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Restaurants & Bars 1

Report on Zazu in Santa Rosa area

Joan Kureczka | Sep 30, 200205:20 PM

We just got back from a brief weekend in the Santa Rosa/Sebastopol area, where we had dinner at Zazu on Friday evening. After seeing the Chronicle's review a few weeks back, thought it worth a shot.

The place is very friendly, and low key in decor, and service was great. We had mixed emotions about the food and especially the wine offerings though.

First the good. We started out sharing an appetizer of what was described as popcorn shrimp with 3 dipping sauces. Rather than the usual popcorn shrimp, these were 3 very large prawns in a well-prepared beer batter. The sauces included a mango sambal, an excellent tart buttermilk dressing, and a mint chutney. All three were good, although I found the mint chutney the least successful with the shrimp (in contrast to my husband who liked it very much and didn't care for the mango, which I loved).

Next the truly excellent. Michael Bauer had raved about the whole roasted dorade with olives, lemon and fennel, and I concur. The flavors were really stunning, and the accompanying rice was quite interesting, with cumin and other spices. Not sure what sort of rice they used, as the texture and grain size was not basmati.

Unfortunately, my husband's entree was not nearly as successful -- a wild salmon with a fresh watermelon and watermelon pickle salsa of sorts. He found the flavors somewhat clashing, and thought the salmon somewhat mealy.

We weren't interested in a sweet dessert, but the very accomodating owner offered a cheese plate that included some Pt Reyes blue, Bellwether Carmody and a good imported asiago with various bits of fresh fruit and house-made chutney and toasts. Quite nice and well appreciated.

As for the wine list... yes if you want to spend the bucks, they have a great selection of some of Sonoma's best and rarest, especially chardonnays and pinot noirs. Surprisingly few zins and almost no sauvignon blanc though (a few from Dry Creek might have been nice). Unfortunately if you don't want to spend over $50 per bottle, the choices are relatively few and the mark up on the cheaper wines is much higher than on the pricier stuff. We ended up with a New Zealand sauvignon blanc that we knew and liked, but it normally retails for around $10 and was priced at $27. There were very few wines in the $25 - $40 range. They have a selection of about 8-10 wines by the glass.

So would I go again? Maybe -- my entree was truly stellar and they offered a nice selection of small plates. The place was really quite welcoming, and there are plenty of counter seats for those without reservations.

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