Thursday, January 12, 2006

Finding Zen at Zengo: Restaurant Week Continues

Zengo, we're told, means "give and take" in Japanese. This means that you give your order, and they take as long as they feel like to deliver your food. You eat your food in whatever order they decide to bring it, at whatever pace the kitchen turns it out. In practice this works well enough--appetizers arrive more or less together, etc. It's supposed to be part of the hip, cool, damn-the-rules attitude of the place, but it just makes me nervous and mildly irritated. Perhaps a more Zen-like approach to restaurant patronage (not just service) was called for and would have been rewarded.

The Restaurant Week menu was pretty limited, which didn't stop our beautiful, vacuous waitress from asking if we had any questions four times. I had a very nice, tart "Rock Shrimp Ceviche, driven on by the yuzu obsession of my constant dining companion, who is a great fan of this Japanese citrus of mysterious origin. The "Pan Roasted Red Snapper" had a very nice curry-scallion sauce. The better entree, though, was the "Chipotle-Soy Glazed Short Ribs" with purple potatoes. At dinner, we pondered whether the potatoes were naturally purple. (Answer: Yes, they descend from ancient Peruvian purple potatoes.) Dessert was "Churros con Chocolate." The tiny slivers of fried dough were hot and delicious. We occupied ourselves by debating whether the white goo on top of the little shot glass of chocolate sauce was whipped cream or marshmallow, but now that I look again at the menu, I see that it was actually meringue.

The decor is snazzy and does a decent job of capturing the Latin-Asian fusion of the cuisine. The other patrons offered excellent people-watching. The air over the stairwell is filled with dozens of lumpy, potato-like objects on strings (perhaps Peruvian purple potatoes?), and the lounge banquettes are covered in some sort of white, textured space-age polymer, and girls with very long eyelashes.

Final assessment: Food was quite good, atmosphere would be great for drinks or festive weekend meal but wasn't really my Restaurant Week ideal. Yuzu and purple potatoes added rare ingredient interest of the highest order. If you're feeling adventurous, throw on some Buddhist robes and enjoy some churros.

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