Tag Archive | Test Kitchen

Zengo Previews Its New Test Kitchen Menu for “Japan to Mexico”

Zengo Interior
Zengo Serves Gorgeous Food in a Gorgeous Setting (Photos By Gail, Cocktail Photos Courtesy of Burke Communications)

Foodie Fans of The Worley Gig know that one of our very favorite dining destinations is the Asian-Latin fusion restaurant, Zengo, conveniently located adjacent to Grand Central Station. While the menu is consistently delicious, Zengo is dedicated to continually changing things up. And in this case, change is good!

Every few months, Chef Richard Sandoval and his culinary team at Zengo research and develop new recipes featuring the cuisine and spirits of one Latin and one Asian country. The result is a menu of specialty plates and cocktails that showcase the flavors and techniques from each region. The featured new dishes are marked with a special “TK” symbol on the menu, noting that they are exclusive and available for a limited time. The current “Test Kitchen” menu, unveiled at Zengo in January, is dubbed “Japan to Mexico,” for which Chef Sandoval drew inspiration from the rich and flavorful street foods of Japan and Mexico to create the new Test Kitchen menu.

Recently we were invited to enjoy a Tasting of the Japan to Mexico Test Kitchen Menu and were wowed once again by the Chef’s finely honed skill at blending and accenting the flavors of these two distinct cuisines. Here’s a review of what we ate:

Calamansi Old-Fashioned

It’s always fun to start off a meal with a potent and refreshing cocktail and Zengo features two new ones for Japan to Mexico. The Calamansi Old-Fashioned is made with Japanese whiskey, fresh Calamansi juice (similar to Orange Juice) and Agave Bitters. Surprisingly, this tastes like a fresh Blood Orange cocktail with no overpowering Whiskey taste and not one hint of bitterness. Delicious!

Shiro Margarita

Also on the cocktail menus is the Shiro Margarita blending Nigori Saki with 100% Agave Blanco Tequila, fresh lime juice, simple syrup and house-made sour mix. The Shiro Margarita is light and tart and will brighten the taste of whatever you are eating. These go down very smooth!

Octopus Carpaccio

Next up on our selection of TK small plates was the outstanding Octopus Aguachile Tiradito: an unbelievably tender Octopus carpaccio flavored with Ginger Green Chile broth and White Soy, tossed with crisp Asian Pear and luscious, ripe Avocado and garnished with sprinkling of Nori and Sesame Seeds. This was the most delicious and visually appealing presentation of Octopus I have yet tried — and that includes the Octopus and Chickpea Salad at MP Taverna, which is just insane.

Shrimp Tempura Rolls

Zengo is famous for its excellent sushi and vegetarian maki rolls and they’ve come up with another excellent offering in the Achiote Shrimp Tempura Roll – a Tempura Fried Shrimp with Avocado, Jicama Chile Lemon, Charred Scallion and dressed with a light Chile Toreado Aioli. I enjoyed dipping pieces of this roll in the dressing from the Octopus dish!

Pork Belly Sliders

Elevating Mexican Street Food are the Terikayi Pork Belly Gorditas “Sliders” – Fried Pork Belly with a sweet Teriyaki glaze, nested on a crispy Masa cake “Bun” with Oaxaca cheese, Guacamole, Caramelized Pineapple and Pickled Chiles for just a little bit of heat. If you’re a Bacon fan who’s looking to try something new and different, you’ll want to give this a try.

Lamb Shank

In the realm of hearty entrees, Zengo adds the Kabayaki Glazed Lamb Shank Barbacoa – fork-tender lamb marinated in a Ginger, Chiles and Tamarind glaze, served atop a bed of fragrant Arroz Verde and garnished with tender-crisp Pickled Carrots. The bones in this look intimidating, but the meat literally just falls away as soon as you prod it a bit with your fork. I loved the contrast of textures and flavors in this delightful dish.

Avocado Panna Cotta

And last but not least we sampled an unusual take on a traditional dessert, the Avocado Panna Cotta – Fresh Avocado Custard, served with tangy-sweet Tropical Fruit Salad and garnished an added crunch of Chocolate Cookie Crumbs. The mildly sweet true-Avocado taste of the Panna Cotta gets a kick from the chopped fruit and syrup accompaniment and the unexpected crunch of the cookie morsels add a fun texture to this not-overly-sweet ending to a fine meal.

