Monday, January 25, 2010

Lunch Break: Zengo DC

I am starting a new blog segment: Lunch Break. My idea is to profile downtown restaurants that offer weekday lunch specials or other sit-down spots that are a good option for a weekday break. I spend about half my week in the Gallery Place/Metro Center section of DC, and am intrigued by the number of lunch deals ranging from Proof to Zola.

Now I can't promise this feature will be published on a regular basis; I account for every minute of each billable hour, which often really means I either have no time for a regular lunch break or would rather not have to make up the time later in the day or month. But maybe by starting this feature, I will force myself to get out more, decompress, and hopefully try some great food at the same time.

First up: Zengo. This fusion Latin-Asian restaurant is located adjacent to the Gallery Place Chinatown Metro exit and is offering several weekday lunch specials including: $10 rice bowls, $13 roll boxes, and $14 hot boxes.

I popped in for a quick solo lunch at the bar. The restaurant lobby and a decent-size lounge are street level, but the dining room and main bar area are on the second floor. The restaurant is a warm space with deep tangerine and plum colors.

I was seated promptly, and the service overall was very good. My water was never less than half full. Of course, neither was the restaurant. This was at noon and there were less than 20 people total in the entire space.

I opted for the fried rice bowl, which had duck, shrimp, and pork. I am not entirely sure what comprised the fusion element, maybe the pulled pork? I definitely got the Asian influence, but wasn't getting much of a Latin vibe. The meats were all fork-tender, but lacked any interesting depth of flavor. The rice itself was beyond salty (and I like salty things), perhaps to mask the lack of flavor in the meats. It did have scallions, diced carrots, and sprouts--all of which added texture, but it lacked the promised snow peas listed on the menu.

Overall verdict: SKIP. Way too salty and will have you gulping water for the rest of your day.

I should note though that there were large bowls of citrus, sugar, and mint leaves at the bar. While I would love to say I tried a mojito, this being a workday lunch there was no chance to do so, but I would consider coming back to the bar for a drink.

Zengo on Urbanspoon

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