Our outing to Zengo for restaurant week was perfect in every way. Zengo deserves much of the credit, obviously, but it helped to have a good sized group of people – five – who were all willing and thrilled to share their food. I think Frank Bruni’s article about how deranged his dining companions have been over the years says less about the world at large – as he alleges – and more about the caliber of his friends. Certainly none of the attitudes he describes were at play at our table, as nothing failed to get passed around and shared and nobody was shy about consuming their fair share.
My darling wife and I arrived ahead of both our dining companions and our reservation so we spent a little quality time in the bar. I’m a boring beer drinker but my dearest had the cucumber mojito, which she declared excellent. The bartender claims their mango mojito is also superb, but the conversation happened because of the look of horror on our faces when he made a few in front of them. No doubt that mass of pink goo he dropped in on top of the ice tastes like delicious mango mint goodness once it’s dissolved into the drink, but, like sausage, this is something you should not watch being made if you expect to enjoy it.
I comment on how polite and efficient the host staff was in seating us only because it was the beginning of a trend. I see a lot of concern from people about the quality of service during restaurant week but if any of the staff at Zengo thought we were unworthy of their best effort than I can only imagine what it’s like there during ‘normal’ service. I was tempted to see if was even possible for me to drain my water glass below the halfway mark before someone came around but I feared I’d rupture something.
courtesy of ‘needlessspaces’
Last night Inspiration DC‘s Rebecca and I headed over to preview Zentan, the new trendy hot spot at the Donovan House Hotel on Thomas Circle. The new hot spot opened on June 8th, after a bit of a kerfluffle (the space was supposed to be a new Todd English spot), when Chef Susur Lee of Shang in New York stepped up to fill in. Chef Lee, who is known for a wide variety of Asian-influenced restaurants, was also the second Canadian chef to appear on the Food Network’s Iron Chef America against Iron Chef Bobby Flay. So I was excited to see what came of all the drama – would Zentan live up?
Also, if you’ll let me ramble for a moment, Zentan signifies to me the solidification of the quality I’ve come to expect from hotel restaurants in our area. This is thanks in part to boutique chains like Kimpton, who work to pair quality Chef-driven restaurant concepts with their hotels. But excellent in-hotel restaurants are certainly on the rise in DC, and I have much higher standards for hotel restaurants here than I do when I travel. I was interested to see what Lee would bring to the District, plus get a peek at the Thompson Hotel. Continue reading
Nestled along Clarendon Boulevard in the Court House area, Yaku looks to be the perfect neighborhood hot spot. Two levels of glass and glowing lights, it always looks warm and inviting from the street. I live in Arlington, and have walked past Yaku almost daily since it’s conception as just an empty office space below my dream real-estate local, The Odyssey condominiums.
When it finally looked as if something was actually going to go in the space (that had stood empty since before I moved here in fall 2007), I got pretty excited. On my walk home, I ran up to check the posted licences to see what it would be. It’s the perfect location to be our new favorite go-to spot. Yaku, the signs said. Hmm… I said. That’s an odd name. A little googling, and I find that Yaku will be another restaurant from Latin Concepts, the same people who brought us places like Chi-Cha Lounge, Mate, Ceviche, and Guarapo (which is only around the corner from Yaku).
According to the Web site, “YAKU, is a “Chifa” restaurant lounge brought to you by Fraga-Rosenfeld. Chifa is the fusion of Chinese and Peruvian cuisine developed by Chinese immigrants to Peru in the late 19th and early 20th centuries… The name YAKU means “water” in Quechua (Incan Language) and is intended to capture Asian-influenced Andean culinary styles unique to the region.” Yaku is also, says our friend wikipedia, a town located on Yaku Island, Japan. So let’s just go with Asian-Peruvian fusion, and call it interesting… Continue reading
Sticky Rice is a lot like its brazenly named signature dish, “Sticky Balls” – a chaotic gooey crunchy glorious mess.
This isn’t some temple of sushi where a plate of trembling tempura is placed in front of you with a reverential hush like it’s the freaking Holy Grail. You want that, go to Sushi Ko. You want pristine sashimi prepared by traditional chefs, go to Sushi Taro. You want beautiful experiments and the occasional fugu dinner, go to Kaz.
What you will get at Sticky Rice is irreverent cuisine, a florid interior reminiscent of a tattoo parlor’s secret bordello, and a crazy atmosphere like some art students’ late night party. And resign yourself to waiting on a busy weekend… this isn’t the place to hit with a hard time deadline.