Tue Jul 29 2008
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>3/5
Like books and their covers, you can’t judge a South American restaurant by the quality of its margarita. Or so we learned at La Zarza, whose cucumber-and-jalapeño-infused tequila imparted a sense of expectation that the kitchen couldn’t fulfill. But we couldn’t blame the booze when we walked right into a wall on a recent evening. What looks like a corridor in the rear of this wood-embellished eatery does not, as it appears to, lead to a second room—it’s a mirror, and management tells us that accidents happens every night. Sadly, design isn’t the only flaw. The menu weaves iconic Spanish dishes with Argentine ones, to limited success. An anomalous Asian-tinged appetizer of crispy squid, with black-and-white sesame seeds clinging to the sweet honey coating, was pleasant enough, but seemed out of place on the menu. A Patagonian rib eye, pink and bloody within, was more traditional, but lacked the earthy intensity we’ve experienced with similar cuts. Its accompanying patatas bravas were wan boiled fingerlings shrouded in a too-mild paprika sauce. Paella doesn’t add much to the Iberian dialogue either. The dish smelled fabulous, its bright, plump beads of rice promising saffron and brine. But meat plucked from the generous half lobster that came with it was just not sweet enough, the rings of calamari chewy, and the chorizo too bland for the dish to pull through. Dessert was negligible; skip the middling frozen dulce de leche and head straight for the bar—as drinking destinations go, you could do worse. Just mind your step on the way to the loo.