Saturday, January 23, 2010

Restaurant Review: Zola- J' cuse!

You can locate a restaurant in a good place and "concept" it to be swank; you can create an intriguing menu and craft platings to elicit a "wow". BUT... on any given evening (and Friday night is THE evening), you have to put out food that tastes good.

My Zola martini (a white Knight- appropriately morphed), was nice, would have been very good if they made it properly at the bar. A martini glass should be iced while the drink is made, chilling the vessel into which you pour the icy libation. But at tableside this is difficult and Zola chose to forego this essential step. Only the first wrong choice of style over substance during the evening!

The scallop appetizer. The plate was attractive, and the conception was good, a nice salty element with an aoli and a bite of scallop. Oops, the star of the plate, the scallop- should it be cooked properly, or just warm? Should it taste like a sweet scallop or maybe a bit of dried cuttlefish from a Korean fish stall? This dish failed on flavor due to the decisions made in the kitchen. Basic cooking decisions. I sensed foreboding.

Another app, a mushroom fonduta. A tiny iron pot with a fire under it- gotta be good! I could discern the promised mushrooms- Chantrelles, Morrels, Porcinis. But they had lost their character after immersion in the hot mini-vat of gunk they were served in. I know it had a cheese component cause the menu said so. And cream. But could it really have beem mushroom soup to start with? I couldn't tell. Oh, but the bread was really good. I wish this was the bread they had chosen to serve the table. Lightly grilled ciabata.

We had a main course, one we both locked on as we viewed the menu on the street- butternut squash rissoto. Sounds good doesn't it? wasn't. Slightly undercooked rice could have been forgiven. If the stock in which it was cooked was delicious. If Zola's stock wasn't bullion made from a powder or paste I can't explain why it was so salty and tinny tasting. I knew it was a butternut squash rissoto cause the menu said so and there were tiny orange chunks in it, though we debated whether these were carrots. But carrots would have had more flavor. So it had to be butternut, right?

I don't often see a bad experience saved by service. But this was close. Our server was professional and correct. A real pro, but hopefully he will move to a restaurant more worthy of him if Zola doesn't soon get the cooking right.

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