When I stepped into Zengo this Latin-Asian restaurant is beautiful to walk around and be in. It’s sleek with the leather banquettes, a large statement chandelier in the middle of the main dining room, and Asian touches throughout the restaurant.
If you step downstairs to the Tequila Library that houses over 400 tequilas, this area is spacious yet cozy. Seeing the tequila lockers, it’s quite fascinating to see that New Yorkers are slowly adopting the idea of sipping their tequila – or any fine spirit.
Upstairs, where my dinner was held, the guests and I started off with Pisco Sours and Sparkling Pisco cocktails. The former was made with Macchu Pisco and the latter was made with La Diablada Pisco. Both cocktails were fantastic.
The sparkling pisco cocktail made with Ozeki Hana Awaka sparkling sake (seen on this photo) was fascinating since both spirits are usually drank with a raw fish dish. Conceptually, it would work so the President of Macchu Pisco, Elizabeth da Trinidade-Asher, worked with her friend works in sake imports, to create this cocktail. The result of cocktail: slightly sweet, light and fruity (from the muddled grapes).
The Pisco Sour was spot on delicious. The nice twist that the restaurant’s beverage director went to its Peruvian roots to add cinnamon in lieu of bitters, as bitters are not as easily found in Peru.
Along with those cocktails, we’re served lobster diablo gyozas, asparagus wrapped in bacon, and Wagyu beef in soy sauce. The gyozas were pleasantly spicy filled with diced lobster. The asparagus was an easy dish to appease everyone (how can you go wrong with seared bacon?) and the Wagyu beef was sublimely rich and fatty.
Moving onto the first course of the evening, the Zarza salad ($8) made of fava beans, green beans, queso fresco, watercress, ginger-peanut dressing was pretty tasty, except fava beans were in scant amounts. The rainbow ceviche ($12) was beautifully plated. It’s composed of tuna, salmon, fluke, sesame seeds, cilantro, yuzu, shredded seaweed, and leche de tigre, served with fresh tortilla and plantains chips. Simply done but harmonious in flavors with wonderful crunch for the chips.
These dishes were paired with the Chicha Morada Mojito ($13), mostly made from an unfermented, sweetened purple corn liquid mixed with Ron Millionario, topped with shiso and lime juice. The shiso scent was quite strong but the drink was good.
Up next was the spicy passion fruit pisco sour ($12) paired with the Chupe de Mariscos ($15), and concha a lo macho ($14). This particular pisco sour smelled very sweet and fruity from the aromatic passion fruit but when you take a sip, it’s not as sweet as its scent.
The aji amarillo pepper offset the sweet-tart passion fruit and you can taste a bit of citrus in the background with the Macchu Pisco as its main support. It was good but the spiciness is a little too much for me if I drank the entire glass. The chupe de mariscos was good, as I was quite fond of the almost velvety, milk-dashi broth filled with diced purple potatoes, shrimp, calamari, and cockles. The concha a lo macho was striking as it was plated in a large scallop shell (set upon a white plate sitting on a small bed of salt), filled with scallop, calamari, shrimp, octopus, bonito flakes, and aji amarillo aioli. Tasty but it gotten a little too spicy for me from the pool of aji amarillo aioli mixed in with the seafood.
Bloody Orange-Chancaca Whiskey Sour, Lomo Saltado, Oya-Ko
The almost final round of savory bloody orange-chancaca whiskey sour ($14), lomo saltado ($13), oya-ko ($12). The bloody orange-chancaca whiskey sour made with Suntory Yamazaki whiskey, blood orange puree, chancaca simple syrup was arguably my favorite cocktail of the evening. The whiskey balanced the sweet molasses-like simple syrup and blood orange.
The lomo saltado is named for its technique, as saltado means to sauté (for this case, the chef done this in a wok). The pork loin (sourced from Lancaster, PA) was marinated in soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and mirin for 24 hours, then sauteed in a wok. The salty, robust ginger sauce was made with primarily soy sauce and ginger and topped with vegetables. This was one of the best dishes of the evening. My table raved it.
The oya-ko was pretty damn amazing as well, as I don’t normally order chicken, especially chicken breast, in restaurants. This dish opened my eyes even though it’s past 10 PM. It’s a roasted chicken breast with huancaina, a thick slice of Japanese sweet potato, topped with a fried egg. Overall, the chicken tasted kind of sweet which surprised me, possibly because of the sweet potato. The spicy, creamy huancaina sauce melded with the oozy egg yolk and made it quite a luxurious mouthfeel to the moist chicken.
Finally, for dessert the Luguma Martini ($12) was paired with Ocha ice cream ($6). If you aren’t the ice cream person, this martini was sweet enough to substitute it. Composed with Kissui vodka, almond milk, vanilla extract, chancaca simple syrup, it was viscous, sweet but not cloyingly so. The ocha ice cream, a scoop of homemade green tea ice cream on a small pool of rich cajeta sauce, topped with a tuile was a great ending to this dinner. It is not overwhelming to the stomach and it’s a good sweet ending to this learning venture with pisco.
For more photos of this dinner, please scroll through my slideshow below: