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Aug 13, 2009 06:09 PM

Ubuntu vs Zazu?

Which would you pick?

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  1. Wow, they're totally different and pretty far apart. How have you narrowed your choices to these two? I happen to love both, but they're really different.

    1. Are you talking about Zazu in Santa Rosa?

      Or Zuzu in Napa, down the street from Ubuntu?

      One letter off but a big difference. If you're referring to Zuzu, they're very different menus.

      3 Replies
      1. re: Dan Wodarcyk

        yeah, Zazu -- we will be up in that area earlier in the afternoon so wanted to see if it was anything special --

        if anyone knows if Ubuntu is a tasting menu or a la carte-- I could have sworn it used to say it on the website but couldn't find it. Any must have dishes at Ubuntu?

          1. re: radman123

            I wouldn't miss the pea dish if it is still on the menu at Ubuntu (presumably it is seasonal).

            Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
            1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

        1. Have only been to Zazu in Napa once a while ago and I remember that some things were delicious and some were just ok. I’m a huge fan of Ubuntu. We just took some friends from the east coast there (one of them is a big meat eater). They seemed incredulous and perplexed as we perused the menu. But they were completely won over by the end of the meal and wanted to go back before their visit was over.

          1. Ubuntu is by far one of the most interesting restaurants to open in Napa in the last decade, the raw product is tops and the cooking innovative, Zuzu the tapa bar down the street is good but nothing remarkable, we recommend a progressive in that neighborhood, start with a glass at Bounty Hunter, visit Zuzu for the shrimp cazuela, Angele for an appetizer, Ubuntu for some shared plates and sweets, it's all within a 4 block radius, enjoy!

            1. Nothing wrong with Zazu. Nothing especially memorable either.

              Ubuntu, on the other hand... well, a meal here is a mind-blowing, palette-expanding journey. If it's one or the other, there's simply no contest. I consider Ubuntu to be one of the premier restaurants in the area. Or the whole continent, for that matter.

              4 Replies
              1. re: Ricardo Malocchio

                Generally I agree, although I will add the caveat that I only ate at both restaurants once very recently.

                The meal we had at Ubuntu was special-some of the most beautiful presentations I have ever seen. And delicious. I haven't experienced a restaurant where I learned so much about food in both a flavor and textural way in a very long time.

                While I had an outstanding pasta dish at Zazu, my other dining companions thought their dishes were just ok-nothing outstanding or particularly memorable, although the execution was correct.

                Apparently the cauliflower dish is a favorite at Ubuntu, although we didn't have it.


                1. re: Splendid Wine Snob

                  The first time I ate at Ubuntu I agreee, last week end however my experience was very disappointing - don't know if it was b/c the chef wasn't there or ??? but the choices were amazingly disappointing considering the season and the chickpea fritters were downright sad (I had adored the chickpea fries) as they only tasted of overly crisp batter. Cauliflower is "out of season" (although I did buy some that is locally grown in a supermarket yesterday - I live an hour away) - so that great dish was not on the menu.

                  If the gnochetti with black truffle is on the menu don't order it unless you want a cheesy sauce with absolutely NO truffle taste or aroma.

                  I didn't order the melon soup on the menu but I did notice a lot of tables where is wasn't finished - not a good sign. It was a pretty color though :)

                  1. re: estnet

                    Here is your report that started with someone else's that had a different viewpoint

                    I would choose Ubuntu, but all of the high praise makes me want to do a reality check. There are others like estnet who came away underwhelmed. One guy vehemently despised the place, but that in a sense was a rant against contemporary California cuisine more than Ubuntu.

                    Sometimes the praise builds up way too heightened expectations. I mean, sometimes I wonder if God will live up to the hype when we finally meet our maker.

                    Ubuntu does some wonderful and beautiful things with produce. It is different from most any restaurant you will go to ... meat or meatless.

                    I have yet to read about any restaurant that pleases all of the people all of the time. Howevver, as of this post it seems Ubuntu pleases most of the people most of the time.

                    1. re: rworange

                      I've been a big fan of Ubuntu, but my last visit was unfortunately similar to estnet's. I think they may be suffering from growing pains as they transition from "casual neighborhood place with pizza and wine" to "destination dining in Napa Valley" sort of place. Service was a touch pushy and condescending and the starters showed up about an hour into the meal.

                      The cuisine is amazing in the sense that an avowed meat eater may not realize that it is vegetarian. The flip side is that sometimes the delicate flavor of the vegetables is somewhat muted with cheese, truffles, oil, milk, cream, onions, and vinegar to achieve that goal. For example, I am not a big fan of the cauliflower gratin which is a beautiful dish, but, tastes to me more of vadouvan and dairy than it does of cauliflower.

                      That being said, I would still go to Ubuntu over Zazu. I loved the pea soup--could have had three bowls of it, it was so good. Be aware that many of the dishes are kind of polarizing--you might love one thing and dislike another dish, and your dining companion will think the opposite. At my table of four foodies, the soup was the hands down star, but there was no consensus on any other dish, which was very unusual. The desserts are also very good, especially if you're the sort of person who likes to try non-chocolatey things.

                      Oh, if you want to explore the menu, you might want to call ahead and inquire about tasting menus. On my last visit, our server really, really wanted to control what we ordered for reasons that were not clear to us.