Please note that all food photos in this post are representative of a group tasting presentation and expect the dish may look somewhat different when ordered for just one person.

Zengo is located at 622 Third Avenue (at the corner of 40th Street). Dinner is served Monday through Saturday from 5:00 PM onward. Lunch is served Monday – Friday from 11:30 AM -2:30 PM. For reservations, please call 212-808-8110 or visit their website at This Link. The Mexico-Japan menu is featured through March 31st, 2013 at all Zengo locations including New York City, Denver, Santa Monica and Washington D.C.

Advertisements

Zengo’s Latest Test Kitchen Presents the Flavors of Peru to Malaysia!

Zengo Test Kitchen Menu
Above Photo By Gail, All Food Photos Courtesy of Berk Communications

I can’t be the only fan who was disappointed see Chef and Restaurateur Richard Sandoval get eliminated so early in the competition on the most recent season of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. Hopefully there will be a next time for this talented and enterprising chef to compete on the show, because Sandoval’s Zengo and Raymi are two of my favorite restaurants in New York City!

Right now, Zengo is taking its ever-revolving blend of Latin-Asian cuisines on an adventure with Peru and Malaysia. I was recently invited to a press dinner where we sampled select new items on the Test Kitchen Menu. Here’s a preview of what’s new at Zengo!

Pisco Elevation CocktailShiso Mojito at Zengo
Left: Pisco Elevation Cocktail, Right: Shiso Mojito

Made with the popular Peruvian Grape Brandy, the Pisco Elevation ($13) blends this potent liquor with Sweet Elderflower and fresh Lychee for a refreshing kick that goes down smooth. Mojito fans can enjoy the Shiso Mojito, ($14) featuring rum, shiso and citrus and garnished with Fuji Apple!

Spicy Crab Potato Sushi
Spicy Crab Potato Sushi

A tasty and multi-textured addition to the Dim Sum and Antojitos menu is the Spicy Crab Potato Sushi ($10): Sweet shredded Crab flavored with Malay Curry, nested atop layers of soft Yukon Potato Cake and fresh Avocado, topped with a crispy Corn Cancha — which is like a Peruvian Corn Nut! Very unique and tasty!

Chicken A La Brasa Satay at Zengo
Chicken A La Brasa Satay

A take on traditional Peruvian roasted chicken, or Chicken A La Brasa, ($13) is presented as a skewered appetizer, loaded with tender chicken thigh meat grilled with a black bean glaze. This hearty starter is served with another traditional favorite, Potatoes Huancaina, which I have previously enjoyed on a visit to Raymi. Additional flavor and texture is added by the fresh Cucumber Rocoto Salsa and finely chopped toasted peanuts!

Arroz with Maiscos at ZENGO
Arroz Con Mariscos

Arroz Con Mariscos (Rice with Seafood, $14) is Zengo’s take on paella: Malay rice studded with a generous portion of Mussels, Shrimp, Scallops and Clams dressed with Thai Basil. This dish was a hit with everyone at the table, and the gently-cooked seafood is extremely tender and tastes fresh-caught.

Char Roased Skate at Zengo
Char Roasted Skate

Skate may sound like an exotic dish, but you don’t have to be too adventurous to love Zengo’s Char Roasted Skate in a ginger chile marinade ($28). This flaky white fish is mild but has a distinctive flavor. The dish is served with a Crispy Lentil Rice Cake and Sambal Butter Sauce — delicious!

Profiteroles at Zengo
Profiteroles

While is is not commonly considered appropriate to lick ones plate in public, the above dish of Profiteroles ($9), stuffed with Toasted Coconut Ice Cream and served with a drizzle of chocolate sauce and fresh, ripe strawberries had everyone at the table scraping the plate with their forks to get an extra drop of the dulce de leche flavored Manjar Blanco that was puddled under each delicious morsel. What a fantastic ending to a very special meal!

Zengo is located at 622 Third Avenue on the Northwest Corner of 40th Street. Dinner is served Monday to Saturday from 5:00 to 11:00 PM. Lunch is served Monday to Friday from 11:30 AM to 2:30 PM. For Reservations and More Information call 212-808-8110 or visit This Link.

