Zengo: the bar review

I went to Zengo last night with some friends for girl-talk-over-drinks. We sat in the bar/lounge area and didn’t order any food, so you’ll have to go elsewhere for discussion of the menu.

Zengo is right next to the Chinatown Metro station entrance at 7th and H, so it would be hard for it to be more conveniently located. The restaurant dining area is upstairs, and the smaller downstairs area is dedicated almost entirely to the bar area and several low lounge tables surrounded by couches. As far as ambience goes, it was great- the music was well-chosen and was played loud enough to enjoy but not so loud that you have to shout to converse with the person next to you (my personal bar pet peeve). The decor matches the Latin/Asian fusion theme- clean and simple lines with warm colors. No complaints there, except that the couch/banquette thing along the wall opposite the bar is as high as the barstools, but without any corresponding foothold, making it extraordinarily difficult and undignified for short people such as myself to sit on it. But climbing up on barstools is something I’m pretty used to by now, so that’s really more of a minor gripe about restaurants designed by tall people.

The wine and beers have a distinctly ethnic bent as you would expect- Mexican and Japanese beers, sake, and Argentinian and Chilean wines. Several of my friends ordered from Zengo’s signature cocktails menu- their drinks were met with mixed reviews.

What I really want to talk about is Zengo’s service. I realize, we were in the lounge rather than the restaurant portion, so I didn’t expect a lot of attention from servers, and that’s fine. But when I stand at the bar for several minutes, closed drink menu in hand, trying to catch the attention of a bartender, I expect to be able to, you know, ORDER A DRINK, rather than read all about the drinks I can’t order while the bartender ignores me.

This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs
Instead, thus denied, I climbed up onto the aforementioned banquette and got the attention of one of the servers, who did bring the requested glass of Malbec pretty quickly. As our group of 10 or so subsumed two small bar tables, the organizer of this little outing informed us that she had called to ask about reserving one of the lounge tables, and had been told that for 10 people it was a minimum order of $1200 to reserve one. That’s right, $120 per person. In the bar. On a weeknight.

I have come close to running up a $120 bar tab for myself on one occasion in my life. Tom and I refer to it as The Denver Incident. That it has a capitalized, proper name should indicate to you why it’s not a more common occurrence.

The crowning moment in my Zengo service experience, however, came when it was time for people to settle tabs. We quickly realized that my glass of Malbec, so speedily delivered, had been charged to the tab of another member of the party. “Oh,” the server said, “We had too many tabs open so they put it on hers.”

Okay, but since that was incorrect, can she get a correct bill?

“You can’t just pay HER for it?” the server asked, clearly irritated.

It’s not that I couldn’t “just pay HER for it,” since it was a $9 glass of wine and I had enough cash on me to cover it. It’s that for starters, either your POS system is poor or your staff isn’t bright enough if they can’t keep up with the number of tabs a busy bar is likely to have open at any given time.

Secondly, I don’t think an accurate bill is such an oppressive expectation from a place that requires a $120/person minimum to reserve a damn lounge table.

Thirdly, what if I couldn’t “just pay HER?” Maybe I didn’t have any cash on me. While the person who got the incorrect bill is certainly a friend, she’s a new friend, and so I’m not yet comfortable saying, “Oh, just let me get you back later for that,” like I would with someone I know better. (That’s an important friendship milestone that you don’t want to push too quickly, you know.) What do you suppose the reaction would have been if we handed in the bill with two credit cards and made them break out my $9 drink anyway?

It’s not that I wouldn’t go back, because it actually was a pretty nice place; it’s that I probably wouldn’t go back with a large group again. So consider this my vote against Zengo for any future Metroblogging DC happy hours.

This post appeared in its original form at DC Metblogs

Tiffany Baxendell Bridge is an Internet enthusiast and an incurable smartass. When not heckling the neighborhood political scene on Twitter, she can be found goofing off with her ukulele, Bollywood dancing, or obsessing about cult TV. She is That Woman With the Baby In the Bar.

Tiffany lives in Brookland with her husband Tom, son Charlie, and two high-maintenance cats. Read why Tiffany loves DC.

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