In San Francisco, the city with the highest count of declared foodies and food critics per capita, restaurant openings are akin to blockbuster movie premieres. With much anticipation, they command great buzz, long lines and instant hip status. At least until the dust settles. In the end, few places endure through the fad to become a favorite. Flour + Water is sure to be one of them.
Inside the new Mission district restaurant, the ample high-ceilings space features a bar, a communal table and solid wood 2 and 4-tops crafted with recycled redwood from old wine fermentation tanks. The walls are painted in muted shades of green and, at the end of the room, colored glass tiles and a large mural painting create a surreal natural sciences backdrop. The interior design is straightforward and contemporary; call it urban chic barn.
A few curious macabre artifacts are peppered around the restaurant; like in the restroom, where skulls and seashells are found neatly displayed in a cabinet of curiosities. They come from the Flour + Water’s designer, Sean Quigley, who also owns one of San Francisco’s most authentic stores; Paxton Gate.
Bustling with locals, the atmosphere is inviting and unfussy. Friendly servers dressed in civilian clothes make sure you feel right at home. Service was a little out of sync on my first visit–main courses arrived while we were still working on our appetizers; but things seemed better the second time around.
All in all, the main attraction here is definitely the food. Chef Thomas McNaughton (Gary Danko, La Folie, Quince) brings his sophisticated cuisine background to a welcoming homey fare.
Flour + Water specializes in fresh house made pastas, cured meats and thin crust Neapolitan pizzas. The chef has imported from Italy an enviable wood-burning oven capable of achieving 800ºF–according to the restaurant, about the same temperature as hell. The one-page menu also features flavorful meat entrées that benefit from McNaughton’s Franco-Italian techniques. Appetizers are priced around $10 and main courses range from $12 to $22.
To start, a nice house baked rosemary foccaccia served solo.
House cured salumi – chili Toscana, cacciatore, finnochiona. McNaughton’s charcuterie is tasty, I’d say on par with Boccalone’s.
Shaved asparagus & arugula salad with quail egg & a pancetta-caper vinaigrette. A fresh salad with crunchy vegetables and rich, carefully poached quail eggs.
Margherita pizza - tomato, basil, fior di latte, extra virgin olive oil. There are only 4 options for toppings and arguably less inventive combinations than Gialina and Delfina. But at Flour + Water, only 2 minutes in the wood-burning oven produces an unparallel crust with a nice balance of chewy and crisp and aromatics from the wood. Worthy every bite.
Corzetti stampati with braised monterey squid & castelvetrano olives. The pastas are made fresh every day. In this dish, flat pasta discs are served with a flavorful sauce and the coveted mild Italian olives that seem to have taken San Francisco’s epicurean scene by storm. I just wish there was an option for a bigger portion.
Braised pork cheek with sweet pea & erbette chard. The best dish I had. Tender, melt-in-your-mouth pork served with a flavorful wine reduction and nicely balanced by the slight bitterness of chard.
Roast leg & loin of lamb with spring shallot, rabe leaves & green olives jus. Also very tender, the leg is thinly sliced and served with sweet roasted onions and a tasty reduction.
The desserts at Flour + Water are anything but afterthoughts. The 3 options on the menu are all very good.
Chocolate budino with espresso-caramel cream & sea salt. With a consistency between a pot de crème and a mousse, the rich chocolate budino is complemented beautifully by the flavored whipped cream and highlighted by sea salt crystals. An outstanding dessert.
Olive oil cake with macerated strawberries, honey thyme ice cream and candied fennel. Another great combination of fluffy, moist cake and creamy Humphry Slocombe ice cream.
Cherry ricotta tart with saba and torn mint. A delicate tart with fresh cherries on a crunchy crust, served with grape syrup.
With a warm atmosphere and a flavorful cuisine that I’d compare to Delfina and its pizzeria all under one roof, this brand new Mission spot is worth trying and going back to. Opened less than a month ago, Flour + Water is already the most exciting new restaurant in the city. One that this foodie and food critic hopes is here to stay.
Flour + Water is at 2401 Harrison Street