Alright here it is: restaurant week dinner at a "Nuevo-Latino/Asian-Fusion" restaurant. Hmmm. Yes, I didn't know what to expect either, but I was super-intrigued by the menu and really enjoyed it. Spotty, semi-rude service aside, the atmosphere was cool (they have a sweet bar area downstairs too) and the food was nums. Way too trendy-looking for the area it resides in, Zengo gets two funky thumbs up for RW.
Joined by my crazy brother Cliff, we sat at a table near the front where we got a nice view of the restaurant, which is pretty big, and Cliff was already complaining about the lumbar support of the banquettes. I can't take him anywhere. So after a few table re-adjustments, we ordered a drink, but that was only after we asked the waitress if we "could"; she didn't even ask us for our drink orders. Nice. For appetizers, we got the Achiote Hoisin Pork Arepas and the Thai Chicken Empanadas. I love both of these dishes in the traditional sense, so I was happy to see that their "nuevo" execution worked well. Slightly spicy and sweet pulled pork on top of an arepa disk topped with a dab of avocado and Mexican crema (like thinned out sour cream). Um hello. This was delicious. The texture was a little mushy, but the flavor was great – too bad we only had two of them. The empanadas were the runner up appetizer; fried crispy shells filled with coconut curry chicken and topped with mango salsa. My only problem, if you can call it a "problem", was that the empanadas were a little empty. They could have used more filling. The pig has spoken.
Since my brother and I share a propensity for eating large quantities of food, I felt it was necessary to get a bowl of noodles off of the regular menu in addition to the RW menu. When in Mexicasia, do as the Mexicasians do..? Anyway. We got the Pork Carnitas glass noodles with pork shoulder, mushrooms, scallions, cashews, a poached egg and hot 'n sour sauce. You know what to do – break the yolk, let it ooze over the noodles and devour with chopsticks. Nums. It was good, but it wasn't anything you can't get at a really good takeout spot in terms of flavor. Ok, maybe the addition of the egg is not something you get at a takeout joint, but other than that, it was very similar to a Pad Sea Ew/Pad Thai. And I didn't really taste any "hot 'n sour sauce", unfortunately…
Enough veggies, bring on the meat. I got the Wagyu Skirt Steak Churrasco and Cliff got the Anato Massala Grilled Chicken. The Wagyu steak wins by a landslide. The chicken was fine, but it's savior was the mango salsa and black beans. Otherwise, I mean, it's chicken. The skirt steak was perfectly cooked and the top was a mushroom-chipotle chimichurri. Have I mentioned my love of chimichurri? It's an Argentinian marinade/sauce made of parsley, garlic and olive oil. Delicious. The steak had that crust on the outside to seal in the medium-rare perfection on the inside, and it was fantastic. Even the fingerling potato tostones were a nice addition. Tostones, traditionally, are made with plantains that are sliced and smashed into a disk, then twice-fried – so this was done with fingerling potatoes. Crispy and soft at the same time, a great side dish to try at home too..
What was one of the main reasons I picked this place for RW? CHURROS. I…love…churros. Fried dough rolled in cinnamon sugar? You'd have to be a little cray-cray to NOT love churros. If you ever thought of robbing the old Mexican ladies in the subway who sell these just so you can keep a cart in your apartment, then you and I have something in common. But I digress. So needless to say, we ordered the churros that came with a chocolate dipping sauce and the lemongrass panna cotta. Panna cotta has been RAMPANT on these RW menus, I tell ya. It was interesting – lemongrass is a hard ingredient to add in a dessert, but somehow it worked. It was surprisingly refreshing and creamy. The churros were good, but I was expecting better. Sad face. They weren't as crispy as they should be, and I thought they were a little airy – I think a good churro has a little more of a dense texture. The chocolate sauce helped, but it's chocolate sauce. You could put that on french fries and I'd prob eat it.
I thought Zengo was really good for RW, and I would come back on any regular night as well. I would definitely check out the area downstairs too – looked a little shwank, but nothing wrong with shwank every now and then.
Note: No Mexican churro-ladies were harmed in the creation of this post.
622 3rd Ave
Opentable Link: Zengo