AOL Presents Now Eat This: Italy, Cooking with Rocco Dispirito!

Rocco Books
All Photos By Gail

When you hear the name Rocco Dispirito, you may at first think, “What a hottie” — amiright? But also, Rocco is a skilled and charismatic Celebrity Chef who has hosted and starred in many TV shows (Rocco’s Dinner Party, how fun was that?) as well as being a restaurateur and author of many best-selling books on food and cooking. Rocco Dispirito!

Rocco Dispirito
How Cute Is This Guy?

If you have been following his career for as many years as I have, you may recall that Rocco, while consistently adorable, was not always as lean and trim and he is now. He got into shape by learning to cook in the same manner as his Italian ancestors: and not just by incorporating fresh, local ingredients and creating preparation techniques which reduce the use of traditional fats and carbs, but also by adopting a more leisurely-paced approach when it comes to the experience of social eating.

Tuna Crudo
Tuna Crudo, One of Rocco’s Low Calorie Yet Gourmet Specialities

Rocco’s latest New York Times best-seller, Now Eat This! Italian, takes on all of your favorite Italian food recipes by reducing them calorically while keeping the very fresh and authentic flavor. In fact, most of these dishes come in at 350 calories and under without sacrificing deliciousness.

AOL Sign

In the book’s accompanying video series, which debuted on AOL.com earlier this month, DiSpirito travels to various regions in Italy to learn from the foremost Italian food experts, real Italian Moms! The show is a lot of fun and also lets you see the beauty of the Italian countryside.

Kitchen
International Culinary Center Test Kitchen

Last evening, AOL hosted a hands-on cooking event with Rocco at The International Culinary Center for a select number of lucky bloggers and contest winners, where we all had the chance to cook a meal with Rocco and then sit down together to enjoy the fruits of our labor. Rocco lead the class with his step-by-step recipes and stories behind each dish and he was very patient with those of us who are challenged even by slicing a tomato (raises hand). It was a great time and I learned that making lovely homemade Italian food does not have to be intimidating at all.

Here’s what was on the menu:
Caprese Salad
Caprese Salad

Pasta with Clams
Pasta with Clams

Roasted Chicken
Roasted Chicken with Zucchini

Rocco Making Dessert

Rocco was kind enough to make the evening’s dessert – a fresh Strawberry Italian Ice – for us tableside so we could enjoy our after dinner drinks. This quick and simple frozen dessert is basically just fresh berries (I suppose any fruit could be swapped out if Strawberries are not your thing), ice and the same thickening agent used in the faux olive oil salad dressing. Sweet and refereshing!

Strawberry Granita
Strawberry Italian Ice

Proseco
After Dinner Proseco

Rocco Signed Book

Because Rocco is so awesome, he took the time to pose for photos with every single person at the event and also gave each of us a personally signed copy of his book, so that we could cook his recipes at home. The first episode in the Now Eat This: Italy! series, in which Rocco makes Caprese salad after visiting the actual cheese makers, can be enjoyed at This Link. Thanks again to Rocco and AOL for a very fun evening!

Zengo Raises The Bar on ‘Chino Latino’ Fusion Cuisine

Diners at Zengo
Photos By Gail Worley and Anne Raso

It’s charmingly nostalgic to recall back when an early mainstreaming of Asian and Latin cuisine fusion here in Manhattan was represented by the string of Chino Latino walk-in diners that once populated a stretch of Eight Avenue in Chelsea. Serving hearty favorites of both Chinese and Cuban dishes, these places were always packed. As they caught on in popularity, the idea of an Asian-Latin fusion of flavors evolved and expanded. Today, chef and restaurateur Richard Sandoval is working it big time with his concept of the next generation of Asian-Latin cuisine in his midtown east eatery, Zengo.

In addition to its standard menu of favorites, Zengo’s rotating Test Kitchen creates an entirely new experience for diners every three months by pairing the foods of one Asian country with the foods of a distinct Latin region. In this way, Test Kitchen is Zengo’s version of a seasonal menu. Through the end of March, Zengo’s menu highlights “The Marriage of Argentina and The Philippines” – making it the first restaurant of its kind to bring these two countries together in one menu. Previously, Zengo has paired the flavors of Shanghai-Sao Paulo, Hanoi-Havana and Korea-Mexico. Very innovative!

