Date: March 4, 2011
Rating: Color me confused — It’s in a mall, and it’s pretty good.
A month to the day after my first visit (REVIEW HERE), I went back to Zengo. As I discussed previously, this is a slightly commercialized but pretty tasty mall restaurant whose appearence has accompanied the rooflift of Santa Monica Place. This one is Latin-Asian fusion. Sort of Asia de Cuba meets Rivera.
Today’s menu. PDF version HERE. The menu is pretty much all tapas style (hooray!) where you order 3 or so dishes per person and share them all.
“Hot & sour egg drop soup, foie gras-pork dumplings / enoki / green onion.” This is one of two repeats from last time. It had a very inserting note to the sour, from tamarind I think. The richness of the dumplings too is very nice as is the texture of the enoki.
“Thai shrimp lettuce wraps, chorizo / peanut / cilantro / tamarind chutney.” The second repeat. All three ingredients are combined like most “Thai wraps.”
Close up. The shrimp has a nice crunch and texture. The sauce is tamarind, and quite sour. Overall very nice.
“Peking duck-daikon tacos, duck confit / curried apple / orange-coriander sauce.” These were YUMMY. The meat was very soft and BBQ flavored. You could hardly tell it from some good Carolina style BBQ-pork, but it wasn’t pork (duck). The sauce is light and sweet, the apple mostly for texture, and the daikon an interesting and very slick and cool (it’s wet) take on a taco.
Close up. The smoked flavor of the meat comes through strong, and it’s darn good. The other elements provide complementary notes and texture.
“Achiote-hoisin pork arepas, corn masa / avocado / crema fresca.” These are serious flavor bombs. The meat tastes a bit like a good short rib, and goes perfectly with the typical pairing of avocado and crema fresca. There is just a bit of heat from the chilies.
“Scallops al mojo de ajo, roasted corn-edamame salsa / bacon, cotija cheese / roasted garlic soy, yuzu-sriracha aioli.” Probably the least successful dish of the lot, but certainly not bad. The scallops themselves were tasty. The rest was like a slightly coleslaw’ish succotash, with bacon chunks. The bacon was really good though — when isn’t it?
“Pork carnitas rice noodles, pork shoulder / mushroom / cashew / soft egg / hot ’n sour sauce.” Another winner. The noodles are tossed first, allowing the poached egg to break an coat them with yolk — Korean style? These overall had a really nice flavor: salty savory. Like Thai egg noodles with meat, but with more things going on.
As I said last thing, Zengo is not subtle cuisine, it’s full of crazy bold flavor combos. But I’m still impressed, and doubly so considering it’s a mall restaurant. The all tapas style menu gets my vote too because I’m sometimes a more is more kind of guy, and I hate getting stuck with just two dishes.