Occupation: Product Designer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Zazie
Reviewed Zazie: Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Zazie is a gem. The place delivers in so many ways every time I eat there. Whenever guests come into town, I usually take them to Zazie. This is why:
First of all, Cole Valley is such a cute neighborhood off the beaten track, but still convenient for people living in San Francisco. I love driving through the neighborhood with the enormous trees and eclectic houses as a backdrop. At night, this neighborhood isn’t packed with people (although Zazie is usually filled to the brim). It is a wonderful place to take a date or a long-lost friend that you need to catch up with.
The food at Zazie is mouthwatering. First, they bring out warm rolls that are homemade. These rolls are the best rolls I have had in San Francisco. This is a great way to start the meal on a chilly San Francisco night. I would highly recommend the grilled mascarpone polenta cakes — the most basic ingredients cooked in a savory sauce. If you have a larger appetite, the braised beef shanks are a delicious choice. They are very tender and again, the sauce is done just right. The fresh porcini and black truffle ravioli is also amazing. They are bursting with flavor and not overly rich. Overall, the food at Zazie is very hearty and wholesome. You feel satisfied without being stuffed. This is French comfort food at its best.
Zazie also has a prix fixe menu every night for $23.50 for any starter, main course, and dessert marked with an asterisk. This place is a great value while maintaining a very high standard. You walk out of Zazie wondering why you paid so much last weekend for sub-par food at that new trendy restaurant (insert name here).
In addition, I love the atmosphere at Zazie. This is not a pretentious restaurant, but a homey mom-and-pop restaurant that is very welcoming. The host/hostess is always willing to accommodate your party and will even come get you in the bar next door when your table is ready. In addition, Tuesday nights are “no corkage fee” nights, and the host brought out glasses for us to enjoy our Belgian beer before even being seated. I must also mention that the outdoor patio is absolutely gorgeous. Lights are strung up and they have many heat lamps, so I actually recommend sitting outside even on a cold night.
I know that I will be eating at Zazie for years to come. Every experience has been so enjoyable, and I now have many memories of dinners with old friends and relatives at this spot. I cannot recommend Zazie enough!
Occupation: Shipping Container Sales Director
Favorite Restaurant: Della Santina’s Trattoria
Reviewed Zazie: Friday, April 16, 2010
Upon calling for reservations at Zazie for a party of 3, I was told they only make reservations from 5:30-6:15 and after that it jumps to 7:30pm. As one friend is a hairdresser and wouldn’t be available until 6:30, and I live in Sonoma and didn’t want to dine too late, this wasn’t going to work. However, the fellow that took the reservations said he’d put down the 6:15 and hold the reservation until 6:30pm.
When we arrived at this charming neighborhood restaurant, we were greeted warmly — and our greeter actually remembered that I lived in Sonoma — and we were promptly ushered to a window seat. We were one of the only parties there. However, within 1/2 hour, every table was taken. This is a very charming French bistro where they play French music very softly, adding to the ambience.
They don’t have too many wines by the glass, but I had a Dry Creek chardonnay that was perfect. One friend had a Kir and loved it. As they have only a wine list, they make some specialty drinks using sake for those who want to venture out. Our waitress was very good. She came by to ask if we were happy with our meals, but was not overbearing at all.
They had a prix fixe dinner for $23.50 and, as I was going to order everything on it, I opted for this. My Louis Malle salad was good, although nothing out of the ordinary. However, my main course, the grilled mascarpone polenta cakes, was so tasty that I will be tempted to order it time and time again. My dessert was a warm rhubarb crumble, and I added vanilla gelato…scrumptious. For this prix fixe meal, the appetizer and dessert were 1/2 size portions, and the main dish was full size. This was just to my liking!
My friend Annette loved her small green salad with chèvre, and I tasted her fresh porcini and truffle ravioli, which came with prawns. Again, a gastronomic delight. Our hairdresser friend, Renee, had the spinach and strawberry salad, which she loved, and then the Pasta Fontainebleau. It was a huge portion, and she intended to bring some home, but she kept chipping away at it until there was not a morsel left on her plate.
