I find Zoe's is very underrated here
Basically I've never had anything from this place that wasn't at least good and most everything has been great.
The dan dan noodles are unbalanced in that they have too much noodles (Fuloon's noodles are the ratio I wish Zoe's had) for the amount of sauce, but they're really tasty and always well-cooked.
Their mapo tofu is the best I've had here along with Thailand Cafe's, which is now closed. It's plenty spicy without being insanely so, very well-seasoned, and lots of Sichuan peppercorn.
My favorite sautéed green beans, with Thailand Cafe's being second probably. So flavorful, perfectly cooked, salty, sweet, and downright addictive. I'm perfectly happy to eat them with white rice and nothing else.
Their cumin lamb is better than Qingdao's and Golden Golden. I decided to try it out despite reading here that it wasn't as good as Qingdao's, and it's been my favorite of the three. Qingdao makes deliciously tender lamb that is also fairly boring because it doesn't have much going on besides that it's tender and tastes of cumin. I wanted at least some heat. Golden Garden gets the heat, but the carrots are odd, it lacked the cilantro of Qingdao's, and worst of all, the lamb is too lean and chewy. Zoe's gets the tenderness of Qingdao's along with generous cilantro, with the heat of Golden Garden's. I just had it a couple of days ago and I want it again.
They make a really nice, tender tea-smoked duck as well.
Garlic eggplant is just sweet enough that it isn't cloying, and the eggplant is silky, with the mushrooms providing delicious salty, savory bites.
I'll look forward to those dry-fried green beans - I get tired of the commute to Belmont's Shangri-la.
That said, Zoe's was, at least before it moved across the street, a Chowhound darling. I heard some grumbling post-move a few years ago (I attributed this to my totally unfounded assumption that wok hei is particularly vulnerable to equipment changes) but not much critical downership.
It's details like yours that i always appreciate when comparing dish versions. Mulan has been my gold standard for tea smoked duck(which is surprisingly bad at Fuloon) but Zoe's is alot closer for us, so i'll hope to get there soon. thx much.
(and yes, just as en94 said, Zoe's used to be THE CH talked about place, years ago.)
Count me in the camp that enjoys Zoe's, the caveat being I stick to ordering the things that don't show up on an "average" (if that's the right word) Chinese menu. Love their ma-po tofu and those dry-fried green beans! In general, I find that they are at their best on the Szechuan side of the menu, which works for me!