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Steve Drucker | Apr 22, 200111:06 AM     1

After getting off an 7-hr plane trip from Atlanta, a fresh noodle lunch in Japantown (see earlier post), and several hours of conference and cocktail reception at the Radisson Miyako, we doggedly taxied from Japantown up to Zarzuela for a first night on west coast time zone early supper.

I'm blown away.

After 3 visits to SFO in the last few months, this is the best food at this price level (moderate) we have yet encountered.

Wine pricing and quality is important to us, as we travel on a start-up budget, Bob our marketing director only likes full bodied wines (I call him a cabernet bigot), and I am the one-eyed man in the land of the blind, having maintained a 60 bottle wine list back in my restaurant days. For wine we drank a bottle of Solabel--a $22 Rioja. When I asked the waiter if it was good, he shrugged "If you don't like it, its okay. I drink it myself". Full bodied and spicy, this was a steal and a deal.

Two special tapas were offered, and we ordered them both, along with some patatas a la brava.

Steamed clams were prepared in a garlic olive oil/butter sauce with scallions. I haven't seen these kind of clams on the east coast before (and I was raised in Little Neck!). They were the size of little necks, but unlike east coast farm raised manilla clams, the meat filled the whole shell, very plump, with a yellowish cast that hinted that they grew in very cold, very plankton rich water that helped them achieve a high fat content. It took us 4 thick slices of the good bread to capture all of the sauce. Can any one fill me in on the provenance of west coast clams like this?

Three silver dollar sized braised lamb cheeks in a medium bodied braise were tender and intensely flavored. I'm out of adjectives--if they are ever on the menu order them

The patatas a la brava coated in a paprika-olive oil sauce are more addictive than potato chips.

We never got to main courses, but I did get a flan to go to eat back at the hotel. It was perfectly formed, light and very rich with an aromatic--nutmeg I think.

My wife is jealous. She wants to know when WE can go back to SFO. Oy. Sometimes I should keep my mouth shut and eat and just not tell.

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