For dessert we had the rhubarb crumble and the chocolate mousse pot de crème. No complaints from this party! I will go to this restaurant again.
Although we had no trouble parking in this busy neighborhood because we were early, upon leaving someone was double-parked and blocked me. Upon a few toots of my horn, the fellow miraculously showed up and waved as he drove away. There were other people double-parked, so this might be an issue.
Occupation: Web Product Marketer
Location: San Francisco
Favorite Restaurant: Pagolac: Mom’s Vietnamese Kitchen
Reviewed Zazie: Thursday, April 15, 2010
Zazie is the type of little French bistro that you could easily pass by if you are on a Parisian boulevard filled with similarly inviting eateries. You could even pass by it in the less bustling neighborhood of Cole Valley. Three times. I guess I’m just not that observant without a GPS. I decided to make the evening a group outing in order to try more of their menu. Other friends have come here for breakfast, but nobody I knew has tried dinner there, including me. What a loss for them. At first, I was a bit concerned the noise level would be unbearable given the tight quarters. In my head, I was imagining five bells ringing in the Chronicle listing. Fortunately, the four of us were seated next to the front window, which afforded us a semi-private enclave and even a vitriolic opportunity to comment on the clothing of the diners coming in and out of the restaurant.
We started ambitiously by sharing five — count ‘em, five — starters. First up were the Mussels Marinieres, which they steam very nicely in white wine, garlic, shallots, and parsley, as it all bathes in a creamy broth. The salads were quite fresh tasting. The Salade d’Ete was the more original concoction with a mix of sliced strawberries, goat cheese, toasted almonds, and even flower petals on a bed of arugula. It was a dish that seemed to announce the arrival of spring. Despite its daring French New Wave filmmaking namesake, the Salade Louis Malle was more conventional: spinach, caramelized walnuts, and gorgonzola in a balsamic vinaigrette. We all more equally shared the Assiette de Fromages, a nice selection of three soft French cheeses with figs and toasted walnuts. That left me being the most selfish by ordering the intentionally hard-to-share French Onion Soup Gratinée with beef stock, a truly fine interpretation of a French classic that offers the irresistible lure of melted cheese.
I was also able to try four of their entrees, all quite impressive in execution. With keen competition, the best had to be the roasted trout, which had a nice texture and an added burst of flavor from the cherry tomatoes in a basil vinaigrette and warm goat cheese. A close runner-up was the fresh Lemon Ricotta Ravioli, buttery smooth with wilted arugula, leeks, grilled prawns, garlic and aged parmesan cheese. A more traditional dish was the Lapin à la Moutarde, which was the dark meat of the rabbit braised and covered in a Dijon mustard sauce with mushrooms. Underneath was a bed of fettuccine. It was more of a stew dish than I had envisioned, as the sauce got a bit sloshy, and the little rabbit bones tough to maneuver around. Still, it was quite tasty. The last entree is a signature dish, the Zazie Burger with cheddar, tomatoes Provençal, and grilled Yukon gold potatoes. It was a good, juicy burger, if you are in the mood for one.
We barely had any room for dessert, but for the sake of the show, I felt it was important to try at least one. We all took our spoons and dug into the Crumble Zazie, a generously sized fresh fruit cobbler that either came in a dish à la mode or in a bowl drizzled with crème anglais. Lo and behold, we had both variations in front of us, and they were the perfectly French ender to our meal.
For what appears on the surface to be a neighborhood eatery, Zazie certainly offers a robust and eclectic menu, and there is even a prix fixe menu on select items in the menu (thus the appearance of the Zazie Burger on our table). For the most part, the waitstaff was quite nice and accommodating.
The one hiccup — you should pardon the expression — was the selection of our wine. I went for a $32 bottle of the Chateau Horeau Cabernet Franc, definitely one of their more budget-conscious selections, and I swear I got a case of small-mouth from the waitress. The place was bustling for most of the evening, but as it was a weeknight, the low hum of dining activity started to die down after 9 PM. I would definitely come back to Zazie in a heartbeat. It’s right off the N-Judah line on Cole, so it’s a really convenient location for me. And after all, this review is all about me.