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Le Zinc just opened 2 weeks ago on 24th between Noe and Castro.
It's a handsome French place, with creamy orange butter walls, nicely offset by dark polished wooden furniture and warm wall lamps tweaked to a comfortable dusky setting. Unfortunately this place is loud and packed. And after eating there, I wondered why. I think it's still showing its youth, and the prices are on the high side for what one gets.
The menu is simple and limited to a few choices per course - 4 appetizers, 5 entrees and 4 desserts. Diners are charged as follows: full menus go for $35, entrees alone are $20, appetizer and entree are $30 and entree plus dessert sets you back $26. I think that's too pricey - that's $10 an appetizer and $20 an entree for simple country cooking. At the same price, one could do better at the more sophisticated Chapeau!, just to give an example.
here's what I ate:
a nice salad with fresh, crisp mixed greens, plenty of duck gizzard confit that were quite tame and almost sausage-like in taste and texture (a good sausage, that is), and three satiny slices of smoked duck breast. The duck flavor is good and meets the wink of bitterness from the greens halfway. A generous amount of dijon mustard dressing tickles the palate. Simple and very good, although $10 for something like that might be a tiny bit of a stretch. (other appetizer choices today were a pear and roquefort salad with port vinaigrette, an eggplant soup and duck foie gras with toast)
a classic bouef bourguignon - here's an easy one, a tried and true dish that should go for the heartstrings on a wintry evening. It should evoke warmth and heartiness and the kind of comfort that that one enjoys when wrapped in nest of blankets on a cold night. But it fails. The flavors in the gravy are good, but the excessive salt wrestles that to the ground. I loved the sweet and smoky bites from the pearl onions and bacon bits, but the beef itself is somehow dry and stringy and even somewhat tough. the delicate noodles, mushrooms and sweet carrots help, but not by much. This is a simple burgundian dish that should not cost $20 even when it's up to par. At these prices I expected something elevated and I was disappointed. At least it opened up the '92 Pommard that I drank, turning it from sour cherry and earthy mineral to a more complex spice laden fruit. (other choices today - grilled salmon, bluenose sea bass with capers 2 ways, duck breast flambeed with cognac plus green peppercorn sauce, hanger steak with shallots)
the simultaneously homey and gutsy vanilla bean creme brulee did turn things around a bit - it's one of the best of its kind among those I've had in SF - a stiff buttery texture, a richness that one could feel on the tongue and an exceptionally thick caramelized layer. (Other desserts today - chocolate cake with creme anglaise, chocolate meringue topped with chocolate mousse, iced nougat with fruit coulis).
Apparently the menu is revised daily. They also serve lunch and breakfast.
Service was cheerful, warm and the waitstaff carried themselves very well.
Perhaps this place needs a bit of time to find its footing. I see a glimmer of hope in the creme brulee, but I'd also like to see a dip in the prices. Price it like Le Charm (or maybe even a little more) and they would hit the sweet spot.
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