Today Shann and I went to Zuni Cafe for lunch. The restaurant is conveniently just a short walk from Kelly’s apartment. On the agenda? Zuni’s Roasted Chicken for Two with Tuscan-Style Bread Salad ($48). After hearing about this dish for so many years, I was excited to give finally taste it for myself. We arrive just after they opened for lunch service.
No reservation? Not a problem, we were seated immediately. The hostess asked if we could prefer sitting downstairs in the cafe area or upstairs in the dining room (same menu for both places). We opted for upstairs, though in retrospect I think downstairs, with an open view of the kitchen, oysters and bar, would have been a tiny bit more fun.
Bread and butter to start. Ordering was quick, we knew exactly what we wanted The Roasted Chicken takes an hour, so decided to reverse the normal eating order, and start lunch with cheese and dessert. Nothing wrong with a little change.
First up, Soft Farmers Cheese ($5.25) from Cowgirl Creamery. The menu said it would come with strawberries, but we ended up with raspberries instead. We slathered the cheese on slices of bread (the same bread served at the beginning of the meal, only sliced thinner), cows’ milk, so tangy and fresh. I would have killed for just the tiniest drizzle of honey.[Note: Cowgirl Creamery has a retail shop inside the Ferry Building. I’ve always wanted to buy cheese there, walk to Acme Bread for a baguette and devour it all at one of the tables inside the Ferry Building. What’s stopped me from doing this? The FLIES at Cowgirl Creamery. The Ferry Building is clean, but Cowgirl Creamery has been flooded with flies every time I’ve stepped in. It’s a shame because I come with most eager intentions to purchase their Mt Tam and some fromage blanc. But seeing all the flies buzz around the cheeses out in the open is a terrible turnoff…I always leave with nothing.]
Our Cocoa Nib Panna Cotta ($7.75) was served at the same time. At first it looked boring, tiny, and well, too pure, if you will. But then I remember that often times, it’s the most boring dishes that taste the best. Such was the case here. The panna cotta was so light, just a whisper in your mouth, intensely chocolate-y in essence without having too much chocolate. Does that make sense? Probably not. You’ll have to have it yourself to see what I mean. Sigh, the magic of cacao nibs. Shann likened it to a chocolate milk panna cotta, and I think that is about right!
Soon enough the Roasted Chicken arrived to the table (same photo as top). What a sight, huh? A whole roasted chicken, the torn bread salad, studded with pine nuts and currants buried at the bottom, mustard greens as well. This dish could have easily fed three to four people if we had appetizers and desserts.
Here’s a better look at the torn bread salad (hard to see in the other photo because it’s all beneath the chicken). I love the contrast between the super crunchy, olive oil-laced bites and the softer, chicken-dripping saturated hunks of bread, with a strong vinegar tang, pine nuts and bright burst of currants studded about. Smitten Kitchen has a great post on re-making the Zuni Cafe roast chicken. If I made this myself I would likely quadruple the amount of garlic, but since I tend to eat out three meals a day, I am quite fine with the ratios here, scallions also played a small but crucial role.
We ate just over half the plate, and took the rest home. Now? Off to Blue Bottle for afternoon coffee, and then Monsieur P arrives tonight!
1658 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94102