When I first brought up my potential San Francisco trip to my friend K (see her post), the first restaurant that she recommended was Zuni Café. She was talking about how juicy and tender the roasted chicken is, and telling me the tips about making reservation…etc. Therefore, I put it down on the list, and asked my friend in San Francisco to help me make a reservation. Guess what! We already made the call a month ahead, but the lunch services were booked till 2 pm!
Zuni cafe opened in 1979, and the name Zuni was named after the native American tribe. Initially, the cafe offers mostly simple and authentic Mexican food, however, the menu has eventually influenced and evolved into French/Italian cuisine. Their menus changes periodically, and are inspired by seasonal organic ingredients. Most of the produce, meat, and fish is farmed or harvested in a sustainable manner.
I went with my friend’s roommates too, so we were a group of 5 starving girls as they just finished their midterm! The waiters got us seated promptly, and brought the bread. Not sure if it’s cause we were starving or what, the bread was really good. It was moist, soft, and most importantly, warm.
One of the advantages of dining with in a group is that we get to try more items on the menu. However, the waiter did tell us the portions are small. First, we had this crostini with peaches, goat cheese, and topped with arugula and pistachio. Though the portion is small, but we all liked it. The goat cheese wasn’t overpowering. It was a good balance of sweet and savory.
While I was looking back at the photos, realized we ordered a lot of carbohydrates to fill us up.. The pasta was al dente. The amount of sauce is right on the spot too. I’m always scared of the pasta drowning in béchamel sauce.
Of course, when you see a wood-fired brick oven, order pizza! The pizza is thin-crust, which was crispy and crunchy. It has this charcoal and smokey flavor.
Here is the most anticipated roasted chicken for 2! It takes an hour to make this, because they only start roasting based on orders. (Tips: Order this as soon as you seated! Yes. Before the waiter(tress) brought water or anything. Just order to avoid the wait!) The roasted chicken is served with warm Tuscan-style bread salad. Honestly, the chicken was tender and juicy, but I still prefer the roasted chicken from Roli Roti. They are pretty much at the same bar (but not price-wise). Besides the chicken, I think the stuffing/bread salad was the star of the dish. The bread has absorbed all the juice from the chicken, hence it was flavorful. The pine nuts and dried cranberries were nice addition to the salad, along with the greens and the tasty vinaigrette. Definitely a great accompaniment to the chicken!
Since the waiter said the portions are small, we asked for recommendations on what is good to share, and decent portion. He recommended the shoestring potatoes, which is pretty much just a fancy name for french fries. The portion is, indeed, generous. The fries were crispy, and not greasy.
The portion might be small, but we were quite full after the meal. We were glad that the waiter did inform us upfront the portion of the dish. The shape of the restaurant is very interesting. It is quite contorted, but spacious. According to K, if you are seated on the top balcony, then you get an incredible view of the kitchen. The waiter was attentive. He always explained each dish upon serving, and filled our water. Is it a must try? Maybe.
If you don’t have the chance to visit any time soon, or want to be an adventurous cook, here the recipe from Zuni Café!
1658 Market Street, San Francisco
Tel: +1 (415) 552-2522 (Reservation is STRONGLY recommended)