Latin-Asian fusion restaurant blends two cuisines at a time for special menu
Zengo, which means “give and take” in Japanese takes aspects of Latin culinary traditions and gives them to Asian cuisines and vice versa. This broad cross-fertilization has been further refined by chef/restaurateur Richard Sandoval and chef de cuisine Clint Wangsnes who developed new dishes melding flavors, and preparation techniques to create new combinations — I should write, interesting new combinations. Several of these dishes are featured as Test Kitchen specials, designated as TK on the menu.
The first TK dishes offered from October through early January combined Korean and Mexican. The current menu, which is available for three months, combines Filipino and Argentine elements, and the result were unusual and delicious dishes. The large restaurant is cleverly divided into smaller spaces via different ceiling heights, partial room dividers and great colors. I didn’t get a chance to sample the first combo, but my husband and I were invited to try the current menu. From our window table, we could have watched the passing foot traffic, but we were more focused on the food set before us.
- Guava Mate. Broker’s gin, guava, yerba mate and lime. The guava flavor dominated. Yerba mate is a beverage made from a rainforest tree that grows in South America, including Argentina.
- Calamansi-Papaya Punch. The citrus-forward cocktail is made with Castillo rum, Midori that makes it green, a citrus hybrid called calamansi and papaya.
- Mahi Mahi Ceviche. Small bites of mahi mahi and charred pineapple in cured in coconut milk, along with bonito flakes and red onion on top.
- Filipino Lumpia Spring Rolls. Crisp-fried, open-ended spring rolls filled with minced, cumin-spiked shrimp and chicken, with a pile of julienned carrots and red cabbage and watercress leaves. The dipping sauce is somewhat reminiscent of Chinese duck sauce.
- Oxtail Humitas. From Argentina, a single tamal — a corn husk overstuffed with masa, topped with boneless chunks of oxtail and served with a peanut sauce that reminded me of the Thai sauce the comes with satay and tamarind cocnut milk.
- Bacolod Filipino BBQ Chicken. Moist and tender skin-on chicken breast with a wing section attached. Chicken was marinated in a lemongrass-chile mixture then grilled as served with coconut ride, pickled papaya strips and a wonderful red chimichurri.
- Tagalog-Style Churrasco Steak. Churrasco isn’t a cut of meat but refers to grilling. Here, thick, boneless steak was steeped in a calamansi citrus-soy marinade, served with sweet potato tostones (dense twice-fried sweet potatoes), lemongrass mojo and green herb chimichurri.
Dessert? No thanks, we’re full.
The pictures that follow are the first taken with a new smart phone — and some are too dark to inflict on you. We dined lavishly on items from the Test Kitchen menu, but I’m only including images that are not too painful to look at.