Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Zuni: Meh.

It was the weekend after new year's. It was cold out. Nobody was in the mood for a fancy dinner, but it was dinnertime, and a girl's gotta eat (and two guys have to eat too, I guess). So we ended up at Zuni in Hell's Kitchen. It seemed to fit the bill for a casual, easygoing place to grab a bite. Plus there was no wait. We were there.

AV and I grabbed a table and waited for the bro to join us. We were one of only a few parties in the place, so it definitely felt, uh, relaxed. While we waited, AV took a trip to the bathroom. I planned to go after him, but he returned looking as though he had seen a ghost and earnestly, fervently expressed his opinion that I may want to reconsider my trip to the lavatory. When the bro went later, he concurred-- these bathrooms had problems. Now, I heeded their advice and did not, in fact, investigate them myself, so this is all hearsay, but there were rumors of bad smells and other such shudder-worthy bathroom features. We'll leave it at that.

Back to the table, though. We eventually decided to order for the bro, so we summoned our genial waiter and placed our order. He then brought over the Zuni bread plate, which I like primarily because it's creative and a little offbeat. There were three small and rather dry slices of black olive bread (okay) and three mini corn muffins, including one made from blue corn (delish and a tiny bit spicy). My only gripe with the bread plate is that the ration of butter they give you is laughably paltry, especially for six portions of bread. Thankfully, our attentive waiter was back with a refill of both bread and butter before we could even ask.

So much bread... so little butter

The bro joined us at our booth, and soon our entrees were with us. AV had selected one of the specials, an appetizer of seared scallops with some sort of salad. He said the salad part was pretty good, but the scallops were mediocre. And small. You can barely see them behind the mountain of salad. And by "mountain" I mean "small pile."

Scallop hide and seek

For the bro, I had chosen the cobb salad, without blue cheese. This was a gamble-- sometimes dudes don't take kindly to having salads selected for them-- but D actually liked it. This particular version came with grilled chicken breast, diced tomato, yellow corn, sweet potato, smoked bacon, roasted beets, and field greens, all with buttermilk dressing. It looked a bit heavily dressed, but hey, that's what makes salads taste good.

Apparently not very photogenic...

My own selection was the grilled portobello mushroom salad with arugula, radicchio, asiago cheese, and aged balsamic vinaigrette. This salad was actually really good. The thinly-sliced mushroom was well seasoned, and there was a substantial portion of delicious asiago on top. The dressing (cheerfully served on the side) was tasty and added a little zip to the salad. Overall, quite satisfying.

Not much to say, except it tasted good

With all three of us eating salads, we were pretty much required by law to order dessert. Zuni's dessert selection is short but tempting... I was vacillating between the key lime pie and the Bailey's gelato (I do love Bailey's...), but I went with the key lime pie. It was a small wedge with a sad bit of soggy crust that had already pretty much given up on life and collapsed to the side of the plate. The filling was fine; the two ping-pong-ball-sized scoops of whipped cream on the side tasted like whipped cream. The crust added nothing and really shouldn't have even been there at all. The raspberry sauce piped in a loopy "2009" design was also fine. As you may be able to tell, this was pretty much the most average dessert I've ever had. It didn't taste bad; it just wasn't, you know, great. It made me full.

Good-bye, crust; hello, 2009

D had chosen the Oreo cheesecake. It, too, was not as good as he had hoped. I tried a taste, and once again, it was mediocre. Not bad--at least the Oreo cookie crust added value here-- but just not particularly good either. Seriously underwhelming.

Happy birthday, year

So on balance, Zuni was average. I suppose that means it gets three Offset Spatulas. The food was okay-- some was better than average, some was worse. The bathrooms apparently merited a spatula deduction, but our friendly waiter and the top-notch soundtrack compensated. The restaurant itself was cheery while still seeming a bit cheap, despite the horrendously overpriced artwork for sale on the walls. Even the food prices were average, not cheap but not particularly expensive either. I wouldn't go out of my way to go again, but neither would I not go. How's that for a review?

Zuni Cafe
598 9th Avenue, between 42nd and 43rd Streets

No comments: