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Enter Zengo and you may think you’ve stumbled upon a set from Sex and the City: a '90s time warp, where fusion cuisine is de rigueur and the generically trendy hot spot is a backdrop for cocktail gossip. Here the design firm AvroKO (Beauty and Essex, La Biblioteca) succeeds in delivering, at least visually, another conceptual hit.
Richard Sandoval is less individual chef than brand concept. His empire (Zengo included) comprises 35 restaurants spanning the globe from Scottsdale to Belgrade. If that expansion strategy seems nominally schizophrenic, then Zengo’s menu is loyal to the theme.
Skip the appetizers with duds like Thai chicken empanadas, and both fluke and bay scallop ceviches. The latter are served more redolent of sopa than poke. The churrasco steak is a jumbled mess, drowned in a bath of chimichurri and calamansi soy marinade. Sandoval credits chef Nobu as inspiration, so it’s fitting to see Zengo showcasing a black cod entrée. Here, finally, Zengo partially redeems itself with a healthy portion of buttery flesh plated atop tender crisp daikon batonnets and asparagus spears.
Zengo’s sleek ambience is a magician’s slight of hand: You’re almost too distracted to notice what you’re eating and whether or not it’s any good.