My Heart Belongs to Zazie

Since Zazie serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, the beverage list offers a wide range of quaffs, including French cider ($3.50), mimosas ($4), and citron presse ($2), a do-it-yourself lemonade of straight lemon juice and sugar to combine at will. There's also Chimay ($4.50), a fruity-tasting Belgian ale. The affordable wine list (with ample choices in the high teens and low 20s) is mainly Californian, and includes Bonny Doon's amusing Vin Gris de Cigare rose, plus one imported Chianti and a few French bottlings (a Cote de Rhone, a Lurton pays d'Oc merlot). Almost all the bottles are available by the glass ($4-6), which at Zazie means a jelly glass. (Although they're not well-designed for inhaling vinous aromas, jelly glasses are probably less likely than stemware to get knocked off the small, tightly spaced tables.)

Pears are currently at their peak season, so the dessert menu bore a windfall of them. Upside-down pear ginger cake ($6) was as moist and chewy as a brownie; it came with slightly hard baked pear halves and a scoop of superb vanilla-bean ice cream drizzled with caramel sauce. But a pear charlotte ($6) tasted like a mad experiment gone awry: If dessert is a sweet course, this was a sour course, with pears and ladyfingers macerated in lime juice and swathed in very tart, unsweetened creme fra”che -- something like a creamy version of citron presse, hold the sugar. (Had we arrived one night earlier, we could have had a chocolate-orange charlotte instead.)

Although dishes like this reflect some debatable culinary decisions, the complexity of flavor that's a constant here satisfies that craving for something special -- something a little more engaging than whatever we might cook at home. Almost every San Francisco neighborhood has some "cute little neighborhood place"; Cole Valley is singularly fortunate to have Zazie.

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