Californian Restaurant in San Francisco, United States: Zuni Cafe

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Review
 
Zuni Cafe HeartHeartHeart
Restaurants and bars
San Francisco
Location: 37.773656,-122.421427
Open: Lunch and dinner daily
Price: Moderate

Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Phone Number: +1 415 552 2522
Address: 1658 Market Street
San Francisco, California, 94102
Country: United States
Food Style: Californian

Zuni Café is one of those restaurants that we knew we were going to like from the moment we first walked in.
On our first trip we simply dropped in for a drink and a bar snack. We tried a plate of house cured anchovies with Parmesan cheese, tiny pieces of diced celery and Ligurian olives. The flavours simply leaped off the plate. It was simplicity and perfection at the same time.
On another visit we booked in for a full meal and, once again, were not disappointed. A dish of Bellwether Farm ricotta gnocchi with squash blossoms and basil was as close to perfection as you could achieve. We were also delighted by the oxtail and beef cheek which had been braised overnight in the brick oven with red wine and garlic. The meat was served with a perfect olive oil mash and chanterelle mushrooms.
As an aside, we also applaud the commitment of the restaurant in sourcing organic produce as far as possible!
One of the problems that Zuni poses for us is that we always want to visit whenever we are in San Francisco. This reduces our options for trying other places. But when you get it right like they have at Zuni then you want to go there again and again!
A visit to San Francisco in July 2001 saw the inevitable happen. We immediately headed for Zuni Café again. This time is was to demolish a perfectly cooked wood roasted chicken prepared for two and served with the famous warm bread salad with currants and pine nuts. Delicious!
They also have a good range of Scotch whisky here including the wonderful Springbank, the Lagavulin 16-yr old and the Highland Park from the Orkney Islands.
Our visit in November 2008 caused us to revisit the parmesan, cured anchovies and celery dish while we enjoyed a Manzanilla sherry at the bar. We then had six stunning dishes. We started with blood sausage with the most ethereal smoked bacon we have ever tried. This was teamed with a dish of ricotta gnocchi served with tiny Chantenay carrots (one of our favourite varieties of French carrots) - the gnocchi was light as a feather. Main courses were Grimaud Farm guinea fowl breast accompanied by Richard Olney's squash gratin and grilled Treviso and Devil's Gulch Ranch rabbit cooked in the brick oven with deeply-flavoured peppers. Desserts were an airy Gateau Victoire and a stunning tart of Black Mission figs.
Our next visit was in late October 2010 - we just can't stay away! This time we enjoyed the daytime experience with the high ceilings and diffuse light filtering into the dining space. The art works that are featured prominently on the walls seemed to display better in this light than at night. Of course we ordered the anchovies and some oysters (Humboldt Kumomoto and New Brunswick Beau Soleil) and we followed this with a single serve of spaghetti with bottarga while waiting for our whole roasted chicken with bread sauce to arrive. When it did it was just as wonderful as ever. The chicken was a flavoursome as we remember, assisted, of course, by the meticulous brining. The bread sauce provided a range of textures from crunch to soft unctuousness. And the essential currants and pine nuts played their part too. This time mustard greens also adorned the dish.
We enjoyed a bottle of wine which carried right through the meal and matched perfectly with all dishes. It was a Tissot Chardonnay from the Jura, a region that is receiving a lot of attention at present. This Chardonnay exhibited none of those in-your-face new oak and butter flavours typical of the New World, rather it was a nuanced wine with a bright core of acidity which helped with the range of rich foods that we consumed.
 
     
 

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