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1658 Market St.
San Francisco, CA

Punch from Judy

What kind of relocated native has reservations about going to this San Francisco institution? Not me. When I'm in the mood for great chow, the Zuni's no gamble.

The staff here is on the ball. They know their stuff but aren't stuffy.

This quintessential SF destination is required eating for any native or traveler. No dress code, come as you are from jeans to suits. The bar is a crowded scene at night and there’s some seating there for walk ins who want to grab a bite.

Caesar Salad ($9.00):
This is the place for a Caesar. Slender, crisp, romaine leaves are tossed with egg yolk, chopped anchovy, mustard, lemon juice, grated Reggiano Parmesan and olive oil. Browned croutons and freshly ground pepper finish this fantastic rendition of a salad that succeeds where most restaurants fail. My personal belief is that it is a sin to eat this with anything other than your fingers.

Halibut Cheeks ($12.00):
This cheeky little starter had a lovely broth dotted with kernels of sweet corn, chopped squash blossoms and cilantro and three, small, whole pimientos de Padron. The server delivered a word of caution about the peppers, “sometimes they're hot, sometimes they're not.” These fell into the latter category. The halibut cheeks were tender and flavorful and went nicely with the crunch of the corn, earthiness of the vegetables and the buttery, fish broth.

Pizza ($11.50): This super thin crusted pizza is spread with tomato sauce and dotted with Mount Vikos feta cheese, thin slices of Chinese eggplant. When it comes out of the wood burning oven with those wonderful dark blisters it given a handful of whole basil leaves. It was tasty, but was a little wet in the middle. I also wanted a bit more of the feta and eggplant (to balance out the bread to flavor ratio.) I did eat the whole thing so these small longings didn't prevent me from enjoying my pie.

Cheeseburger ($13.00):
Over the years, I have been a fan of the Zuni burger. There have been different variations along the way. This one was good, but not great. The meat was a finer grind and packed densely. The focaccia was tasty but had a lighter crumb than was needed to stand up to the compact meat patty. Even though there was a lettuce leaf barrier put in place under the meat, the bottom bun got soggy. I liked the layer of Gruyere melted on top and the aioli spread on the bun made for a nice savory flavor. Fries do not come along with their burger (you can order a haystack of them separately for $6) but you get some of their house made pickles which are extremely tasty. I especially like the thickly sliced picked red onions.

Chicken with bread salad for two ($38.00):
The menu warns that it takes 50 minutes, but that doesn't mean you have to wait for it. If you place this order as you are seated, you can decide on what starters to order and by the time you've polished them off, voila, there's the chicken. This moist and flavorful bird is roasted in their wood burning oven, cut into pieces and arranged over a bread salad that soaks up all the delectable juices to create a perfect combo of crispy-edged, juice soaked bread, currants, and pinenuts. Yum.

Plum tart with noyau ice cream ($7.25):
What a shame to take this gorgeous tart and lose it on this huge plate. The beautiful concentric circles of tasty plums gave off their juices making the bottom of the crust soggy, but the edge still had a buttery crispness. The ice cream was just okay. It was rich and creamy with a hint of stone (from the stones of fruit, not rocks) taste. But it was lacking in depth of flavor.

Slices of Acme Pain au levain and a slice of butter get you started. I love the crusty, rustic exterior that breaks oven to the sour, soft yeasty belly of this loaf. Always a favorite.

Coffee ($2.25):
Graffeo Coffee brewed to a nice strength. Their house coffee is fine.

Espresso ($2.25):
Made with care and attention and happily consumed.


Blackberry Trifle ($7.25):
Not my favorite presentation of this dish. Even though it's traditional to show off the layers of a trifle in a glass vessel, this wine glassed dessert has a Betty Crocker vibe. It would have looked “Zunier” in a small, rustic, ceramic gratin dish. But looks aren't everything. The wild blackberries tangy sweetness cut through the lightly sugared whipped cream and dense cornmeal poundcake. A delish end to the meal.


Three carrots out of four

This restaurant has always been a solid bet, Their raw seafood is fantastic and their bartenders mix a mean drink. They find the freshest local meats and produce and don't mess it up.



Zuni Bathroom Rating

Considering the high traffic the bathrooms receive, they are okay. The one difficulty Zuni has always suffered from are restroom queues (for both women and men) I blame the architect.

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