Thursday, July 11, 2013

Zengo

Zengo is a Latin-Asian fusion restaurant with trendy, hip, and colorful decor located conveniently off the Chinatown Metro stop. They have a split dining room and a small bar area. I have heard that the cocktails are superb, but have not tried one myself yet. The service is friendly yet can be a bit rushed to keep up with the busy flow of patrons. Closest Metro is Gallery Place-Chinatown.

January 2008: I tried this place during Restaurant Week, so I assume the portions were a little smaller than average. Our waitress explained that many of the meals were good for sharing, but the single empanada only offered a bite to each of us. I did not really care for the chicken and lettuce wraps either, as they were very messy to eat. Also, Keith was disappointed with the Kobe beef portion - very tiny.


July 2013: Wow, I can't believe I had not been to Zengo in over 5 years.  Based on the minimal remarks I made last time, I think I simply dismissed this place over the years.  However, I recently returned with a gaggle of work colleagues for lunch.  We were seated upstairs in the main dining room at a lovely grand moon-shaped booth by the window.  The interior was much nicer than I remembered.  The menu is straight forward with the Latin-Asian fusion prominent in each dish with a mix of spice and ingredients.  I chose the Roll Box.  For $12 it came with the Angry Zengo Roll, a spicy yellowfin tuna roll with avocado, cucumber, sesame, and green onion topped with wasabi tobikko and chipotle rouille.  The roll was incredibly fresh and not too spicy despite the "angry" name.  The more angry component was the side of papaya salad.  Shreds of green papaya and carrots were tossed in a vinaigrette loaded with aggressive chili powder that numbed my tongue and was not pleasant to eat.  I left most behind.  Additionally, my box lunch came with a chipotle miso soup studded with fresh diced tomatoes and scallions.  The bits of tofu and seaweed in the soup were good, but I did not care for the overpowering use of truffle oil.  I found it unnecessary for this type of soup.

Others in the group ordered the Zengo Fried Rice loaded with shrimp, duck, pork, egg, carrot, peas, and topped with a handful of bean sprouts.  While the consensus was that the dish had great flavor, there was concern that the portion size was a bit small for $11 and that the bean sprouts on top a bit overwhelming.  The other popular choice of the group was the Grilled Skirt Steak Salad.  For $14, a large bowl of greens came tossed with the spicy green papaya, peanuts, carrots, red onions, and a zingy ginger vinaigrette.  A wedge of lime was provided for extra citrus flavor and the grilled meat - cooked to your temperature's liking - was sliced and placed on top.  Again, common remarks were that the vinaigrette and spices were extremely flavorful and tasty.

Overall, everyone enjoyed their meal at Zengo and according to Julio the place "passes the test because A) I would go back to eat there again and B) I would recommend it to others."  Perhaps I won't wait another 5 years before returning again...

Total Rating: 4.05
Food: 4, Price: 4, Service: 4, Ambience: 4, Accessibility: 5

What I ate:
Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps
chicken, peanut, cilantro, with a spicy tamarind chutney

Tofu Rice Noodles
tofu, mushroom, cashew, soft egg with hot 'n sour sauce
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Roll Box
Angry Zengo Roll, Chipotle Miso Soup, papaya salad


Plus Keith ate:
Empanadas
Thai chicken, chile poblano rajas, Oaxaca cheese, with mango-curry salsa

Kobe Beef
cooked on a hot stone with wasabi dipping sauce

Zengo on Urbanspoon

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