Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Taste of Napa: A Tapas Lunch at Zuzu - Napa, CA

This is the second post in my Taste of Napa series.

Zuzu in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Zuzu in Napa, CA

After enjoying a gourmet breakfast prepared by Jim Gunther at The Inn on First, I walked over to the Visit Napa Valley Welcome Center to meet the other members of the press group. Located on Main Street along the Riverfront in Downtown Napa, the center is the ideal first stop for visitors to gather information about activities in the area, restaurants, wine tastings and tours, and so much more. Plus, there is a knowledgeable and friendly staff on hand to help you make arrangements and reservations.

Table at Zuzu in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Table at Zuzu in Napa, CA

From the Welcome Center, we headed down the street to Zuzu for a tapas lunch. Serving traditional tapas with a California twist, the restaurant offers diners food inspired by the cuisines of Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean. We were led upstairs to a beautiful loft space that had both a modern and rustic vibe to it and were seated at a long wooden table that provided us a view of Veterans Memorial Park with the Napa River just beyond it.

Sangria at Zuzu in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Sangria at Zuzu in Napa, CA

We kicked off our lunch in celebratory style with bottomless glasses of Sangria ($6 per glass | $28 per carafe), affectionately referred to as Zuzu's House Blend Wine. Refreshing and sweet, this was some of the best sangria I've ever had, and I had to remind myself that it was only lunchtime. More than two glasses would have been excessive!

Seasoned and Toasted Almonds and Mediterranean Olives - Photo by Taste As You Go
Seasoned and Toasted Almonds and Mediterranean Olives

Once our glasses were full, the kitchen began bringing out a selection of their cold and hot tapas, starting with their Seasoned and Toasted Almonds ($4) and Mediterranean Olives ($4). The almonds were absolutely addictive, and it didn't take long for us to get to the bottom of those bowls.

Citrus-Marinated Flounder Ceviche with Jicama, Avocado, and Housemade Tortilla Chips - Photo by Taste As You Go
Citrus-Marinated Flounder Ceviche with Jicama, Avocado, and Housemade Tortilla Chips

Citrus-Marinated Flounder Ceviche with Jicama, Avocado, and Housemade Tortilla Chips - Photo by Taste As You Go
Citrus-Marinated Flounder Ceviche with Jicama, Avocado, and Housemade Tortilla Chips

What followed turned out to be one of my favorite dishes of the entire meal -- Citrus-Marinated Flounder Ceviche with Jicama, Avocado, and Housemade Tortilla Chips ($9). The flounder was fresh and bright thanks to the citrus juice, and the jicama provided a crunchy contrasting texture to the smooth and buttery texture of the avocado. I simply couldn't get enough.

Shaved Artichoke-Portobello Salad with Arugula, Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette, and Sao Jorge Cheese at Zuzu in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Shaved Artichoke-Portobello Salad with Arugula, Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette, and Sao Jorge Cheese at Zuzu in Napa, CA

I also enjoyed the Shaved Artichoke-Portobello Salad with Arugula, Lemon-Truffle Vinaigrette ($8). The vinaigrette added a brightness and a richness to the peppery arugula and meaty portobello mushrooms that was really pleasant.

Red Quinoa Salad with Smoked Duck Breast, Dried Figs, Pistachios, and Pedro Ximenez Vinaigrette at Zuzu in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Red Quinoa Salad with Smoked Duck Breast, Dried Figs, Pistachios, and Pedro Ximenez Vinaigrette at Zuzu in Napa, CA

When the Red Quinoa Salad with Smoked Duck Breast, Dried Figs, and a Pistachio Vinaigrette ($10) came out, we knew we were in for something special. Despite the small serving, the duck and the figs gave a deep flavor and substance to the salad. The quinoa would have made a perfect lunch all on its own, with an extra scoop or two, of course.

Paella del Dia with Spanish Bomba Rice at Zuzu in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Paella del Dia with Spanish Bomba Rice at Zuzu in Napa, CA

At this point, we were starting to get full, but the kitchen insisted on sending out some more of their signature dishes for us to try, including their Paella del Dia with Spanish Bomba Rice ($10 per person). On this particular occasion, the paella was full of fresh seafood and smoky chorizo that brought life and personality to the underlying layer of silky rice.

Chilaquiles with Braised Pork and Poached Egg at Zuzu in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Chilaquiles with Braised Pork and Poached Egg at Zuzu in Napa, CA

Then came the Chilaquiles with Braised Pork and Poached Egg featuring, once again, the Housemade Tortilla Chips. The pork was tender and flavorful and was elevated to a whole new level by the pairing of the creamy egg yolk and crispy chips.

Flat-Iron Steak from Niman Ranch with Roasted Jalapeno Chimichurri - Photo by Taste As You Go
Flat-Iron Steak from Niman Ranch with Roasted Jalapeno Chimichurri

We should have stopped there, but someone (ahem, me) suggested that we also try the Flat-Iron Steak with Roasted Jalapeno Chimichurri ($12). The steak was tender, well-seasoned, and grilled to perfection, and I loved the subtle heat of the chimichurri sauce.

Tres Leches with Caramelized Bananas at Zuzu in Napa, CA - Photo by Taste As You Go
Tres Leches with Caramelized Bananas at Zuzu in Napa, CA

While I'm glad I encouraged everyone to try the steak, doing so meant that we didn't have much room for the Tres Leches Cake with Caramelized Bananas that came out to close the meal. In fact, I could only muster up the strength to have one bite. But what a bite it was! The cake was moist and creamy and the caramelized bananas added a bitter sweetness that balanced the decadence of the dessert.

Zuzu
829 Main Street
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 224-8555 | Map

Zuzu on Urbanspoon

For more from my Taste of Napa series, see:

Taste As You Go Disclaimer: I was provided with the opportunity to travel to Napa on this press trip at no cost to me. I did not accept monetary compensation for writing about the trip or about my experiences while in Napa. All opinions expressed are my own.

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