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Dinner @ Zazu (Santa Rosa)

rruben1 | Jul 7, 2008 06:53 AM

I looked forward to dinner with my wife at Zazu with great anticipation. The concept of a restaurant on a working farm held a great deal of appeal. The menu looked ambitious but accessible.

We arrived a few minutes early for our 8:00 reservation. The eager hostess brought us halfway into the dining room only to find the table was not yet set. She wheeled around and led us back to the entrance, to wait about 30 seconds. When our table was ready, we were led into the back. I got a nice view of the traffic going by. The frontage is narrow, so you really have the feel of a roadside establishment, not necessarily an added bonus.

I ordered a flight of pinot. I was somewhat dismayed to find that one of the wines (15 was an ok price for a flight, by the way) was not pinot noir, but a chilled rose'. Strike one. If I wanted rose', I'd order rose'. Many minutes passed before we even received bread, water, or had our dinner order taken.

We decided to share the veggie antipasto. About twenty minutes later, a small plate arrived, with some roasted peppers and eggplant (about 2 oz) some pretty nice beets (again 2 oz) and fragments of cheese. There were two small, quarter sized hard cheeses, a small portion of fresh mozzarella, and a thimble of herbed goat cheese. The accompaniment was burned, grilled bread that took over the flavor of anything served with it. Not a good value at $15.00. Not a good value at any price, really, given the poor representation of ingredients and the indifferent plating and presentation.

I ordered the lamb, my wife, the chicken. Forty minutes later, the entrees arrived. I received three pieces of gristly, oversalted lamb on small skewers, with some red onion, perched on some form of coconut basmati rice that had an off, sour-milk tasted. $28.00. My wife received a half-chicken, seemingly good quality, tender. Unfortunately, the dark meat quarter was still raw. It was now more than one hour and twenty minutes into this meal, with little hope of anything good happening. The room was quite noisy, which is not a mood enhancer when the culinary side of the meal isn't going very well.

This is ambitious restaurant, focused on ingredients to the point where it is almost a conceit. Perhaps we just picked a bad night. Perhaps we made poor choices. On the other hand, the kitchen had an hour to turn out a fully cooked chicken and do some quality control on the other dishes. It was busy when we ordered, but not when we were served. At those prices, plating should be a consideration, beyond portion control.

I have no doubt that this kitchen has the ability to turn out good food, they just didn't do it last night. After terrific meals at Ubuntu, Della Santina, El Dorado Kitchen, and Mustards, at roughly the same class and price, I was expecting much much more.

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