Thursday, August 16, 2007

47 restaurants in 47 days: #29, Zibibbo

430 Kipling Street, Palo Alto

Zibibbo has become our restaurant of choice when we have an out-of-town visitor to entertain. Or when we're meeting friends for dinner. Or when we'd like to have an especially good meal with an interesting choice of wines. We're not regulars yet, but we seem to find a lot of reasons to come here.

Whatever you feel like eating, you'll probably find something on the menu that suits you. If you'd like a sampler plate, the antipasti includes your choice of sweet roasted beets with crumbled goat cheese, a salad of roasted mushrooms, good house-made hummus, eggplant "caviar," mixed olives, or albondigas (little meatballs in a Spanish tomato sauce).

Seafood is another way to go. On our most recent visit, diners next to us shared a large fruits de mer platter, a plentiful assortment of clams, oysters and prawns. I've enjoyed the whole sea bass, roasted in the wood-fired oven with peppers, olives, capers and mint.

It would be easy to make a meal just from the menu section titled "small plates of the Mediterranean." Several times I've ordered the Moroccan-spiced prawns, which arrive sizzling and smoking fragrantly on a cast-iron platter with scallions and sliced lemons. There's also a delicious duck confit salad with frisee, apricots and walnut vinaigrette.

The daily specials from the wood-fired oven are consistently good, served family-style on large colorful platters. So far, we've tried Sunday's pepper-crusted prime rib and Monday's roast suckling pig, served on a bed of arugula with cracklings and citrus vinaigrette.

On our last visit, we especially liked a pizza topped with roasted figs, prosciutto, and arugula. The crust was equally crispy and chewy, and the sweet figs contrasted beautifully with the salted meat. Even the standard "plain cheese" pizza, which pleases our boys, is good enough that B and I compete for the rare leftover slice.

I also sampled an unusual cocktail, with the fanciful name of "bourbon in bloom:" Knob Creek bourbon, orange-blossom honey, fresh lemon juice, and a "float" of Prosecco. The drink was unexpectedly tart and refreshing, despite the honey and the sweet wine.

Zibibbo's interior is an interesting indoor-outdoor space, part shaded patio and part high-ceilinged modern rooms. There's a a big stone fireplace outside that probably gets plenty of use in the cooler months. One of the inner rooms is a wine bar, and others have views of the open kitchen.

Zibibbo's Web site states that it was named one of the 20 best American restaurants by readers of Gourmet magazine (although it doesn't mention the year). It's one of a small family of restaurants that includes the flagship Restaurant LuLu in the SoMa district of San Francisco.

Zibibbo in Palo Alto

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