(San Fran Trip) Zuni Cafe – Hayes Valley

On the second full day that we were in Montreal after a good night’s sleep, we set out for Zuni Cafe. Tfung had made a reservation for the two of us for 12pm, but we arrived earlier than 12 and they weren’t letting us in. So we wandered over to the store across from Zuni Cafe.

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Apparently a lot of people do this, as the owner correctly guessed that we were waiting for Zuni Cafe to open. This store happened to be a very interesting one. It showcased some beautiful antique musical instruments. Not only that, but they hold monthly concerts with certain themes or composers. We saw a poster for Brahms <3.

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The most interesting piece was actually a piano that was recovered from the building next to the 911 incident site. I thought it was very special and it’s chance encounters like these on trips that make them that much more special.

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After a quick chat with the owner and admiring the pieces and the space, we started seeing patrons who were lined up outside Zuni Cafe heading in. So we decided to do so as well.

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We were seated on the top balcony at the front of the restaurant. The actual shape of this restaurant is very interesting, and is long and very geometrical. As a result, we got an incredible view of the kitchen being on the top floor. We ordered quickly as we were starving, and were told that the Roasted Chicken for 2 will be ready in about 50 minutes. So we took this time to take a good look at the kitchen and observing what each person was doing. It was very reminiscent of a tv show I watched about a boy who aspired to be the first chef of a brilliant Italian restaurant.

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Other than ordering the Roasted Chicken for 2, we also ordered some beloved oysters. They have a fairly longer list of oysters to choose from but we decided to get a Japanese and a West coast oyster (since we were on the West coast afterall). We ordered the Marin Miyagi and the Hog Island Kumamotos. We had Kumamotos before at Rodney’s Oyster House and remembered we had a good experience with it. The miyagi was no where as good as the Royal Miyagi we had at Ferry Building Market which was a little disappointing to us. It had some very fishy taste. But, the texture was very crunchy and creamy.

The Kumamoto was pretty good but I didn’t think there was anything spectacular to report. It had a little bit of the fishy taste, but the texture was good. The sauce was just a typical mignonette sauce with vinegar and some shallots.

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Roasted Chicken For 2

There was a very long lag time between our oysters and the roasted chicken. But as this picture may suggest to you, it was well worth it. We were able to observe the cook taking the roasted chicken out of the big stone ovens. She had set it down on the cutting board for a while to cool off and let the inside of the chicken cook, I suppose. During that time, she made the stuffing part of the dish. She had bread crumbs, some vinaigrette, pine nuts, dried craneberries thrown into the mix. It was also plated with some greens.

When the chicken came, we were so excited as we had heard lots of good things about it. You can see how excited he was:

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The chicken was so delicious. We usually don’t like to order chicken at restaurants because we believe it to be something we can make quite well, just like steaks. But here this dish is a must have! Really is worth the wait. The chicken was so tender and juicy, yet crispy on the outside, all the while taking in all the flavour of the glaze, yet still retaining the fresh flavour of chicken. It seemed so simple yet elegant, for the lack of better phrase. The stuffing was also very delicious. We both love pine nuts and I especially love dried cranberries as well. With the greens and the vinaigrette, it was the perfect accompaniment to the chicken.

I did think the service could have improved, but I suppose they have to keep a lot of other customers happy as it was a really big restaurant. The waitress was attentive at first but of left us alone after. When the chicken came, she never really tended to us until we had to flag her down to get the bill. The bar was very extensive and I thought it looked very nice with all the different colours. The one fault in the restaurant is that there are only two washrooms in the restaurant. It’s one of those one person per room ones, so it took a long time to wait for it. Especially when there are families that enter the one washroom and spend 15 minutes in there.

Overall we had a really good time here. We were seated in a nice spot and loved the chicken. We didn’t think that the oysters were all that great, but as we had been led to believe, the chicken really was the star of the restaurant. If I come back again, I will definitely order the chicken again because it was so delicious. Although we did not get to try their other dishes, we had a glance at them as they arrived at another table and by appearance, they looked good. I may explore other options on the menu next time.

Service: 3.5/5
Food: 8.8/10
Atmosphere: cafe/bistro, open kitchen, casual
Price: $30-40

~ kehwon

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