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Zengo: Small Plates, Big Flavor

August 30, 2011

In fourth grade, we had to write our autobiographies. I learned a new word during that project when I told my teacher that I didn’t have a favorite food, but I had a favorite type of food. And so while everyone else in Mr. Ash’s class wrote about how much they loved pizza, pasta and Chicken McNuggets, I wrote that I had three favorite cuisines: Thai, Chinese and Mexican.

Because, really, why limit yourself?

So when I heard about Richard Zandoval’s Zengo, which blends Latin and Asian flavors, I knew it was a must-eat. Just poring over the menu — with its Asian-inspired tacos and unique sushi combinations — left my mouth watering and stomach rumbling.

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After scoping out the menu, my friend Megan and I decided to split a bunch of small plates rather than each choose a large entree. I’d rather get a small taste of many dishes than a lot of one dish.

First: drinks! To start the Latin-Asian evening off right, I ordered a Sake Sangria (red wine / sake / brandy / oranges / apples).

It didn’t taste any different than a regular sangria but still delicious and refreshing!

Zengo impressed me from the start by offering a modified vegetarian menu, in addition to the diverse (and easily customizable) regular menu. When we ordered one dish that came with chorizo, not noticing that was an ingredient, the server immediately pointed it out and asked if we wanted the meat omitted or brought on the side. Nice touch!

First up: Charred Tuna Wonton Tacos (sushi rice / mango salsa / guacamole)

Sorry for the blurry photos — not great lighting for photography!

This was my favorite dish of the night. I could have eaten the entire plate, then ordered a few more, then asked for a couple to go. It was that good.

Next: Crunchy Calamari Salad (lemongrass / mixed greens / lime / orange-coriander sauce)

Incredible and fresh. Not too heavy on the sauce, which was citrus-y and refreshing, plus calamari that was only lightly fried. Perfect.

Then: Vegetariano sushi roll (grilled asparagus / red pepper / avocado / mushroom / lemon~sake aioli)

My least favorite dish. It was fine but bland, with little substance. The only thing I wouldn’t order again.

The next plate made up for it: Thai Shrimp Lettuce Wraps (chorizo / peanut / cilantro / tamarind)

Extraordinary — a mix of sweet and savory. The sauce wasn’t even needed, as the shrimp and peanuts was flavorful enough on its own.

Last but not least, an interesting twist on arepas: Arepas de Shitake (shiitake mushrooms / cornmeal cake / avocado / crema fresca)

Again, just awesome.

Splitting small plates was a fantastic way to try multiple dishes. We each left the restaurant feeling satisfied, but not stuffed, and like we’d gotten a good idea of the restaurant’s offerings.

I can say only good things about Zengo. Also, during happy hour, small plates are only $5 in the bar so it’s a great deal for dinner. Happy hour prices don’t apply upstairs but since the bar area was packed and we wanted to sit and chat for a while, we splurged on the full experience.

Either way, go there… NOW!

What’s your favorite type of food? I could eat Thai, Mexican or Lebanese all day, every day. See, even now I can’t choose just one!

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Life's a Bowl permalink
    August 30, 2011 6:58 pm

    I went there a couple of weeks ago with a group for one of my girlfriends birthday’s and loved it! We didn’t really share [each got a small plate to start and a large plate as an entree] which was probs a mistake cause we all could have eaten a little more but oh well, what was eaten was delicious 🙂 I loved the scallops!

  2. August 30, 2011 10:30 pm

    The sangria and food looks amazing. I’m salivating just sitting here reading about it. My favorite food is by far Indian/ Pakistani food although Mexican or Mediterranean are close seconds. It was so wonderful to meet you at HLS! I can’t wait to read more on your blog!

  3. August 31, 2011 12:13 am

    I L-O-V-E Thai food! When deciding where to go out to eat, my boyfriend knows it’ll be all over once he mentions a Thai place.

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