All words: Shannon Cusello
All photos: Stephanie Breijo
From our second floor table next to floor-to-soaring-ceiling windows, we could almost forget we were in Chinatown. Richard Sandoval’s Zengo showcases what he does best–Latin-Asian Fusion. Having always passed up his Masa14 for his El Centro D.F., I was enticed by the new Peruvian-Malaysian menu in Zengo’s series of Latin-Asian seasonal mash-ups. This picky eater decided it was time to be game for anything.
Our first dish was a Spicy Crab and Potato “Sushi.” Chopsticks were no match for the tiny tower of avocado, crab and corn curry balanced atop a purple potato cake. Pretty on the plate, this one-bite appetizer was doomed to the faux-pas of eating “sushi” with a fork. It proved to be a very strange mix of spicy and crunchy crab, overtaken by mushy potato.
But the Chicken Satay arrived skewered with a tiny dagger and the words “I’m sorry, I have to take the sword.” Our waitress did us a favor by removing the weapon from the chicken, as my companion/faithful photog and I most likely would have found a way to injure/puncture/slice ourselves with it. The chicken was super moist and tender with a major kick. Accompanied by roasted fingerling potatoes smothered in aioli and a crisp and refreshing cucumber salad, this was a perfect twist on a familiar combo. The salsa atop, along with the cucumbers, added a bright spice and the aioli gave the potatoes just the right amount of guilty-pleasure points.
If there is one thing I am a sucker for, it’s things in miniature–so when the Paella arrived in a relatively small skillet, I may have squealed just a bit. This. was. Everything. Calamari, Mussels, Shrimp, and Scallops, doused in butter and mixed with still-cooking curried rice was just what one wants in a seafood paella. It was a fantastic balance of rice and seafood simmering in its iron skillet, every bite like a treasure hunt for the perfect mouthful of seafood.
The gorgeous Skate Wing looked almost too grand to touch, but we were so glad we did. Perfect flaky white fish with a ginger and chile butter sauce was so simply delicious that it almost made no sense to add anything to the plate. Almost. The addition of what the waitress referred to as “crack-cake” sealed the deal on this wonderful dish: A crispy lentil and rice cake with bacon and cheese. Bacon. Cheese. Lentils. Rice. In a patty. Everything was just rich enough that it felt like a serious indulgence, but still managed to leave us room for dessert.
The addition of apples to a fairly classic mojito gave our cocktail the perfect fall flair and conjured up memories of fishing for chunks of booze-saturated fruit out of summertime sangria.
The toasted coconut Profiteroles made for a surprisingly light dessert. The cream puffs were a bit on the dry side, but the coconut ice cream was insanely refreshing and a brilliant, cleansing bite after the almost overwhelming (but welcome!) assault of butter, spices, and textures.