Zuni Café: unexpected splurge

(Last) Tuesday the 25th, after dropping off my bags at the Metro Hotel & returning my rental car, some prints I'd stopped to pick up at Wolf's Photo (by the Safeway on Market Street) needed to be redone, so I thought I'd take the couple of hours waiting time to grab some warm lunch & ward off the creeping, foggy chill in the grey San Francisco afternoon.

Bistro Clovis, my sentimental choice, was unexpectedly closed so I backtracked uphill & walked into Zuni Café for the first time since having their celebrated roast chicken & some breaded artichokes back in 1998 or so.
It seemed to me then that Zuni was great if you had deep pockets & didn't mind somewhat overpriced, European-styled comfort food, but the day's menu had some tempting choices that piqued my interest & overcame any lingering hesitation to bring me inside:
Following through on my initial impressions from the menu, I chose what turned out to be a delicious, seasonal root vegetable soup-- chiefly celery root & parsnip, I was told-- & a tasty salad of rabbit & bitter greens, near-perfect in its balance of acidic, bitter, & fatty elements.

I paired the first course with a surprising discovery: the 'Osteiner' grape is a cross between Riesling & Sylvaner, & Rippon Vineyards of New Zealand biodynamically grows & vinifies a delicious wine from it in Central Otago. The nose was initially poised between crisp Granny Smith, & softer, sweeter Golden Delicious apple, with some subtle citrus & apricot blossoming gradually in the glass & continuing on the palate. The lingering aftertaste had a distinct tart-sweet tangerine brightness...really lovely wine!
The impression was admittedly heightened by the serendipity of the pairing: the subtle fruit & pitch-perfect acidity were set off by the earthy creaminess of the soup. I made my wine selections, as usual, partly from economic considerations & mostly out of curiosity. I felt less secure about my second choice: another white might have been more appropiate, but having never tried any of Jean-Louis Chave's wines, I felt compelled to fill the serious gap in my Rhône curriculum. The 'Mon Coeur' bottling the Café offered by the glass is a Côtes-du-Rhône Grenache-Syrah blend sourced from outside domains. Forest floor & leather dominated the tart cherry in both aroma & taste, lending it a character more usually associated with Pinot Noir. Having had similarly 'bretty' expressions of Rhône variety-based wines before, I took note, & drank on...
The wine paired well enough with my light main dish, even if it by no means meshed in as tightly rich a weave as the earlier match. Only after splurging on some Port & going even further out on a limb, taking some Nocino* with my espresso, did I notice as took a deep breath & examined the check, that I was being billed for a $13 glass of Pinot Noir. Indeed, it seems I'd been misunderstood & served the Domaine Gros Frère & Soeur's 2006 Haute Côtes de Nuits. I ended up spending about $35 for the drink portion of my repast compared with $22 for the actual meal courses. It's these occasions that make me yearn for Spain or Argentina, even if the restaurant selections by the glass, especially in the country of Malbec & mate, are usually frustratingly limited to local product striving to ape the 'International Style' on low budget oak chips...

(à suivre...)