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Zuni...disappointed again

Have gotten into many an argument here about Zuni and felt I was being too harsh and should give it another try. Last night, was no exception, nothing was fantastic and one item was just plain bad.

To start, we shared a quarter dungeness crab. The crab was fine, however it was served with an aioli (can't remember if it had garlic, may have just been mayo) that had clearly been sitting around for hours and had grown a layer of protective "skin." My date found it tasty, I found it disturbing. I prefer my crab naked anyway, so it wasn't that big of a deal, but the kitchen, if they isist on serving aioli/mayonaise with their crab needs to add a little lemon and water so that the diner does not end up losing bits of crab to the quagmire of snot in the bowl.

Next we were interested in the olio nuevo (sp? sorry) but really just wanted to taste the olive oil in it's pure form. We asked if we could please just purchase a shot of it in a wine glass, and were told that was not a possiblity. We ordered the dish, which was the olive oil we wanted to try, soaked over a day old grilled piece of toast, which really took away from its beautiful flavor. Accompanying said toast was ribbons of carrots and purple cabbage. Next time I'll order the dish with the toast and "crudite" on the side.

The third dish was the by far the most disappointing. Potato Leek soup with "shaved" black truffles (they were,in actuality, a chiffonade). This was so disappointing I had a few bites to make sure it was as a bad as I thought, and upon confirmation I could not finish it. The soup was gritty and flat (flavorless)-there was not even a hint of leek or truffle. The truffle was clearly himalayan or from Oregon, and thrown in the soup as a means of justifying it's $12 cost.

Our last course was the risotto with duck sugo. Here is the one thing they did right. The risotto was cooked to absolute perfection. It was al dente, and not the mushy blob I have been avoiding at restaurants for years. Perfectly cooked risotto aside, the dish lacked any flavor and requird a hefty amount of salt to make it palatable.

So, I am still completely confused as to why this restaurant is so revered...a good cesar and burger does not a wonderful restaurant make.

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  1. Thank god someone else is totally unimpressed with Zuni. WHAT IS THE DEAL? I have never had a meal I liked there. Lunch. Dinner. Doesn't matter. I'd go to Cav any day over this overrated snotty place.

    1. But did you say anything about it? Restaurants can't fix things if folks don't tell them what is not working...

      1. It happens I have been going to Zuni since the first day they moved into their space, it use to be a cactus store. I have had at least four disappointments in the last 18 years or so. I would not give up everyone has ups and downs but they have remained pretty true to form for a very long time.

        1. It is just one of the joys of being human that you don't like Zuni. Personally, I have always loved it. Never had a bad meal or a snotty waiter. Go figure?!
          But, unlike what seems to be a majority of the East Bay hounds, I absolutely hate Pizzaiolo. I had one of the all time worst experiences that I have ever had in a restaurant there. I tried it again and ....big yawn. Crappy service, mediocre food. Yet other people LOVE it.
          Our different tastes and perceptions are what make this board such an interesting place. Food is such an extremely subjective and very personal arena. Your experience and your posting add to the experience. Thanks.

          1. I could not agree more!!! I went there the other day to enjoy a drink and a late lunch/early dinner. Not only were the wait staff snotty the food was unimpressive AND over priced!! My favorite part of the meal was the complimentary bread. If you are looking for a great meal I would recommend Eccolo on 4th Ave in Berkeley, amazing food (I have yet to be dissapointed) great drinks (you haven't had a bloody mary until you've had theres) and a helpful staff.

            1. I personally never understood why some folks think Zuni Café is anything special. At least to me, its public regard ranks up there with UFOs and the Bermuda Triangle in terms of the world's great unsolved mysteries. I've always found the food good, but very adequate for SF standards. And the staff always seem to carry an attitude. And the crowds -- I can't recall how often I've had a reservation there, only to get our table 30-45 minutes later.

              As a result, I admittedly have not been there in over five years. There are just too many other good places to eat in this town. And just as I'm happy to leave Fisherman's Wharf to the tourists, I am happy to leave Zuni to its throngs of worshippers. We're both happier that way.

              1 Reply
              1. re: swag

                Count me among the folks who used to be in the unimpressed-with-Zuni camp. Then I went one night last year and had oysters, caesar salad, roast chicken, with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc. Asked for a quiet table upstairs and had really great, friendly service. And I was in heaven. I don't really deviate from this menu so I can't really be the judge on other items, but since then, I've been back many times and had great service.

                Their bloody marys suck, though.

              2. Are you kidding me? Their bloody marys are rad. Definitely one of my favorites. I dig the balsamic and the diced red onions. That was the only thing there that made much of an impression on me. Oh, and I really liked whatever butter they served with their bread.

                1 Reply
                1. re: fistalee

                  When were you there? they must have changed things because on my last visit there were no balsamic or onions, believe me. It was a sorry excuse for a bloody mary. Too-thin tomato juice, very stingy with the (well) vodka, and a wilting celery stalk. And it wasn't cheap.

                  Now if you want a really killer bloody mary, go to Aziza.

                2. I think Zuni can be inconsistent but I wouldn't label it as awful. I've had some nice meals and some OK meals, but no awful meals. The ingredients are always fresh and I do like their oyster selection. I would say that I sometimes feel it's a bit overpriced giving the portion sizes and I've had a few encounters with the front room staff being a bit standoffish when you first walk in the door. Waiters were generally OK and the bar is fun.

                  1. Personally I think Zuni is best for a late lunch, during the day, before the hoards. It's a quintessential SF spot for long boozy afternoons with good friends and great food. In my experience the food has always been very solid - great ingredients prepared simply with an expert hand in seasoning. The bar can be a little slow during the day but for a place as popular as Zuni I've never felt any snottiness from the staff. From impatient customers, yes, but not from staff.

                    1. I've been hearing similar complaints about Zuni for around 20 years, but we always have great food and a great time.

                      1. Zuni is like Brussels Sprouts. Some people like them, and some people don't. And, Zuni probably does a pretty good version of Brussels Sprouts, though I doubt they would do anything as crass as adding serrano ham.