Thursday, March 26, 2009

Crazie about Zazie

This past Spring Break, I ventured to San Francisco, a city of plentiful sunshine, picturesque bayviews, hilly neighborhoods, and of course, exquisite cuisine. Of the different places I dined at, Zazie, a French bistro tucked in the residential Cole Valley, was definitely the most outstanding.

the Baked Chocolat Chaud dessert was a standout at Zazie in San Francisco
photo by Andy Tan

Zazie's unique moniker is derived from its namesake movie from the 1960s Zazie dans le metro - a film about an intrepid young girl from provincial France visiting her uncle in Paris. In an oddly contrary spirit, stepping into Zazie from the streets of San Francisco feels like being transported from a bustling metropolitan city into a small-town, local bistro.

The cozy bistro is along a nondescript row of shops on a mixed-use street that boasts a laundromat, car mechanic workshop, and a liquor store nearby. How much more residential can you get? It's perfectly camoflaged among these neighborhood shops. The interior is not fancy at all - exposed wall with posters, narrow tables for elbow-to-elbow dining, and a charming garden patio with more seating past the kitchen area. It feels almost like dining at a close friend's home rather than a restaurant.

Our party started with a sampler of three appetizers (beet and avocado salad with gorgonzola vinaigrette, chicken liver and brandy pate on grilled garlic bread, and spinach and walnut salad with balsamic vinaigrette) as well as a separate order of mussels, steamed with white wine and garlic. Each of these was a delightful play on the palate - the smooth creamy texture of the pate, paired off with the crunchy spinach and walnut salad, followed by the aromatic succulence of steamed mussels, and not forgetting the sweetness of the beet salad. The plating was simple, nothing was overdone, and we could be very well have been somewhere on the Mediterranean coast.

For the entrees, we had the Cassoulet Pialat, a hearty peasant meal originating from southern France near the Toulouse region. This was similar to a duck confit casserole, slowly stewed with beans, vegetables, and sausages. It was deliciously tender and juicy, with the duck meat literally falling off the bone. We also tried the Black Truffle Ravioli, cooked al dente with wild mushroom, white wine, garlic and parmesan cheese. It was exquisitely creamy and paired really well with the shavings of black truffle.

The desserts at Zazie definitely stole the show. We had the Baked Chocolat Chaud - a soup mug worth of baked molten chocolate topped with a crown of golden-brown toasted marshmallows. We could even smell the caramel from the marshmallows. If this doesn't give you a sugar rush, nothing else will! We also ordered the combination of Pot de Creme du Chocolat (chilled chocolate cream) and Creme Brulee which could be veritable dessert sizes individually. What better way to end the dining experience with a shot of decaf espresso.

So when you next travel west to San Francisco for a culinary vacation, Zazie should be at least one of your stops . . . as long as you keep this our little secret. :)

1 comment:

  1. Great review! You perfectly capture the peace and neighborliness of the place, and the beautiful food. Wish I were there now . . .



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