Saturday, June 30, 2012


Zengo is located at 622 Third Avenue at 40th Street in Manhattan. Click on link for website: Zengo 

The last time I set foot in that locale was the summer of 2007 when Jeffrey Chodorow's Wild Salmon occupied that venue.  Don't know how many times it's changed since then, but it's different now.  Zengo had a contemporary and vibrant crowd of patrons enjoying the various lunch offerings of small plates, entrees, bento boxes, sandwiches and salads.   And for a Friday afternoon the weekend before the 4th of July, that's a positive.

Zengo offers an eclectic cuisine which combines Latin and Asian styles and flavors. Chef-owner Richard Sandoval, whose accolades include Bon Appétit Restaurateur of the Year and Mexico's Toque d'Oro, puts together regional ingredients into beautifully balanced dishes that are designed for sharing.  We enjoyed almost the entire menu's Small Plates offerings and three of the Large Plates entrees at lunch yesterday.  And let's not forget the beverage menu which features innovative, hand-muddled cocktails as well as Latin wines, Japanese sakes and more than 400 Tequilas.  Our server was, according to the GM, the best in the restaurant.  And he was.

We enjoyed two of the restaurant's famed cocktails, recommended by our server and the GM.  First, was a Zengo Margarita made with Avion Silver Tequila, blood orange, serrano chiles, cilantro and citrus juice.
Zengo Margarita
Next, was a Tamarind-Togarashi Margarita, made with Agavales Blanco Tequila, tamarind, citrus, and togarashi salt that rimmed the glass.  No straw, please.
Tamarind-Togarashi Margarita
After ten dishes of food and several cocktails, we didn't have any room to sample the desserts.  Maybe next time.
First, our server offered us a mahi-mahi ceviche as an amuse.  I always enjoy muse's served on a ceramic spoon. Typically, they are one full bite of flavor.  And this was.  Also, the first time I've ever had a mahi-mahi ceviche.  And it was very good. 
A little bit spicy, but worked on the pallet.  Later, we also had the full version of the dish which is Mahi-Mahi Ceviche served with fermented pepper, citrus, Napa cabbage, cucumber, cilantro and red onion, garnished with shaved nori.

Mahi-Mahi Ceviche
Next up was Edamame, Salted.  Not much to describe here.   It's edamame sprinkled with sea salt.  Although the restaurant does offer a dish of edamame with XO style sauce and lime.  Next time, I'll try that one.

Edamame, Salted
The Thai Chicken Empanadas were another winner.  The chicken is combined with poblano chilies, oaxaca cheese and served with a mango-curry salsa.
Thai Chicken Empanadas
Achiote-Hoisin Pork Arepas were served with corn masa along with avocado and crema fresca.  I didn't taste this dish, but my dining companion enjoyed all of them.
Achiote-Hoisin Pork Arepas
The Charred Tuna Wonton Tacos were also very good. They were served atop sushi rice with a mango salsa, guacamole and pasilla.

Charred Tuna Wonton Tacos
The Duck Confit-Daikon Tacos was my favorite dish, by far.  Sliced daikon were the "tacos".  Curried apples were a condiment, and the orange-coriander sauce just completed the dish. 
Duck Confit-Daikon Tacos
And who couldn't resist a Mango and Eel Roll?  The roll was made with eel and mango, of course, also served with tempura shrimp, cucumber, avocado, sweet aji panca and red tobiko.
Mango and Eel Roll

I asked the GM for a taste of Zengo's Thai Coconut Chicken Soup.  I just wanted a taste.  Not a bowl or a cup.  Asked him for about 2 ounces of the soup just "in a shot glass".  And that's what I got.  The soup is served in an aji-coconut broth with pulled chicken, edamame, carrot, cilantro and fresh lime.  Nice flavor combination.  And since it was almost 100 degrees outside, just the right amount of soup to taste or test taste.

And now the Large Plates, or Entrees.  We tried three.
Lemongrass Arroz Con Pollo.  This has been on my mind since I first looked at Zengo's menu.  And I knew it would be a winner.  The dish was made with charbroiled boneless chicken served with coconut rice, nuoc mam sofrito, garlic chips and a mango salsa.  And, as I expected, it certainly was one to order.
Lemongrass Arroz Con Pollo
And, the Chipotle-Miso Glazed Black Cod.   Another winner.  Can't ever go wrong at a restaurant that serves any fish-- cod or bass --that is miso glazed.  This was served with a daikon radish and a lemon-togarashi aioli.  Awesome.
Chipotle-Miso Glazed Black Cod
Finally, there was salmon.  Maybe it's the locale, or whatever, but the salmon was-- well-- it must be the location.  The last Large Plate was the Sweet Ginger Salmon that was served with piloncillo, quinoa salad, sofrito and escabeche.  The salmon was prepared perfectly, but... 
Sweet Ginger Salmon

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