Ensnared by Zaré at Fly Trap in San Francisco

Mahi Mahi on a bed of wicked good chickpeas.

It’s not every day that a chef threatens to come kidnap you if you don’t make it to his restaurant soon.

But that’s just what Chef-Owner Hoss Zaré of Zare at Fly Trap in San Francisco did to me.

In the nicest of ways, of course.

Fiercely proud of his South of Market establishment that he returned to cook at last year, after having been the chef there also in the early 1990s, Zaré invited me to come taste his punchy Mediterranean cuisine.

Born in Iran of Turkish heritage, Zaré is a self-trained chef with a big personality and playful sense of humor (both de facto requirements needed to kidnap a food writer, after all). Previously, he’s cooked at Restaurant Ecco in San Francisco, and Aromi in San Francisco. He also ran his own restaurants, Zaré in the mid-1990s in San Francisco, Bistro Zaré in the late-1990s in San Francisco, and Zaré Napa in Wine Country, from 2005-2007.

Zaré at Fly Trap is as colorful as the chef. Deep red walls, a pressed tin ceiling, and a profusion of old botanical prints hanging everywhere, lend a casual, artsy warmth.

The innovative cocktails ($10 each) are hard to resist. I sipped a “Minted Memory,” a highball filled with gin, Pimm’s No. 1, lemon, and Iranian minted vinegar syrup. It was tangy, citrusy, refreshing, and yes, quite memorable. My hubby opted for the “Absinthe Frappé,” made with Kubler Absinthe, Orgeat, and lemon. One sip was enough to wake the dead, but then if you’ve ever had absinthe, you know how powerful the anise-flavored liquor can be. Sip it slowly and bask in the powerful warmth it envelopes you in.

A signature pistachio meatball in a powerful pomegranate sauce.

Dinner started with pistachio meatballs ($12), so tender, and floating in a pool of  harissa-honey-pomegranate glaze. The flavor of the meatballs, themselves, got lost in the sauce. But if you love big, big flavors, you’ll enjoy the earthy, fruity, tart, syrupy sauce that is definitely a mouth-full.

Smoked trout atop noodles made of cucumber.

Smoked trout ($11) gets a twist with a bed of “lingunini” that are really thin, delicate strands of cucumber tossed with dill creme fraiche and topped with glistening orange trout roe. Truly, a lovely dish.

“Ménage a Foie” ($15) features three different seared liver preparations: foie gras, sheep’s liver, and chicken liver. The foie gras was unmistakable with its rich, luxurious texture. I’d never had sheep’s liver before. With the densest texture of the three, it was a tad gamier than the chicken liver, but I wouldn’t say it was necessarily distinctive.

sheepliver

My husband’s entree of mahi mahi ($19) came atop a brothy pile of tender, wonderfully nutty tasting chickpeas that hid little pieces of eggplant and capers. I could barely restrain myself from taking spoonful after spoonful of chickpeas off his plate.

Wild salmon flavored with Moroccan spcies.

My grilled Moroccan-spiced wild salmon ($24), crusted on the outside and moist inside, was surrounded by wonderful toasted fregola (tiny balls of semolina flour pasta).

Former Bravo TV “Top Chef” contestant, Marisa Churchill was the consulting pastry chef for the desserts. Silky panna cotta ($9) made with Greek yogurt gets drizzled with a sweet, loamy truffle honey in a new sweet-savory take on a cheese course. Order this to end your meal on a light note.

Yogurt panna cotta drizzled with honey flavored with pungent truffl

But if you have any room left, do order the “Fried Milk Torrijas” ($9). As our server aptly described them, they’re a cross between American donuts and Spanish churros, and shaped like tiny Twinkies. The crunchy-coated fritters give way to an almost custardy interior. Dunk the torrijas into the tiny cup of hot chocolate that comes topped with a teeny, melty, rose-flavored marshmallow. It’s kid’s play taken to new heights.

Fried milk donuts.

Nope, it’s not every day that a chef threatens to come kidnap me to get me into his restaurant.

But it’s defintely a good day when one does.

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Date: Friday, 12. June 2009 4:52
Trackback: Trackback-URL Category: Chefs, General, Restaurants

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21 comments

  1. 1

    What a great meal! Everything described here just really appeals to me (except maybe the sheep liver). The harissa honey pomegranate glaze sounds amazing, and both mains look fantastic. Great descriptions!

  2. 2

    I love the new incarnation of Flytrap! Along with the big, bold flavors of the food is a most unusual wine list. I did a review for SF Station and happily I was able to eat there about 3 times. I would go back in a instant.

  3. 3

    Everything looks so good! I particularly love that first dish. Yummy!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  4. 4

    I would not mind being kidnapped to visit this place – excellent dishes! Love the meatball and the trout especially!

  5. 5

    Man… I lived in San Francisco and I’ve never been here! Arrghh! Now I have to fly back just to check it out! :)

  6. 6

    The smoked trout looks amazing. Sounds so fancy! Aren’t you a lucky one to get to enjoy all of these culinary creations?!

  7. 7

    I was just there last night, having cocktails! I LOVE the Minted Memory…it’s my favorite. Next time you go, you MUST try the braised eggplant app. It is the pinnacle of umami. There’s some kind of roasted nut puree in it that makes it outstanding next to the sour yogurt it’s served with. Probably my favorite thing on the menu there.

  8. 8

    I practically SWOONED at the mention of the pistachio meatballs with the harissa-honey-pom glaze, and the cucumbers for linguini. What a terrific meal!

  9. 9

    The ‘stachio meatballs got us. Or perhaps it’s the glaze? Yes, the glaze!

  10. 10

    I have wanted to check this place out for some time. But I want to bring my friend Sepideh with me, so I’ll have to wait until I can convince her to make the trip to SF. It better be soon,

  11. 11

    I’m drooling…wow. It all looks terrific, and the prices seem extremely reasonable. How perfect.

  12. 12

    Every so often one of your posts leaves me fraught with “Formerly-Fully-Employed-Now-Out-On-Her-Own-Food-Writer-Restaurant-Reviewer” envy. This one definitely did the trick. Oh, to be wooed by a Chef of this caliber! I want to taste those chickpeas!

  13. 13

    Victoria: Thanks for the tip on the eggplant appetizer. I’ll definitely have to order that the next time around.

    Carroll: Ahh, the chickpeas. So nutty tasting. Soft in texture, but still with a little firm heft to them, not like those one-note canned ones. These would make a garbanzo lover out of anyone.

  14. 14

    I am volunteering to be kidnapped! :)

  15. 15

    I love that you were almost kidnapped :-) But seriously that meal looks delicious. I am especially enticed by the dessert!

  16. 16

    I want to get the full Menue, very nice indeed!
    Greets Dirk

  17. 17

    Does he do any Turkish food? I should visit SF!

  18. 18

    I want the smoked trout on the bed of cucumber noodles! I do appreciate a mouthful of meat so the meatball has my name written all over it.

    Love your blog! I’ll be back.

  19. 19

    Carolyn,

    All your food photos look great!!!! You are doing a wonderful job!! Makes me so hungry looking at the yummy food that you are profiling!

    Joanne

  20. 20

    Joanne: I have you to thank. I’m still not the pro at photography that you are. But I am grateful for all the tips you have given me. Woo hoo for friendship and camaraderie.

  21. 21

    Yum! I made pesto today and discovered some frozen Mahi Mahi in the freezer. I pulled together a meal of pesto-chickpea noodles with grilled Mahi Mahi. Probably not snare-worthy, but easy and delicious! The link is up on my blog . Thanks for the inspiration. Still need to work on the photos…

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