Zuni Cafe

Zuni Cafe

1658 Market St

415 552 2522

This was the biggest disappointment of our trip. The restaurant is in an interesting industrial space that has been divided into a series of small dining rooms on different levels. It looks great, but unfortunately the noise of the bar rises right up through the second floor, making conversation difficult. However, the real problem was with the food.

We arrived with high hopes as we are great fans of Judy Rogers’ wonderful Zuni Cookbook. We were eager to try the signature roast chicken, only to find out that it requires an hour’s lead time. Had we been informed of this when we made our reservation, or had we been allowed to see the day’s menu before being seated (we weren’t), we could have placed an order early enough to have enjoyed the dish that made Zuni famous. As it was, we were too hungry and too tired to wait an hour, so we were forced to order other dishes.

There weren’t many choices. The menu was quite small, as were the wine by the glass selections. Since there were five of us, we wound up ordering virtually every item. The Kumamoto oysters were perfect. The crayfish were fresh and sweet, but the dipping sauce that accompanied them was bland. Alas, this was a harbinger of what was to come: blandness ruled at Zuni. We adore the earthy, mysterious flavor of nettles, but the nettle risotto didn’t taste like them. It was bland. The shoe string fries lacked character. The potee with white beans and duck confit was tasty, but showed no trace of the garlicky, gutsy, soul a peasant dish like this should have. Two of us ordered black truffle omelettes. The eggs were fresh and flavorful, but you couldn’t taste the truffles, although you could see them. Desserts were nothing special either. The flourless chocolate cake tasted like every other flourless chocolate cake we had ever had. The apple dariole was pleasant but – wait for it – bland. The espresso granita was excellent, however. It had the intensity of flavor the other desserts lacked.

Service was wonderful, warm and professional. We tipped our waitress as if we had enjoyed the evening. But we hadn’t.

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