New on the Scene: Zero Zero in San Francisco
Earlier in the week, my girlfriend sent me a text that read, “Can you and your guy come to a couples’ dinner on Friday night at Zero Zero?”
I had not heard of this restaurant, but two things made me say yes: (1) KC has excellent taste in food and if she was willing to try this place – I was game. (2) Spending a night with good friends and good food is what I am all about. So I said yes. Odd as the name is, Zero Zero turned out to be a real success. There were only two points that needed mentioning, but the place is new — and deserves a break.
Two Negatives at Zero Zero
The first negative point was the incredulously long wait for service. We were all hungry, but a simple question about wine had us waiting for the “wine director” for approximately 15 minutes. We asked if this particular bottle was good; we did not need a sommelier to tell us that it is indeed good. Then for them to take our food order was another 10 minutes….
Then for the food to come out? Suffice to say I sat there losing weight. I think Keith said it best:
“You know how the service is when you look around for the server and you see everyone else’s heads looking around for service too.”
The second point ties in directly with the most important part of Zero Zero: the food. We ordered a great number of dishes for a party of six – and then we ended up ordering more because the portions are for children here! Six Asians at a table require a WHOLE lot more food than this to get full! The pricing of the antipasti items is good – and the portions are as expected. But once you go into the pasta selection, you’re paying a minimum of $14 plus for pasta, and it’s not unthinkable to believe you’re going to get an actual “entree”. Instead, what Zero Zero gives you is an “itty bitty” taste that someone like me would need 3-4 plates of to become satisfied.
If I think of it as small plates, then I’d have been set.
First of the antipasti we ordered was the special of the day — deep-fried meatballs. Only one out of six of us really liked it; the rest of us thought this was okay. But from here, Zero Zero knocked our socks off. The Blue Crab w/ Fennel arrived. It was beautifully prepared, perfectly seasoned with a distinct taste of crab combined with all sorts of fresh and tasty goodness. This dish is a keeper.
My particular obsession for the evening was the “Chanterelle Mushroom w/ corn polenta and poached organic egg.” After all, even the title sounds orgasmic. The polenta was perfectly fried – and the poached egg was heavenly. I thought the sauce and mushroom hovered dangerously close on the salty side of things — but this dish impressed all of us. The polenta absorbed the yolk and sauce, and above all else, this was a comfort dish. I don’t feel like it compares to the baked polenta w/ shitake mushrooms and gorgonzola at Bella in San Francisco, but it’s a close second. I have to give it to Zero Zero — they really know how to make and boil fresh pasta. The definition of “al dente” is not lost on them and they deliver some outstanding pasta dishes.
Our first pasta of the evening was Pici w/ short rib ragu.
As this was being brought out, so was one of the best Barbera wines I’ve ever had: Cascina Val del Prete’s CAROLINA, 2006. The nose on this wine had the wine-o’s at this table raving — -big, ripe and plump in flavor. Combined with the intense flavor of the beef ragu and the perfectly cooked pici — it was an incredible combination. But look at the portion on that dish. I know two year olds who can finish that in under a minute! We decided, before even taking the first bite, that we’d need to order one more of these, and did so while each of us barely took one noodle and a sliver of meat. However, this dish was TOPNOTCH, and pasta of this level is not readily available in San Francisco, or anywhere outside of Italy!
Up next was what I had originally wanted — a pasta w/ mascarpone cheese and organic egg.
Frank put this one the best:
“I don’t know what this is but it’s amazing — it’s incredible.”
And it was.
This dish was a partnership of flour, meat, and cheese — and it continued delivering long after you swallowed it. Again, with the wine, it was a match made in heaven. That Carolina can partner up and hold up to virtually anything! But what Zero Zero wants to be known for, apparently, is their pizzas, so pizzas, we ordered.
Each pizza is named after a street in San Francisco, e.g., Market, Townsend, Mission, Castro, etc. They were all good pizzas — but I am not entirely convinced it’s better than Pazzia, or Delfina. I suppose it’s fair to say that they were all good but none were mind-blowing.
A truly fascinatingly good concept was how Zero Zero took on dessert. They give you a piece of paper with a pencil, and you get to pick your ice cream flavor, base, and toppings to create your own idea of heaven. I chose the waffles as a base, vanilla ice cream (which was more soft-serve than ice cream) with butterscotch and olive oil with sea salt as a topping. It was excellent, particularly paired with my after-dinner glass of single malt scotch, Macallan 15.
Here are some additional desserts that were ordered but I didn’t taste them. Everyone said they loved the desserts, though:
All in all – Zero Zero is up and coming, and they have a well-established following. Everything was good to great, and the concept is working for them. They are still a new restaurant at the time of this review, so you can expect some mishaps, but they do try — and they try without being pretentious about it.
The meal came to approximately $70 per person, with tip, and while it’s not cheap — it’s not expensive either, for San Francisco dining.
With the great company I had last night, it was a memorable meal and I am certain I will be back again. Next time, though, I am going to order four pasta dishes for myself.
Service: 3/10 Ambiance: 7/10 Food: 8/10 Addictive Factor: 7/10 Overall Rating: 7.5/10 (with the quality of service bringing the final score down)