After all my bitching, I finally got my fancypants on at Zuni Cafe last month. I must say that the place far exceeded my expectations. It was all in the butter.
I have a slight obsession with butter, as you all know. It is a major detail that so many fancy restaurants overlook, it drives me absolutely crazy. Thing is, it doesn't have to be overpriced, uber-organic, hormone-free butter or anything pretentious like that. Actually, I would say that the little golden slabs they give out so liberally at the local diner far exceed the greasy butter bowls of godknowswhat they dare serve at 95% of restaurants.
So the butter came out at Zuni on a small white dish. Just a thin slab, nothing over the top- I was a bit taken aback by its simplicity, actually.
It was cold. Creamy. Subtly sweet. So fresh, it tasted as though there was a cow in the kitchen that the sous chef milked himself, churning it into this dairydelight in a matter of mere moments. MAGIC!
The Akaboris were in butterheaven. (uhhhhof course I went to dinner with Hideko and Kuni, WHO ELSE???).
I asked our server (Joe, who we adored) where this GODbutter came from. Turns out it was from Gilt Edge Creamery, which is right smack in the middle of San Francisco. Apparently this creamery has been around for over 50 years in the city. Who knew? I love the thought that the best butter I've ever had does not come from a farm in the middle of nowhere. Oh, hell no- this is URBANBUTTER.
Ok, jesus, enough about that. Here's some highlights of the rest of the meal.
My Lillet on ice in a rocks glass. Ahhhh, so pretty!
Oysters, YAH! I believe these were Fanny Bays and Belons harvested in Tomales Bay. I rarely see these on the menu so I was super stoked- they are some of my favorite species of the bivalve. And house-made mignonette!
Burrata alla panna with heirloom tomatoes, garden lettuces and coutons.
Burrata from a Southern California creamery, Di Stefano- I know it just looks like a lump of poo here, but it was utter umami-in-your-mouth. It was like mozzarella on crack.
House-cured anchovies with celery, Parmesan and nicoise olives.
The anchovies were plump and delicious. Not too salty, not under-cured. Needed some crackers though.
Deep-fried padron peppers, okra and onions with lime and cumin.
Hideko is ethnocentric and thinks shishitos are better peppers than padrons. I personally can't really tell the difference- padrons are sweeter, maybe? I love padrons and get them whenever I see them at the farmer's market. Plus I never say no to okra if it's on any menu. This here was perfectly fried, holler.
The ever-famous Zuni Cafe roasted chicken for two, with bread salad and mustard greens. This takes an hour to cook, so you want to order it right when you sit down.
The chicken was moist and fluffy hotness. A bit overly-brined, so too salty, but it was definitely one delicious bird. Was it FIFTY DOLLARS delicious?? Eh, that might be a stretch. But the bread salad had these currants and pine nuts in it, which was genius. The greens were awesome too, just the perfect touch of bitterness. I would actually say that the greens and bread outshined the chicken, if that's at all possible.
"Piccola meringat" with peaches, raspberries and mascarpone.
Now, I am not much into sweets, but this was pretty incredible. Layers of mascarpone, raspberries and peaches sub-divided by these slim, crackly meringue discs. It was heavenly.
The entire feel of the place is pretty casual yet chic. I would say that Zuni definitely is a guiding light for Craft in NYC, both in decor and menu concept. Hideko kept commenting on how old the clientele was- it definitely leaned more towards the senior set, at least in the dining room. It made her feel old.
Right as you walk in the bar is to your left, facing the window. No stools! I loved the bar area the most, it was so pristine. Paystyle, you would definitely dig this. Also, the kitchen area back there is open- the unshucked oysters and chickens ready to be roasted are all visible when you walk by. It's all very exciting to see your food being cooked.
1658 Market Street
San Francisco, CA
PS: Joe, our server, was sweet enough to bring me out the label for our Burrata when I asked him where it was from. Seems that Di Stefano ONLY makes Burrata, no other cheese, according to this article in SF Gate. All natural, no preservatives. Yamahomo, you've gotta follow-up your Mozzarella Battle with a BURRATA-OFF!
*Kayoko runs on her high school track every morning with the PE class, in Cupertino, CA. At the moment, she is craving some sparkling pink wine.