- cc Nov 1, 2003 12:19 AM
Back to Zuni for first time since the big renovation.
Overall, a disappointing experience.
Started with the Caesar - still delicious, tangy, but a tad overdressed. Croutons wonderful however. Then did the Papardelle with Sugo and Mushrooms. For me this was the highlight - the pasta cooked perfectly and the aroma coming off the plate was absurdly appetizing. Pork cooked just right. I could have eaten that all night.
Then out came the famous baked chicken with bread salad and greens. Presentation was neat, with all the chicken pieces piled up among a small forest of bitter greens. The chicken had good taste but I was shocked to find it wasn't juicy, for which there is really no excuse when they make you order this signature dish 50 minutes in advance. It was also woefully undersalted. The whole time I was eating this somewhat dry bird I kept thinking - perhaps a bit egotistically - that I could and have done baked chicken many times better. However, the bread salad, with currants and pine nuts, was wonderful. Other entree was a flank steak, had a bite of the meat, clean tasting with decent flavor but can't really render a fair opinion.
Desserts were really good - the Gateau was perfectly chocolately w/o being too sweet, whipped cream great counterpoint. The Butternut Squash pie/tart was like a more savory pumpkin pie and may have bested the former as the better dessert.
Service was just not very good as has been reported on this board many times and I have to say I am a bit shocked that a restaurant of Zuni's reknown doesn't have better servers. Our server, while pleasant, was rushed, distracted, and overall we felt neglected.
Zuni, while still a good restaurant, is a victim of its own success. It just felt very *ordinary* which a restaurant of its heritage should not. I saw so many of the chicken dishes flying out of the kitchen it was out of hand. It just had the feel of a restaurant that is resting on its laurels and welcoming all the out of town visitors who just bought the new cookbook. I'll be back, but not anytime soon.
it's, unfortunately, part of the Zuni experience for it to be hit or miss.
the servers, who work insane hours under insane conditions, are bound to be distracted and neglectful. consider yourself lucky when you get good service.
when the food's on, there's nothing like it. but that doesn't happen all the time. it's a machine of sorts. one cook can only make so many roast chicken before they start getting in a rut. i've had the best luck w/dishes that aren't well known, i.e. the hamburger, the chicken and that damn Caesar. when you're making as many Caesars as they do, someone's bound to get an off one.
i'm not saying any of this is an excuse for mediocre service and mediocre food. no doubt you could make a better roast chicken at home. but the special case that is Zuni comes with its perks and its detractions.
To me Zuni has definitely passed its prime. I went due to all the rave reviews, was seated after at least 5-10 minutes (eventhough there was no line - thought I was lucky), and waited at my table for more than 20 minutes for even a menu. After several failed attempts to get service, we snuck out the side door, deciding we did not need the abuse.
2nd time, managed to get service that seemed all too high-brow, ordered the margarita pizza and while delicious thought that the menu had become so constricted that the best dish would be the pizza. With a city abound by new restaurants there is no excuse to support businesses that do nothing out of the ordinary... never again.
I recently had the same type of experience at Chez Panisse in Berkeley. Food just OK with bad service and feeling that staff just wants CP on their resume, lots of tourists, and resting on laurels.