Review By: Stefanie Parks –
It was my last dinner with my mom and there were a few places I was dying to take her:
These are all places that are very high on mine and Dave’s list, so was hoping we could knock one of them out with my mom. My uncle was planning to join us for dinner, so my first suggestion was Mission Chinese. He said (and I quote) “You really want to go to the lower east side? Any way we can possibly just be Americans tonight and eat normal human food and not cumin lamb and dragon balls??”
So, I guess he wasn’t into my suggestion. I sent him the three other options and instead of texting be back with his thoughts, he said we should have a 5pm call to discuss. Ok, Uncle Irwin.
At 5pm, we got on a call and he told me that he thought I was joking about the other options that I sent him. Clearly he wasn’t into those either. So, he suggested Zengo, which he said I would love AND was right by his office. How convenient!
When my mom and I walked into Zengo, it was exactly the Midtown power-lunch (or dinner) spot that I had been expecting. AKA it was totally opposite from every one of the places that I had suggested, but at the same time, right up my uncle’s alley. I was excited to get to spend some time with him though, so really the restaurant choice was NBD (no big deal).
Dave was stuck at work and running a little late, but my mom and I met my uncle a little early and ordered a few appetizers to hold us over (though I have to admit that I still wasn’t even that hungry). We started with Salted Edemame, Thai Chicken Empenadas with Chile Poblano, Oaxaca Cheese (a white, semi-hard cheese from Mexico that tastes similar to Monterey Jack, but with a Mozarella-like string cheese texture), and Mango Curry Salsa, and then an order of Guacamole.
Everything was very salty (though in my opinion, the saltier the better). The edemame was pretty standard and the guac was just ok, but the thai chicken empenadas were the best thing that I ate all night. I wish they could have been my whole meal.
Once Dave showed up, we put in the order for our entrees. Dave and I shared the Volcano Roll with seared salmon, red crab, cucumber, and chipotle aioli and the Korean Char Siu Pork Tenderloin with Endive, Radicchio, Snap Peas, and Stuffed Rice. I didn’t love either of our entrees (and they were our waitresses recommendations, so that was pretty disappointing). The volcano roll was nothing special (and you would think that for $14, it should be exactly that) and the pork loin was a small portion and the meat was very tough.
Actually, I think the best entree was the one my mom ordered. She got the Sweet Ginger Salmon with Piloncillo, Quinoa Salad, Sofrito, and Escabeche. I don’t know what Piloncillo or Escabeche is, but the fish was delicious and the sauce really made it. I knew my mom was going to order the salmon (she almost always does), but it was a great choice!
For dessert, we got the Baked Banana Split with Milk Chocolate Cinnamon Rum Ganache, Mexican Vanilla Ice Cream, and Salted Candied Walnuts and Spiced Churros with Dark Chocolate Dipping Sauce. I wasn’t crazy about the banana split, it was a little mushy in my opinion, but the churros were awesome…. Though i don’t think I’ve ever met a churro I didn’t like.
While I can’t say Zengo was one of my favorite restaurants I’ve been to, we did have a few good dishes… My one regret though is not ordering the Chocolate Hazelnut Tacos for dessert. They look awesome and were featured on Tasting Table this week. As good as they look though, I doubt I’ll be going back for them.