Being so incurably behind in writing up our culinary experiences brings up a novel experience when we finally do get around to writing up our adventures: you stumble upon a restaurant that needs to be written up and you think, “Oh wow, blast from the past … “. It’s usually not a problem recalling the context or the actual experience – most of these dining out stints are memorable enough for a quick retrieval from the deep, dark recesses of the memory archives. Doesn’t even need extensive dusting off, since most are at the most a few months old at this point. However, it definitely underscores the value of this repository – months and years from now, as we read over each other’s entries, there will be many a content smiles of reliving, recollecting and re-experience 🙂
Let me see – Zazie’s! *rubbing palms in glee at the exercise in dusting off the memory-entree*
Zazie’s is one of the famous brunch spots in SF, with a lovingly ill-famed no-reservations policy, a pretty small capacity considering its amazing reputation for brunch (I’d say they can seat 20 or so at any given point in time) and the famous two hour waits on weekend mornings. Luckily enough, a good friend of mine lives around the corner from this popular brunch spot, and we’ve been talking about taking advantage of a comfortable waiting spot while we try our luck getting into Zazie.
Somehow, we always ended up going to other brunch places, and Zazie just kept getting pushed off, pushed behind, and just never happening, despite it being literally twenty steps away. We talked about it. A lot. We made plans, and overslept. We made plans, and then went somewhere else. We made more plans, and then realized our group was too bit to deal well with the two hour wait, so we moved across the street.
Then one day, we made no plans. We woke up and were going out for a weekend trip and we took a game-time decision to stop for brunch first, and step downstairs and check out Zazie’s. And check out we did – waltzing in just as a corner table for 3 opened up. We barely even broke our stride for any wait – unimaginable luck! We attributed to the good luck charm our out of town friend had brought with her from the east coast, and settled in with our drinks of a tea and a latte. Did I mention that the latte came in a bucket you could swim in? Well, almost. Ah caffeinated bliss: and so much entertainment for those around me.
Zazie’s does not have the world’s most innovative brunch menu. Their menu is fairly standard – eggs, benedicts, griddle delights and other fairly standard brunch fare. They just execute remarkably well on their standard brunch fare. And when I say remarkably well, I am criminally understating. They just have the brunch flavors and textures down pat.
Take their crab benedict for example. The very first thing you will notice is how dense and cream-like their hollandaise is. This is beyond creamy, almost with a body and texture of its very own. At first sight, you think you can cut into it with a knife, and it will hold its own. The surface sheen, the defined and firm drizzle lines and the visual texture of the pool at the edge – you know what to expect. You are smug. You go in.
At the very first touch though, the illusion evaporates and you sink into the decadent silken smoothness, miring, with a look of surprise. You retract. You mull, an eyebrow raised. Of course, you collect yourself, with a discrete cough or clearing of the throat, putting down those utensils with hearts of deception, and looking around to see if anyone noticed the falter in your dig-scoop maneuver.
No one notices, since everyone is in their very own miring. So you attempt again, this time, prepared for the hollandaise’s assault on your visual-tactile sensory expectations.
The egg below offers just a tiny bit of resistance and gives way to the toasty crunch of the bread base underneath. The shredded crab scatters and you scoop and ladle, and prepare an artful forkful. You almost close your eyes as you let the forkful descend on your taste buds, but not really, because who knows what other surprise the innocuous forkful has in reserve.
I am a huge fan of benedicts. I think they are an amazing contrast of textures – the crunch, the creamy, the silken yolk and the tang from the hollandaise. Zazie’s has taken all those elements of a perfect benedict, and consistently served up perfection. The crab was fresh and light – with just the right flavor that complements the egg and hollandaise perfectly instead of overpowering. The most memorable part of the whole ensemble must have been the tang of the hollandaise – done just right, without feeling like a lemon meringue pie juice. I know, that’s just disgusting.
Take their omelettes for example. The one pictured below was the special for the day – chicken apple sausages, bell peppers, onions, maybe spinach (and this is where my memory is failing me) and topped with avocado slices. The dish came with their house greens (very fresh and perfectly dressed), and your choice of toast with a cute ball of butter. Again, nothing that would win the award for innovativeness, but just perfectly executed – the right balance of melding the flavors of the stuffed ingredients, and enveloped carefully in the perfect egg case: neither underdone and runny, nor overdone and plasticky.