Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar is Zoned for Comfort

Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar

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Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar is Zoned for Comfort

Even on a hopping Saturday night in Sonoma County, there is something relaxed about the dining experience at Zin, executive chef Jeff Mall's love letter to New American cuisine, located in Healdsburg.

The scene, like the restaurant itself, is casual and inviting in a decidedly unstudied way, immediately suggesting the kind of easy chic that is synonymous with life in Sonoma Wine Country.

It is, in short, the sort of place where one doesn't feel hurried toward an experience, but instead encouraged to savor whatever experience lies ahead.

A quick first glance at Zin's menu immediately suggests Chef Mall's flair for imbuing his food with a flourish of Southern flair, or at least that was my initial thought when my eyes landed on my first course of the evening, 'Eggs & Bacon,' which turned out to be a pitch-perfect marriage of Eastside Farm deviled eggs, Zin bacon, and pickles. And just what pray tell are Eastside Farm eggs and Zin bacon, you might ask?

Well, in keeping with Chef Mall's upbringing on a farm in California's Central Valley, homegrown ingredients are celebrated with real tender loving care on Zin's menu. While farm-fresh produce is cultivated and harvested at Zin's Eastside Farm, all of the ham, bacon, and sausages on Zin's menu are produced in the Zin Kitchen.

Likewise, all of the breads served at Zin come from the restaurant's kitchen, as do the condiments served with them, right down to the preserves and honey. Just like Grandma used to do it (not my grandmother, mind you, but someone else's to be sure).

For the second course, though, I could just as easily have chosen the Liberty Farms Duck Leg or Applewood Smoked Natural Pork Chop with braised chard (another Southern-inspired favorite), I opted instead for Zin's much talked about Pan Roasted Mary's Chicken served with grilled Meyer lemon and a broccoli rice with Fiscallini cheddar. A bold decision, if I must say so myself, because worse than my fear that roast chicken was a boring choice was my concern that my pick gave Chef Mall very little room to shine, but I couldn't have been more wrong.

With my first forkful of the perfectly cooked chicken, which was succulent and juicy. And the cheesy rice: I was immediately transported back to one of those casseroles that folks who live in the southeastern quadrant of the United States enjoy so regularly — only this was a deconstructed and infinitely better version.

Simple in terms of its components, but masterful in its execution, the Pan Roasted Mary's Chicken is the kind of dish that I would return to Zin for time and time again as do so many regulars. With its hint of the familiar from the past combined with its nod to contemporary palates, it is pure comfort on a plate.

And that is the sort of thing that Zin does so well. The artistry and the 'wow factor' of each menu item is in the ingredients and the adept use of them in the hands of Chef Mall.

That the bread pudding and carrot cake with which I ended the meal were among the best iterations of either that I have ever sampled, goes without saying.

Details: Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar, 344 Center Street, Healdsburg

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Duane Wells