Recently my Auntie Helen treated me to a belated birthday dinner at Zarzuela, our neighborhood tapas specialist. Auntie had been here a few times. Id tried the cooking at various catered events but hadnt 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 wasnt 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 didnt appear on this menu. Perhaps some veterans can offer insight has the kitchen changed or is my palate jaded?
2000 Hyde St. (at Union)
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