Wow, I liked this place.
Zola is what I would call “small french”. It’s not quite brasserie food, because brasserie means to me a lot of the hoary items such as cassoulet and escargot and frite.
This place feels french-french not cal-french in a love of butter and shallots.
We avoided the “mains” ( as we often do ) and ate a “brassica” dish, a mushroom gnocci, a tomato dish, and a cold trout thing from the garde-manger.
Service was pleasant - when they had miscalculated the quantity of a special, the waiter still brought us a single scallop almost as an amuse. Tables are WAY too close, in that rather modern way. Reviews claim the place is too loud, but they’ve put some baffles in.
Each dish was a bit oily, dripping with butter, overly rich, probably overly salted… but good ( when you’re in the mood for that kind of thing ).
The place is small but seems to have tables available, and even in palo alto, the price is “reasonable” ( I think we paid $60/pp out the door with 1.5 glasses of very good wine each — now, we didn’t have even a single entree, so maybe it was “palo alto reasonable” — ie, less unreasonable ).
I remember others’ reports was favorable on the place, too.
Thank you for the report (and all the peninsula coverage).
I agree that this place is very likeable. Easily my favorite in pa (for reference Darbar, Rangoon Ruby, and Evvia are also high up there) - I think for “higher end” dining in pa it’s the best. Unfortunately our luck has been mixed in getting a table there, but we’ve been twice. I do wish they had more than one vegetarian entree - which has been gnocchi both times we’ve gone. But the vegetable sides are fantastic as are the salads so my vegetarian boyfriend ate quite well. I think I had fish both times and found it tasty. I think we’ll be waiting until later in the fall when hopefully there will be a new round of vegetable dishes as it gets cooler (altho I could easily eat the charred brassica dish again and again and again…)
Glad you liked it! It’s pretty tough to get into on weekends. You have to plan ahead more than we tend to do on weekends, so we haven’t been back since our excellent first visit, but we need to fix that.
@bbulkow has long sung the praises on Zola, a French bistro that emphasizes seasonal freshness in downtown Palo Alto. I rarely made reservation plans early so I never got in. But last weekend they had early spots available. It was a good, and rich, meal.
Ricotta Gnocchi, with brown butter and egg and mushroom. With all the cheese, and butter, this was one heavy starter but a delicious one. The rich brown butter and egg coated the gnocchi and the mushroom while the crispy outer layer of the gnocchi provided a texture contrast with the rest of the dish.
Rillettes de Saumon, with mustard seeds, dill and toast. Not bad, though most of the flavors were supplied by the dill, with the (most likely farmed) salmon flavors muted. Would love to see them use wild sockeye that offers brighter salmon flavor, but understood that its only $11.
Duroc Pork Chop. Well cooked juicy pork chop with sweet peach chutney on top, mashed corn on one side, and peashoots and sweet corn kernels on the other. Delicious. I thought pea shoot season is winter?
Short Rib Bourguignon arrived in a mini Staub cocotte with the short rib cooked till fall-off-the-bone tender in a vegetable mirepoix. The delicious potatoes inside came with crispy outer skin. That and the super crispy/ crunchy bread crumbs provided a great textural contrast with the tender beef.
Washed it all down with a carbernet franc. Very solid French meal at a resaonable price point for the Palo Alto/ valley. Michelin got this French bib-gourmand pick right (as they should, they are French), though the price may be a bit higher than the bib price point.
What else is good?
ETA: its also odd that the place received not much press coverage, with a review from Mercury News and 200 Yelp reviews and some mention from Palo Alto Weekly.