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May 6, 2009 04:40 PM

Zengo: conflicting reviews

Some of the reviews / posts give Zengo strong recommendations, and others absolutely slate it. There are some complaints about price/value, and some about service, but the strongest conflicts are about the food itself: some reviews say that it is lovely- fresh, well prepared, innovative, and others say that it is a waste of time- uninteresting in concept and execution. Any ideas as to why there are such extreme views? To go or not to go?

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  1. I ate there once. The menu is divided up into four sections, the first three of which are small bites/plates. Many of these like min-arepas, mini-egg rolls, mini-whatever are pricey, tiny, and better executed at straight up Latin or Asian restaurants. The final part of the menu, full-sized plates, contained some real gems like a tofu steak, rib-roast ?, and a black cod, if memory serves me, that were impressive.

    The restaurant is very popular and very, very loud. I tried going in one other time and was repulsed by the noise. The sound waves practically pushed me back out onto the street.

    2 Replies
      1. re: Steve

        Thanks for that- esp. the comment on noise, as one of our party is very noise-intolerant!

      2. I actually disagree about the noise, but I mostly have gone on weeknights when it can be pretty dead. The upstairs is so big that it actually is a little quieter than many places in that area of town.

        I think the food is good, there were few misses for me. I loved the sushi, empanadas, their XO sushi is downright addictive and I would go just for the taste of that, I love the flavor of the pork fat in the XO sauce I could mop the bowl with the edamame to make sure I get every last bit of that goodness. I wasn't crazy about the carnitas, rice noodles, but I think that is because in general I don't like hot and sour sauce or sweet and sour sauce for that matter. Their fish tacos are really good, some of the best in the DC area. Their lobster pot stickers are good too.

        I also think their mojitos are some of the best in DC.

        I think the service we get is normal nothing above average but not bad, I like to sit downstairs at the bar most of the time and the bartenders are really nice. Anyway those are my thoughts. I think the food is different in a good way, I like a lot of the flavor combination between the savory and spices.

        1. I think part of the divide is just about what kind of diner you are. Zengo is lound and very consciously seems to try to be hip and new. This leads to some innovative dishes, but from my experience I found myself just wishing for a good "purer" version of the strange concoction I was eating. The sushi is mostly those "creative" roles with lots of stuff and layers where in the end you can't taste the fish. Not my kind of sushi. It's a fun bar scene, but at that price point there is much better food in the area.

          1. i don't think it's worth going there for food - i think what zengo is best for is a nice cocktail and maybe app or two..

            1. I think that most of the reviews that slate it, are when it's between it and a better place.
              Take, PS7's, I think that hands down, Pete does a better job than Zengo. He offers a softer and more pleasant dining room, with food that shows his intelligence. That said, I don’t think that Zengo’s food is bad, I just think that it’s not all together geared to a vast number, just those that like that style cuisine. I think that Clyde’s Gallery Place is better, but it is really subject to the digression of the personal feelings of what you like and don't. It is also important to remember that Zengo has had numerous chefs, all with different ideas about approach to the menu. All of which, is really tough to build business and keep the food consistent when the driver of the kitchen is constantly changing, along with the ideas.

              3 Replies
              1. re: themeatguy

                Well and they are a chain, there is one in Denver as it was featured on one of Giada's weekend getaway shows, but I don't know where the other is without googling, so really the recipes come from someone else and so the chefs have to work with what comes down probably. I think a lot of the signature dishes are the same, I know the Denver one has the Kobe beef hot rock and XO edamame since I saw them on the show.

                1. re: ktmoomau

                  When they 1st opened, Alan Yu was the chef, a great cook that worked for Michel, his menu was more intune with the Denver Menu.....and was good.

                  The last couple times I have been, it has made me wish I had gone to PS7 or Proof around the corner.

                  1. re: themeatguy

                    I think in terms of overall food quality Proof would certainly be better and PS7, but if you want something different PS7 is good. I like it for that as noted above I think if you want something different and you have been to most places. I often go for happy hour get the edamame and a few things on special, but go with Fiance for dinner too when we are tired of the normal restaurant food. Like except Surfside there really aren't many other good fish tacos. That edamame is certainly worth a trip, and I like the wierd sushi rolls, I think they are better at Sticky Rice, but Fiance doesn't like parking our cars in the hood over there (and I get yelled at if I go there alone, I don't think it's that bad but he does). So it has it's place I think. But when you eat out a lot I think you get tired of certain things and just want something different now and again.

                    I have to say the "Primanti" sandwich at the bar at PS7 though and the fact they stole my neighborhood bartender sways me there for happy hour a good bit now.