount. I figured I'd try as much as possible since who knows if I'd ever get back this way again. They have a fair number of things to choose from on the menu. Since this place is called Flour + Water, we decide to skip the antipasti salad things and go straight in with some pasta.
First up was cresta di gallo with smoked hen, golden beets and red dandelion greens in a light parmesan sauce. It was the beets that drew us to this dish, though they were sparse to say the least. However, it's all about the pasta and these were like lovely little pillows of macaroni, cooked perfectly and paired with a buttery slightly creamy sauce that tasted warm and comforting. While the beets lacked, there were shredded bits of the hen and you could tasted the smokiness that added a nice earthy contrast to the butter. This is one of those dishes where there isn't really a lot of different textures going on, but there doesn't need to be. The flavors of the sauce and delicateness of the pasta are what shines and make you want to eat the whole bowl yourself.
Next was maltagliati with braised porcini mushrooms, lemon thyme and almond crumble in a light butter cream sauce. After my first bite of this, the very first term that came to mind was earthy. Literally, it was very woodsy, musky and a little dirt--but I say that in a good way--if one can. The mushrooms had a great distinctive flavor that permeated through the whole dish and the addition of crushed almonds ramped this up and added some nice texture. The pasta again, was done perfectly. Light, thin triangles with just enough al dente chew and softness to make you realize you could never make this pasta on your own at home. It also had that wonderful earthy aroma coming off the plate. We both liked this dish, as well as the one above. Though if you aren't a mushroom fan you might want to choose something else. For me, I was all over it.
Our final entree was mixed roast pork with sunchoke, watercress and au jus. I believe our thinking in getting this was we'd had a couple pasta dishes and didn't want to go more bready and get pizza so let's try something different. Sadly, we should have gotten the pizza. I mean, as I mentioned, the place is Flout + Water, so why not stick with what they do best. I think the main problem for us on this dish was not only was it boring flavor wise, but it was served lukewarm to cold at best. Like it had sat in the window before being brought to the table. The meat was cooked almost right. Tender yes, but it veered toward the dry side and we really needed the au jus to make up for that. The sunchoke turned out to be a puree (the white stuff you see) though the menu didn't mention that. The puree like the meat was rather bland. Sin of sins for me, they both really needed salt. I'll chalk this up to a live and learn moment where I should have known better. If a place specializes in something AND everyone around you is having that dish, it's probably best to just order it. I learned and made the mistake, so you don't have to.
We added a side of roasted asparagus with fried black pepper and bottarga to the entree and boy howdy, I guess this is where all the salt for the pork went. Maybe it was just the roe, but yikes there was plenty of it and after a few bites we went through 2 carafes of water our mouths were so dry. Plus it was room temperature cold. Between that and the parts that were more blackened than roasted neither one of us could finish this side. We mentioned to our server that this was too salty to finish when she asked how things were. She said sorry and she'd mention it to the kitchen. And that was it. The side still showed up on the bill and she didn't really do anything to make up for it. While I wasn't looking to score freebies, we barely ate this and expressed our displeasure, at the very least it should have been expunged. It wasn't like we weren't dropping enough money (yes this place is a pricey night out) and still had dessert to go. Maybe it's just me, but these are the kind of small things I think mid to high end places should make the customer service effort to rectify. Moving on.
As this point, me and Ms. K are going to do the dessert thing so we don't have to end on a sad note.
First up was a chocolate budding with espresso cream and sea salt. This is like a fancy, thick chocolate budding and yes it pot de creme amazing. The espresso in the cream was just enough to add some flavor but not enough to over power the dark chocolate creaminess. And I love a little salty sweet with that added sprinkle of salt. Due to it's richness, this was more than enough for two to share without feeling overwhelmed. But, of course we weren't going to stop there.
Zeppole with ricotta cream. Unlike some previous dishes, these were served hot and crispy and totally yummy. Light and fluffy inside and all sorts of fried dough goodness. I also couldn't get enough of the ricotta cream. It was a not too sweet perfect compliment to these little balls. I wanted to ask for more cream but my waistline thought better of it. Needless to say, both desserts brought a smile to our faces and a finished satisfaction to our stomachs.
By my count that makes 4 out of 6 dishes winners on this visit and I think that's enough to recommend this place, service and noise issues aside. I mean it is really simple to take a clue from the name and order things made from Flour + Water, it is really what they do best here. And while it can get pricey, there are ways around that. The pizzas run $15-20 bucks or so and most dishes are shareable enough for two. Meaning, you don't have to eat as much as me and Ms. K did. Though, do go early enough to avoid the din of sound and make reservations in advance, you'll need it. Next time I may avoid the MUNI journey and just Uber or better yet--bike! That way I can work off all those delicious carbs.