Restaurants & Bars

Restaurant Report: Zuzu in Napa (long)

Jennie Sheeks | May 20, 200205:11 PM    

In the Napa Valley, good food is not hard to find. Good food, good atmosphere, and reasonable prices are something else entirely.

I’ve eaten a few times at Zuzu, a tapas restaurant that opened a couple of months ago in downtown Napa. Even on a Monday night, this place is busy. The space is cozy, with a smallish upstairs seating area that features a community dining table. Latin music and rustic Mexican, South American and Spanish art add accents to the small space.

The plates are small, but reasonably priced morsels. For those who like to graze, this is lovely. Most plates are around $5, with a few exceptions. Evident are many traditional Spanish tapas, as well as influences from Latin America. The wine list features many interesting local and imported wines, most of the reds are between $25-$35, most of the whites are below $30.

As a local, the joy of Zuzu is being able to stop in after work, try a couple things, have a glass of wine or a beer and get out for about $20 or less. On my first visit, my friend and I shared 6 plates plus dessert. Corkage was comped for the bottle of wine we brought, the end result was around $40 for two.

Already I have managed to sample quite a selection from the menu, and have picked a few favorites. The seared flatiron steak with chimchurri balances spicy, rich, clean flavors. The morrocan lamb chops are perfectly cooked flavorful meat, rosy and tender, though I found the sauce a bit too sweet. The plate of cured meats, sausage and simply dressed salad of haricot verts and red pepper plays the rich salty quality of the meats against the slightly sweet clean acid of the salad. This is something simple, but I struggle to not order just plates after plate of it. Frequently they have a special of duck tamale with red & green sauce and slices of duck breast on the side. I found the tamale a bit bland for my tastes, preferring more heat and spice. But the seared duck breast slices had edges of crispy skin surrounding the perfectly cooked chewy tender breast meat. The scallop ceviche with upland cress is simple, clean and fresh tasting. Another favorite snack is the trio of tapas toppings, which offers spreads of olive & anchovy, red pepper, and one thats manchego. Contrasting salty, sweet, spicy and acid, I love little snacks like this that are the perfect accompaniment to a chat and a glass of wine. The only dessert I have sampled is the apple empanada with caramel lime sauce, an interesting satisfying combination.

Not all the dishes are exactly to my tastes, but perhaps I have a jaded palate. The grilled onions with romesco were undercooked and too crunchy, but the romesco was delicious. The mushrooms sautéed with butter, olive oil and garlic needed salt and something else to perk it up. I found the lamb sausage served with white beans too dry, but the portion was generous.

Overall this is a welcome addition to the Napa restaurant scene, adding a pleasant deviation from the foie gras/ahi tuna/truffle or Northern Italian scene that dominates the Valley.

located Main St. in the city of Napa next to Harry’s Bar between 1st & 2nd, across from Veteran’s Park.
(707) 224-8555

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