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Zitune - Great Moroccan in Los Altos!

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  • mdg Jan 7, 2007 05:54 AM
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It's been years since Jocco's closed and left downtown Los Altos bereft of any really good restaurants. At long last, the drought is over. Zitune has opened at 325 Main St. near Second St. with a very tasty menu of Cal/Moroccan food.

We started with a shrimp and chorizo appetizer that had a killer sauce. For entrees we got a salmon tagine and lavender duck breast with couscous. Neither of us is expert at Moroccan cuisine, so I cannot give a more detailed description of the dishes. But all of them were both delicious and complex - but not overly complex or confused. The chef is Moroccan and previously worked at Gary Danko, and both influences come across here.

The wine list is small and well-chosen, and the wine by the glass list is phenomenal - extremely well selected choices from many varietals and locations. Our waiter's recommendations were spot on. I was vacilating between a Dashe Zinfandel and a Chateau Prieuré-Lichine with the duck breast, and he unhesitatingly recommened the latter - and what a good match it was! Only the dessert list disappointed, with nothing on it as exotic as the rest of the menu. I don't know Moroccan dessert cuisine, but since they advertise as Moroccan/Mediterranean, maybe they could look east a little and add om ali to the dessert list? We sure miss that since Sahari closed.

Zitune has been open for little more than a week, but there were no new restaurant snafus that we could see. The space is very pretty, and the background music is well chosen (I loved the song from Kid A) and not too loud. Currently they are open for dinner from 5 - 10 pm on Tuesday through Sunday.

While Zitune was busy on Saturday night, good new restaurants in Los Altos can always use a bit of help given the areas deserved reputation for being deserted at night. They accept reservations on Open Table, so check them out. Dinner was about $110 for two including tax and tip with two glasses of wine. Entrees are in the $20 range and appetizers in the low teens. The prices are perfectly reasonable given the quality of the food, wine, and overall experience.

Check it out! Let's keep a great restaurant going in Los Altos!

Michael

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  1. Lavandar duck breast sounds delicious. Thanks for the great report. Here's that link to opentable which has their website. Nothing on the website at this point except the address.
    http://www.opentable.com/rest_profile...

    1. I thought Los Altos had a zoning law prohibiting good restaurants.

      1. Delicious meal! I enjoyed everything - the food, service, and wine. Dessert was simple and tasty..the perfect end to a fabulous meal. Will defintely come again and highly recommend to all my friends

        1. Three of us had a memorable meal at Zitune last night. I'm a huge Aziza fan and loyalist, but last night's feast persuaded me to reconsider my allegiance (of course I still like Aziza...).

          While the appetizers were terrific, the highlight of our meal was the meat: the steak, duck, and lamb were tender, succulent, and forces to be reckoned with. The sauces too were delicious. The couscous was perfectly cooked.

          My only quip is that the desserts weren't on par with the rest of the meal. On the other hand, they were simple and quite good--just somewhat of a let-down in comparison to the other dishes, which quite honestly rocked the palette.

          Drinks, decor, and service were great. I'm curious to hear others' impressions. I sense that this restaurant will get more accolades.

          1. Our second visit to Zitune was another winner. Here the appetizers stood out: wonderful sumac lamb meatballs, a delicious butternut squash soup with apple compote. So did the dessert: a pomegranate panna cotta that was highly touted on our first visit but which we didn't have room for then. The tout was deserved. The wine by the glass matches were once again outstanding, including a glass of Far Niente Dolce with the panna cotta - heaven indeed!

            Our quail and game hen entrees were good, but not as remarkable as the duck and salmon from last time. I saw lots of lamb shank entrees going by that looked outstanding, so I think that will be my choice next time. The service which was excellent last time was not so good this time. Apparently they opened up the back room and have some new hires, and the new place wrinkles missing last time showed up this time. No doubt this will get fixed in time with everything else so good.

            Thank you Zitune for bringing exciting dining back to downtown Los Altos!

            Michael

            3 Replies
            1. re: mdg

              We've been back to Zitune with guests twice over the past few months - this is one of our main go-to places for great food in a place where you can talk. Service was OK the third visit and back to greatness on the fourth. We were in the back room on the third visit; I am glad I tried it but prefer the ambiance and energy of the main room.

              On our last visit this past weekend, the lamb shank and salmon tagines were as great as ever. We dived deeper into the fish and seafood part of the menu and were rewarded with wonderful monk fish and scallop dishes. The mushroom soup is new to the menu and very tasty. Also new are - hooray! - three new Moroccan desserts, so that the dessert menu is now as interesting as the rest. We were desserted out from the previous day (chocolate truffle cake from Sugar Butter Flour - oh my goodness) so we passed, but we definitely plan to try them on a future visit.

              Zitune continues to be the best thing to happen to Los Altos since they paved the streets.

              Michael

              1. re: mdg

                How does it compare to other local (OK semi-local) places with similar cuisine? Like Dish Dash in Sunnyvale or Meze (?) in Mountain View?

