I’ve been wanting to visit the Zuni Cafe for years, ever since I first got my hands on Judy Rodgers’ cookbook of the same name. Her food is homey, yet elegant, and the book is a wonderful instruction manual for the slightly ambitious home cook. So imagine how pleased I was when, as we were driving through San Francisco, my brother-in-law mentioned that we would be driving right by Zuni. We decided to stop in, just on the off chance there might be a table, and there was!
Our table was right by the wood fired oven with a view into the kitchen, something I rather enjoy. I loved the big stack of firewood, the odd shapes of the tables allowing them to squeeze into strange spaces dictated by the old building’s shape, and the cool artwork. The rooms were airy and the bar looked fabulous.
I started with a Sazerac. Jon got an Aperol cocktail, but asked that it be made with gin instead of vodka. Both drinks were nicely mixed and unfussily presented.
Shortly after we sat down, our server bustled up and demanded to know whether we wanted a pizza or not – quick, quick! Apparently they only do pizzas during the day, and they needed to do any final orders within the next ten minutes so they could clear out the wood-fired oven for dinner service. Not being stupid, we immediately ordered the rapini pizza. It was incredible.
Once we had demolished the pizza (which didn’t take long at all), we moved on to entrees. Jon ordered the pork chop. You can’t really see the pork here, under its liberal coating of breadcrumb salad, grilled onions and asparagus, but take my word for it, it was a truly superb piece of meat. Salty, juicy and utterly succulent. According to Jon, it was the best pork chop he’s ever eaten in a restaurant.
Paul and I ordered hamburgers. These were, like the pork, fantastically juicy and flavorful. The only complaint I had was the use of foccaccia for the bun. Tasty, but has a tendency to dissolve. I would have preferred a real hamburger bun. It was a minor quibble, though, because the burger was delicious, and I loved the house pickled cucumbers and onions.
We split a single order of fries. It was easily enough for three people, maybe four. It came with regular ketchup (I was hoping for something a little more, I dunno, unusual) and, inexplicably, mustard. Mustard, really?
While I sipped a glass of Poli muscat grappa and Jon some Cynar, Paul sprang for dessert: honey ice cream with little shards of sesame cookies on top. It was just as good as it looked, which was saying something.
My only regret is that we didn’t try the roast chicken with bread salad, or have access to the full dinner menu (I asked for a copy to drool over, it looked wonderful), but I loved everything we tried. This really is a beautiful restaurant, one I hope to come back to someday.