Zuni Cafe - Market - San Francisco - CA
Zuni Cafe 1658 Market St San Francisco, CA 94102 (415) 552-2522
Two and a half years ago I visited Zuni for the first time, to meet my British friends Kevin and P for Sunday brunch. P didn't live in the USA back then. She had been flown out from the UK that weekend for an interview with a South Bay company and so, as two of her oldest friends who hadn't seen her in way too long, Kevin and I met up and spent the day with her. We all liked Zuni so much that I even bought P The Zuni Cookbook as a gift for her following Birthday, her first living in San Francisco. Yes - she got the job. Unfortunately, Kevin since lost his job and work visa forcing him to return to the UK, which is why the three of us gathered for the last time together in San Francisco at Cafe Gratitude a few weeks ago. After more recently reminding myself how much I like Zuni, I can't help feeling we should have thought about the full circle and given Kevin a send off from this classic San Francisco eaterie instead.
The other Saturday, after spending well over an hour in a traffic snarl up on the way home from work too late on a Saturday evening, I arrived home to find no food in my pantry. Longing for a little fun after a day of toiling infront of a computer, I weighed out the options. It was aready 10.30pm and San Francisco is not a late night town. The choices for dining after 11 are far and few beween. Oola was out because we'd been there so recently. I had fancied trying Globe one day but reread Fatemeh's review and decided it was just a little too much of a risk. The Brazen Head was too far away and I simply didn't feel like Absinthe. I said to Fred, I suppose we could go to Zuni and he totally jumped on the idea, so off we went.
After 11pm, Zuni don't take reservations and when we arrived there was plenty of room for walk-ins. Zuni is an odd shape, with nooks, crannies and multi levels. We were seated opposite an internal window which gave us a view right into the busy kitchen. Our first waiter wasn't really on the ball but when he, presumably, finished his shift he was replaced by a wonderful waitress who guided us superbly through the rest of our meal.
I have been going through a little oyster craze recently, so I started with half a dozen. Beautifully presented and perfectly shucked, out of the two varities I'd chosen, I preferred the Hog Island humamoto over the brinier Sweetwaters.
Next we shared a braesola salad with beets, fromage frais and hazelnuts. The cured meat was too thickly cut and near impossible to chew. This was a shame as the rest of the salad was good, especially the nuts which tasted far superior than any nut I have ever tried. It was quite a revelation. I had no idea a simple nut could taste that good. (And I like nuts.) When she came to clear our plates, the waitress asked what we thought. Often I just nod inanely and mutter 'fine' even when I am less than impressed. But on this occasion I felt a little braver. I meekly told her about the chewiness of the meat. She was really apologetic, surmising that it couldn't have been sliced thinly enough assuring us she would inform the kitchen.
For my main course I chose duck with morello cherries and almonds. Wow-wee. The sharp cherries, a slight hint of cinnamon, tender breast and another sprinkling of the most incredible nuts, I would have declared this dish absolutely perfect if the duck hadn't been almost stone cold. The jus was so delicious I had to request a spoon, to slurp up every last drop. Fred was trying to persuade me to lick it off the plate and although it was certainly deserving of such a greedy act, I am a lady who has her reputation to consider, so i politely declined.
Fred didn't fair so well with his spaghetti carbonara. The pasta was undercooked and he didn't want to make a fuss. Next time we visit I am betting he will be back on the famous Zuni burger once again.
A picture of someone who knows when the time is right to enjoy their dessert.
It seems that I have been using the excuse that I had no cake on my recent birthday one too many times since. I wasn't planning to have dessert but when the waitress mentioned the Caramel Pot de Creme I suddenly felt weak at the knees as my willpower made a running jump for the exit. Exquisite, smooth, silky heaven in a pot. The burnt caramel blended seamlessly with the heavy cream to create my own idea of total dessert nirvana. This totally blows away the Townhall's Butterscotch and Chocolate Pot de Creme, believe me. Eat it and weep. The waitress comped our dessert as an apology for the braesola which was a nice touch, byt really, I think I would have happily paid through the nose for this stuff.
Online, I have witnessed local food lovers argue infinitum over whether Zuni is one of the best restaurants in town or overhyped rubbish. As someone who rarely, if ever, finds perfection in any one single restaurant, I forgive Zuni its foibles. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it, especially as a place that ecapsulates the spirit of the Bay Area. Neither would I hesitate, not even for a nanosecond, to return for another sinful helping of Caramel Pot de Creme.
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Zuni Cafe - Market - San Francisco - CA