                I just realized that I haven't been in Los Altos since my kid stopped playing in the Festival of LIghts parade. And that was 3 years ago! There really is no there there!

                1. re: 512window

                  I don't think Moroccan is all that similar to the Middle Eastern cuisine at Dishdash or Mazeh. I can't think offhand of any dishes that are shared between Zitune and Dishdash's menus, and we are regulars at both places. Zitune is also higher-end than either Dishdash or Mazeh, with all that implies for price, presentation, complexity of cuisine, and atmosphere. The chef used to work at Gary Danko, and it shows.

            2. We finally visited Zitune last night, being residents of Los Altos we were overdue to go there. We were very happy overall with the experience. The only negatives were that the appetizers were room temperature and the main course (Moroccan Cornish Hen) was overcooked and liquid on the bottom of the plate which diluted the flavor.

              We started out with cocktails which were the Zitune and the Mojito. The Zitune was good but would not order again. The Marrakech Mojito was fabulous but loaded with ice and therefore the $12 cocktail was very expenisive for a few sips of beverage.

              The hummus and eggplant dip that comes with the olive bread was very good.

              Our appetizers were the hi-light. The corn soup was delicious. The duck confit pastilla was amazing. I am still thinking about it - it was beyond fabulous.

              The beet and white asparagus salad was quite large and very good. Quite a few greens included.

              For dessert, we had espresso and the Almond Pastilla. This was fantastic. Similar to a baklava with honey drizzled and pastry and lavender ice cream on the side.

              If we go again, I would be happy with the duck confit, a glass of wine, and the Almond Pastilla.

              5 Replies
              1. re: BarbaraBell

                Thanks for helping us navigate the menu. You have me interested in the duck confit ... and I don't even like duck.

                1. re: BarbaraBell

                  When I had the duck pastilla, the filo was very gummy, and the duck flavor was muddied (but not muddy), the service was hit-and-miss (one server was definitely more experience than the other), and the atmosphere in the back room was lackluster. Definitely not worth the $$$ we dropped, but still the best restaurant in Los Altos.

                  1. re: Claudette

                    I agree about the lackluster atmosphere in the back room. We tried it once and now I always request the main front room when making a reservation. Service can indeed be variable, but the good ones offer some of the best service in the area, and the not-so-good waiters usually aren't there again when we return.

                    I have found the non-duck poultry main dishes (like the game hen) to be the least impressive ones on the menu. Sorry to hear your so-so experience there; we've had great luck with the pastilla dishes so far.

                    Michael

                    1. re: mdg

                      On our most recent visit we ordered correctly (fish and seafood entrees, not the lamb) so there would be room for one of the Moroccan desserts. We got the crispy kataifi / orange blossom mahalbi combination, which had vanilla ice cream on the nest of crispy phyllo, and fruit compote on the scented custard. It was fabulous! The desserts at Zitune have now come up to the level of the appetizers and entrees. It is great to see places start off well and then keep improving.

                      Michael

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                      Restaurant Zitune
                      325 Main St, Los Altos, CA 94022

                      1. re: mdg

                        My family wnet to Zitune last night after my son's recital and all enjoyed it. Felt a bit self conscious arriving with kids, but staff and a friendly table neighbor made us welcome. My son said that his lamb shank was the best food he has eaten in months! So much for my cooking. My husband had the duck - delicious. Daughter loved the pumkin soup and special decaf version of mint tea. The monkfish was good, but could not compare with the rich and layered flavors of the other dishes. The creme brulee seemed to have a touch of cardamom. Quite good. We'll be there again.

                2. It's time for a Zitune update. Earlier this year they raised their prices, but the quality (already high) did not rise at the same rate. Plus they had a happy hour, and on Friday evening that crowd was really loud. So that was the first not-so-good experience we had there since the one time we were seated in the back room.

                  We went back this weekend and things were much better. First, we went on Saturday to avoid any loud Friday happy hour crowds, and that worked well. Second, the menu has lots of new items on it, including several with ingredients and preparation that match the higher prices.

                  We started with the corn soup and the rock shrimp m’chermel. The rock shrimp appetizer has been on the menu in some form since the place opened, and is one of my favorite dishes here. This variant adds some zataar bread that I don't recall from the past; overall the dish is as great as ever. The corn soup was a great version.

                  For entrees we had two dishes new to us: the roasted Maine lobster with pureed potatoes, chanterelles, and other vegetables with a vanilla sauce; and a skordalia grilled swordfish with orzo and a reminiscent-but-not-the-same vegetable mix as for the lobster. Both of these were excellent - great seafood, complex but appropriate flavorings, and worth the prices.

                  For dinner we split a simple mixed berry combination of strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries served with an intriguing and light honey-spice (cinnamon? nutmeg? some other spices too?) sauce. This time of year you can get much better blueberries at the Mountain View farmer's market, but the strawberries and raspberries were spot on. Overfall it was a refreshing dessert and a great conclusion to the meal.

                  Zitune remains one of the restaurant treasures of Los Altos and Silicon Valley!

                  Michael