Friday, February 11, 2011


We last wrote about Mark's Duck House that serves up incredibly tasty Asian cuisine in a decidedly non-chic atmosphere. We now present Zentan that serves mostly tasty Asian cuisine in a very chic atmosphere.

Originally, celeb chef Todd English was set to open a restaurant called Cha in the trendy Donovan House hotel on Thomas Circle. Something went awry and English pulled out, allowing Toronto chef Susur Lee a chance to jump in and turn Cha into Zentan, his ode to pan-Asian cuisine. While we're getting a little tired of the "modern pan-Asian cuisine" schtick, we decided to give it a go.

After waiting for our friends in the lobby (and fully enjoying the fun globe chairs that hang from the ceiling), we stepped inside Zentan for dinner.

Our group of four had some trouble deciding what to order so we went ended up ordering a little of everything. From a sushi roll appetizer...

To Chef Lee's famous Singapore Slaw that boasts 19 ingredients doused in a salted plum dressing...

To the carmelized black cod with miso mustard...

To the stir fried pearl noodles...

To the Cantonese marinated skirt steak with shallot brown butter, chili ponzu, and hazelnuts...

To a platter of assorted sushi rolls. It's safe to say that we over-ordered. We had to force ourselves to finish the sushi platter, but that doesn't mean it wasn't good sushi. The sushi, like everything else we tried, was solid. While we liked the dishes we tried at Zentan, it lacked pizzazz or uniqueness that is going to make us run back. With so many pan-Asian restaurants in town, you have to do more to stand out than have cool dangly chairs in the lobby.

Zentan is worth a visit if you have a friend staying at the Donovan House or you want to grab a drink and sushi (or the very good pearl noodles) at the bar. However, steer clear of the $12 specialty cocktails. For $12 I expect a bigger glass or at least a cocktail that tastes like some effort went into it. My Spicy Thai Martini was not nearly as exciting as its name.

Second Thoughts from B

We just celebrated our blog's 2nd anniversary, which made me reflect on the approximately 180 dining experiences that we've written about. Not surprisingly, some very good restaurants have faded in my memory. There have been times when J has mentioned a place that we've been that just doesn't register in my brain. Unfortunately, I think the food at Zentan might just fall to this fate.

Don't get me wrong, the food was quite good and certainly not lacking in flavor. As evidenced by my overly tight waistline as we left the restaurant, I liked everything, with the possible exception of the Singapore slaw. Despite a myriad of ingredients, I found it particularly bland - especially compared to the other dishes - which made me wonder why it was considered famous when it was the most forgettable thing I ate that night.

"So B, what are you complaining about other than an uninteresting salad?" Really, nothing. Nothing at all. But I could rattle off a dozen or more Asian-inspired chic hot-spots within the same price range that are all within walking distance of Zentan.

Despite all this, the couple next to us clearly found Zentan to be a uniquely special place. In fact, it'll be a place they remember for the rest of their lives. Right before one of us uttered a snarky "get a room" comment in their general direction, we noticed that Zentan had been chosen as the best place to pop the question. It wouldn't have been my choice... so I must be missing something.
Zentan on Urbanspoon

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