Zola - excellent French restaurant debuts in Palo Alto

Zola just opened in downtown Palo Alto. Finally, I hoped, a foodie French place, worthy of taking my burgundies to, by the chef and wine connoisseur Guillaume Bienaime, previously of Marche in Menlo Park, a restaurant that was renowned among wine geeks for hosting great wine dinners.

After 3 hours at Zola and sampling a dozen dishes, I am thoroughly satisfied. It was creative seasonal French cooking, comfort food, I'd say, taken to the next level. Not fancy gastronomic, but rather very very tasty. The style of food gave me a feeling like Pizzeria Delfina (of course, that's Italian) and Marlowe (California cuisine), in San Francisco, but with more selection, and it's French - my favorite! This will be my go-to place in Palo Alto, thank goodness, finally! It's not cheap, but not too expensive either, for the quality you get.

Here are some quick snapshots of what we had. Everything was delicious, and paired with wine very well!

We sampled a variety of appetizers with a great bottle of 2010 Domaine des Comtes Lafon Meursault Clos de la Barre - the wine was a little tight at the beginning, as expected for the structured 2010 vintage of white burgundy, but continued to flesh out throughout the meal, a most excellent bottle of white burgundy, one of the best I've had all year, and to think - this was just a village level wine. This is of course a famous monopole of Domaine des Comtes Lafon. The master of Meursault showed his chops - elegance, balance of fruit, stone, cream, acid, spice - all there, in a very aristocratic package. It has a long long life ahead. I wish I had a 6-pack (alas, I only have one more bottle).

Beef tartar, whole grain, chive, black truffle, fingerling chips

Terrine de Campagne, chicken & pork, pickled mushrooms

Seafood special

Bone marrow

Roasted Button Mushrooms, “Escargot Butter & Crumb”

Short Rib “Bourguignon”, garniture traditionel, parsley bread crumb

Charred Brassicas (cauliflower), french curry, golden raisins

Ricotta Gnocchi - slow egg, mushrooms, brown butter, green onion

Roasted Pork Loin & Belly, piperade, crispy fingerlings, garlic confit, smoked paprika

The pork was a superb pairing with the 2005 Corton-Perrieres, which had been opened for 4 days, finally showing its best on day 4, indicating, not surprisingly, that 2005 grand crus are still much too young. Nevertheless, after sufficient aeration, the wine was on, with tons of deep material (typical of 2005) and game. Even though Vincent Girardin is not my favorite producer, this was a solid showing. I had had this wine one year ago and it was disappointing then. What a difference a year makes, and once again this is a reminder that Burgundies, especially at higher rungs of the hierarchy and from strong vintages, need time. Somewhat surprisingly, the Meursault was also quite a good match to the pork, very different obviously, but intriguing and pleasing. By this point of the meal, the Meursault had opened up, broadened, filled out and revealed more spice, all good things to accompany the pork dish.

I'll be back!


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