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Restaurants & Bars 1

Update on Zarzuela, SF

Melanie Wong | Aug 18, 200303:49 AM

Recently my Auntie Helen treated me to a belated birthday dinner at Zarzuela, our neighborhood tapas specialist. Auntie had been here a few times. I’d tried the cooking at various catered events but hadn’t made the hike up Russian Hill to eat in the restaurant until now. At 6:30pm on a weeknight, we had our choice of tables and got the prime corner booth. When we left after 8pm, the front room was full and there was a line waiting for tables.

We ordered five plates, including one daily special. One clunker was the Pato con Ciruelas – a dried out and tough leg of Muscovy duck with sticky sweet prune sauce and too much rosemary. Everything else was fine. Our favorite was the Patatas al ajillo – golden brown and crusty French fries with incredible flavor and texture from frying in pure olive oil and seasoned with garlic bits and a dash of sherry vinegar. Also very good was the Fideos con almejas y mejillones – angel hair pasta moistened a white wine and fresh herb seafood broth and topped with juicy clams and mussels. The special of the day was Sepia ala plancha – grilled giant cuttlefish that was tender and sweet with satisfying charry flavor served with a creamy and very garlicky alioli. The last savory dish was a small order of Lomo de cerdo – garlic-tinged and too dry roast tenderloin served with a cabrales blue cheese and piquillo pepper sauce and roasted potatoes (shown below). The complimentary marinated house olives were very good too. I had a glass of Lustau “Papirusa” sherry and was happy to find it on the list.

For dessert, we shared a crema catalan. This had a smoky, almost toffee-like flavor in addition to the burnt sugar. While it tasted good, the texture was a little grainy.

It was a good meal, and quite reasonably priced too. Yet, I wasn’t as excited about it as the first few times I tasted the rustic and intense style of cooking. I can still remember the piquillos stuffed with rabo de toro and other dishes that didn’t appear on this menu. Perhaps some veterans can offer insight – has the kitchen changed or is my palate jaded?

2000 Hyde St. (at Union)
San Francisco

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