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more on Zuni Cafe

MC Slim JB | Feb 23, 200505:34 PM

The whole thread below (see link), which I catalyzed with a review of my less-than-salutary experience at Zuni, is a perfect illustration of why (among other reasons) San Francisco is a better restaurant town than Boston: people really get into discussions about restaurants in ways we don't back East.

But let me fill in some details. We were enjoying Zuni a lot. The waiter was a bit, oh, maybe arty is the word, but we hardly minded that. It just seems part of their shtick. He pretty much hit his marks perfectly.

The problem was simple: we each bit into a bloody-raw part of the famous chicken at the same instant. I don't mind that the dish took seventy minutes -- we had lovely wine, a very nice salami appetizer, good bread, and conversation to occupy us -- and they did tell us it would take a while (fifty minutes was the estimate). But I did expect it to be cooked when it came out, and it mostly was (and was delicious), but the two largest parts weren't.

We caught our waiter's eye, pointed out the problem quietly, and he whisked the dish away instantly. Next came a headwaiter type, whose tactic was to defend the kitchen's horrific mistake. His rap: "We have cooked this dish 30,000 times successfully", and "The cook tells me that it was in fact cooked through", and "Free-range chicken is not like supermarket chicken; it is pink even when cooked". Hmmm, there's a way to make me feel better: challenge my story (with the evidence now gone) and then call me ignorant!

Okay, I was steaming now, but I kept my voice low. I congratulated him on the cook's prior successes, pointed out that I regularly prepare free-range chicken myself, and reiterated that the two of those chicken parts were in fact seriously underdone. We demurred on offers to recook the dish, bring other entrees, etc. We were nauseous at this point, privately wondering what food-borne illnesses we had been exposed to, and only wanting to get the hell out as quickly and quietly as possible.

A manager came along next, seeming genuinely apologetic, producing a bill with the chicken taken off, and offering his card in case we wanted to follow up. I thanked him and told him we really just wanted to go. I paid, leaving the waiter about 25% on what would have been the full amount, and we fled.

Zuni may be a fabulous restaurant 99% of the time, and we mostly had a good experience there. One kitchen mistake won't ruin a place for us, but indefensible jackass behavior like that headwaiter's will. Zuni will not get a second chance to prove its mettle to us, ever. And we'll be telling this story to a lot of our 'houndish friends.


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