Sunday, October 25, 2009

Zuni Cafe in San Francisco

Yesterday the Restaurant Club went to the iconic San Francisco dining destination - Zuni Café which is set on the corner of Market Street and Rose Alley. We met in Marin and drove over the Golden Gate Bridge, which had a spectacular layer of fog that barely let the red tips of the bridge pop through. One of the many reasons I love living in the Bay Area!

Our reservations were set for 11:30am with a line of hungry patrons quickly formed around the corner prior to opening. Several folks were having an early lunch before heading to the Curran or the Opera House for a matinee show. We were seated at a great corner table by the hustling kitchen, with a terrific view of the bottom floor of the restaurant. Zuni opened in 1979 and in 1987 Judy Rodgers became the chef. Shortly a large brick oven was installed and she begun to put her mark on the menu. The signature dish by far is the Roast Chicken with Bread Salad – takes one hour to prepare, so order immediately. Dining at Zuni is must do for any foodie’s bucket list.

The staff at Zuni Cafe is extremely knowledgeable and friendly. When we were waiting outside, the large expansive windows were open and the staff was prepping for service with tasting the food and wine. Lynette and I began with a glass of Hanzell Vineyards 2006 Chardonnay. It had an elegant fragrance of chamomile, lemon and grapefruit pith, with darker tones of honey followed by hazelnut and even savory elements of thyme and walnuts. Based out of Sonoma, this was a new find for the wine cellar. At $70 per bottle, it would be for special occasions. Brenley started with a tall glass of ice tea. The dark, crusty bread and butter arrived shortly and we purposely did not eat breakfast and decided to go family style for our lunch.

We began our first course with two salads, the signature Zuni Cesar salad and Frisee salad with pomegranate seeds, medjool dates and walnuts. Typically, I do not order a Cesar Salad, but since it is a signature dish, we had it on our list – this salad certainly did not disappoint! The dressing was amazing and the croutons were supreme. The Frisee salad was interesting but needed more of the goodies on the salad.

Our second round was the Pizza with ricotta salata, tomato sauce, and oregano along with the Fettuccine with chanterelle mushrooms and pistachio picada. Both dishes had good flavor and warmed up our taste buds for the main event – Roast chicken with bread salad.

I must exclaim that Zuni's chicken and bread salad is the most divine roast chicken I have had in a super long time. Each element is wonderful on its own, but when eaten together, they combine into one interconnected work of art. The salty and crispy bite of skin, the moist and tender meat, the crispy country bread cubes, (oh those bread cubes) and the tang from the champagne vinaigrette and not to mention the crunchy pine nuts, currants, scallions, and bitter greens. We asked for the pepper grinder to be left on our table to season the chicken and it just put the final checkmark on an outstanding dish. Well worth the $48.00 price tag and the hour wait.

We had just enough room left to share a dessert. After reviewing the menu, we chose the “Piccolo Meringata” with crème fraiche, wild huckleberry sauce and candied tangerine. It resembled a napoleon and I had NEVER seen a meringue that thin before. It was a magical dessert that was such marvelous creation. Another successful Restaurant Club excursion and next time it is my turn to select our destination. So far, I am inclined to choose “Dry Creek Kitchen” in Healdsburg or “Martini House” in St. Helena.

Zuni Café
1658 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

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