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The Early Thoughts on Midtown Fusion Monster Zengo

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Krieger, 4/2/10

Earlier this month chef/restaurateur Richard Sandoval, his opera man partner Placido Domingo, and their helper chef Akhtar Nawab opened a new Latin-Asian fusion spot in the giant, old Wild Salmon space, Zengo. The menu is longer than a diner's, and the complex holds a tequila library, a sushi bar, a sake/sochu lounge, and a massive dining room, yet the Midtowners who stopped in so far don't seem to think it's too dissonant. Let's be clear: no one is rushing to the place, and it took some digging to find a smattering early reviews. But aside for some borderline shilltastic comments here and there, it appears that people in general like the place.

The Mostly Good News: For the most part, Yelpers like the joint: "For dinner, we started with four small plates and some drinks. I have a soft spot for bone marrow, and got the fried bone marrow steamed buns, which were amazing and filled with flavor. The crunchy calamari was also a great salad to have as a starter. However, I was not impressed by the thai chicken empanadas (you can see them as one of the pictures) which were topped with bits of mango...The drinks were pretty good. I did not get a strong impression from my hibiscus drink, but was very impressed with my hochata. We then got our main large dish, which was the Chili Barbecued Salmon. It was beautifully smoky and different from most BBQ sauces I have had, and the fish was done medium - just right and flaky." [Yelp]

More Mostly Good News: An almost but not total rave from Jay's NYC Restaurant Reviews: "Of the three, the “give” would be the Wakame-Hijiki Seaweed Salad cucumber, carrot, daikon, apple, ginger vinaigrette. Though fresh, in my opinion it needed a kick of flavor. The “takes,” more than compensated for the lackluster salad. The Halibut Ceviche aji amarillo, red onion, cucumber, apple, tomato, cilantro was as fresh and flavorful as can be. It was sweet, light and tangy. I enjoyed the plantain chips that accompanied. Even better were the Charred Tuna Wonton Tacos with sushi rice, mango salsa, guacamole...The bill crept up there, but this is midtown, and I was more than happy to pay for the impressive and thoughtful surroundings, quality ingredients, and attentive service." [JNYRR]

The Bad News: From an Eater commenter: "had dinner on saturday night and our server eddie made several mistakes, twice he ordered the wrong food items. Told us pomelo was a brand of mescal and not a grapefruit inspired cocktail. food was good, but conceptually it was all over the place. Crowd was very B&T and surprisingly old. really not a pleasant experience. will not be returning." [Eater Comments]

The Fun and Sexy News: A Chowhounder recommends it for a group: "Our meal: seafood ceviche--my fave dish of this meal, delicious and generous, good heat and a lot of different seafood in the serving, with plaintain & other chips; wagyu beef, 4 thin tender slices, flavor & heat, another hit. Shrimp potstickers: 5 tasty dumplings w/chile sauce...I wanted one more. Then, a sushi roll, eel, with a nice crunch and heat....This is a really fun place, and overall we thought the food was seriously good; but it's not a place for those seeking a temple of quiet culinary contemplation. Recommended it to a friend who was looking for a place for 8. Will definitely return."

The Foursquare Recs: So far the Foursquare tips are pretty positive. One sums it up thusly, "Latin and Asian fusion. Great food at affordable prices. Great decor! Highly recommended." [Foursquare]


622 Third Ave., New York, NY