Thanks to everyone.
The dinner was a success. I find myself a moderate in the great Zuni Cafe debate. I'm not certain it deserves its most fanatical praise, but it absolutely does not deserve some of the over-the-top criticism I've heard. In short, it's very good and I expect a second visit might have the power to move the dial to "great".
Friend's anchovies were perfect. It's a simple dish, but perfectly executed. Thanks to farmersdaughter for the recommendation.
A potato soup with chilies and creme fraiche was good, though I was imagining something spicier when I ordered it.
For informational purposes, they did have the polenta on the menu. It's not my thing, though, so I didn't order it.
Friend's bass was very tasty. It was WAY undersalted in both our opinions. Easily remedied, of course. The accompanying sliced tomatoes and Armenian cucumbers were undressed and not particularly flavorful on their own.
My quail and housemade fennel sausage was exceptional. The quail was perfectly cooked. Many places--some otherwise quite good ones--cook the hell out of the small birds. The sausage was very good. The dish came with mesclun salad and Mission figs. Also very good.
Desserts were great. Thanks for encouraging us to stay, Robert Lauriston.
Friend's Gravenstein apple and huckleberry tart was nearly perfect. She thought and I agreed the crust was slightly too thick. This is a quibble, because we both would get the tart again in a heartbeat. The housemade vanilla ice cream that came with it was also good.
The famous Gateau Victoire deserves to be famous. This is now my favorite flourless chocolate cake on Planet Earth.
The famouser chicken looks ludicrously good and my friend and I have already agreed to make a slightly cheaper date of it sometime soon.
To clarify, when I said in my original post "not poulty or fish," it's because I specifically wanted meat recommendations, not because I was unwilling to eat those things.
1) Of the seven posts before I went, only Pei recommended meat.
2) I already knew about the chicken. My feeling going in was that I'd probably get that if were in a poultry mood. But the quail changed my mind.
3) The only meat dish offered was lamb and I didn't want that. If there'd been a beef or pork dish, I would've ordered it.
It's too bad you said no poultry, because (you know this, right?) Zuni is famous for chicken. But there's usually some kind of meat slow cooked overnight in the wood oven, so that's a good bet.
Desserts really are stellar. I especially loved the espresso granita and chocolate cake, though neither take advantage of seasonal fruit.
The photos are from a dinner with a large group, so it's indicative of the type of variety they'll have on the menu. You can see for yourself whether the polenta looks too gloppy. Our table loved it, and though I liked it I like the polenta at Oliveto even more.
Omigosh, seeing those pics of our dinner is making me want to go there again soon! Personally, I really enjoyed the polenta and liked the fact that it was so simple and homey among the other stimulants. Not gloppy at all...
To the OP: I say go w/ whatever moves you on the menu and you're more likely to be happy. Since you don't want chicken or fish, then I've had lamb there before that was very, very good. We had a thick-cut pork chop at that dinner w/ Pei that was very tasty shared, but I think many of us wouldn't want that for our own entree.
My idea of a Zuni "classics" meal:
Roast Chicken & Bread Salad
Fruit Tart of the day w/ housemade ice cream
Agree that their desserts are first-rate! Have fun and please let us know which Zuni camp you belong to once you've dined.
The Caesar salad, of course, any of the oysters...can't really comment on the entrees as they change every day...the espresso granita with whipped cream for dessert. Mostly I love Zuni for the vibe--the food is good, not life-changing, but even after being open for many years, Zuni still has that "place to be" vibe. And the Acme bread's fantastic, put right down on the paper tablecloth in a huge chunk.