Zengo Chandelier

Zengo whets the appetite for adventure upon entering its inviting, seductive atmosphere. Signature architectural touches inside the cavernous but cozy space include chain-suspended wooden beams, (which give the restaurant a pleasing Pirate Ship feel), iron gating re-purposed as window treatments and engaging custom lighting such as this chandelier you see above.

Zengo Window Gates

All Test Kitchen items are noted at the front of their menu description with the letters “TK” for easy identification. The wait staff has a thorough knowledge of the menu and is extremely helpful with recommendations and any questions you might have about preparation or ingredients (noteworthy: all meat and vegetables are organic!)

What we ate:

Guava Mate Cocktail

We started off with a refreshing Guava Mate ($13) one of three Test Kitchen cocktails featured on the current menu. Made with gin, guava, yerba mate and sour mix, it is very fruity with a floral essence and nice heady kick. Two of these would certainly put you in an altered state (we stuck with just the one).

Thai Chicken Empanadas

From the Dim Sum & Antojitos selection we chose the trio of Thai Chicken Empanadas ($12). Each golden, crunchy Empanada, stuffed with juicy diced chicken, chile poblano and Oaxaca cheese sits on a tiny puddle of curried ginger sauce (perfect for dipping) and is topped with fresh mango salsa. Be sure you can trust your dining partner to remain sufficiently diplomatic and split that third empanada with you.

Vegetariano Sushi Roll

Another recommended appetizer (especially for any vegetarian) is the Vegetariano Sushi Roll ($10), wrapped in soy paper and featuring fragrant jasmine rice stuffed with asparagus-scallion tempura, which contrasts nicely with creamy avocado. The roll is topped with a drizzle of slightly spicy, luscious sambal aioli, which added to the layer of complimentary flavors.

TK Oxtail Humitas

Fans of beef should take note of the TK Oxtail Humitas ($14), a deconstructed Argentinean tamal (tamale). The generous portion of shredded oxtail (appropriately both fatty and meaty) is actually topped by sliced, deep fried masa (corn meal) and flanked on one side by a sauce of peanut, tamarind and coconut milk and demi-glace from the meat juices on the other. This is a rich, satisfying dish and ideal for sharing.

Palomilla Lomo Saltado

Narrowing down just a couple of main dishes from the eclectic and tempting menu was not easy but we finally decided on Zengo’s take on Steak Frites. Palomilla Lomo Saltado ($32) is a grass-fed, Colorado beef tenderloin cooked to order, presented sliced and served with a cognac pepper sauce. Accompanying sides are lightly sautéed red peppers and onions and thick cut yuca fries. Yummy!

TK Bacoldo Filipino BBQ Chicken

Our TK selection was the Bacolod Filipino BBQ Chicken ($25), a tower of tastes featuring a barbecued, organic Chicken breast, marinated in a lemongrass and chile based sauce. The succulent chicken rests triumphantly on a bed of mouth-watering coconut rice and is topped with a tangy, pickled tropical fruit slaw (which we initially mistook for pickled carrots). Finally, there is a garnish of red chimichurri – making it a gorgeous and delicious dish that was our standout favorite of the evening. The chicken is cooked to tender and moist perfection and the coconut rice is an outstanding combination of sticky and fragrant, with the pickled fruit slaw adding an unexpected sweet and sour burst of flavor that put this entree over the top. We would return to Zengo for this dish alone.

TK Dulche De Leche

We capped our evening of culinary indulgences with a TK dessert choice recommended by the staff – the Dulce de Leche Brazo Mercedes ($9)! That’s a pretty fancy name for a most unique and delicious dessert of Vanilla cake rolled with dulce de leche filling and frosted with a feather light vanilla buttercream. The cake is accompanied by ‘green mango ceviche’ (very thinly sliced raw mango) and finished off with a delightfully chilled lemon grass granita. While this cake may sound quite rich, is it actually light and not too filling; a perfect end to a very satisfying meal. We hope this item will garner universal praise to earn a spot the standard menu after its run in the Test Kitchen has expired.

Zengo is a fantastic addition to this Grand Central Station-adjacent neighborhood that is ideal for a business dinner, a milestone event celebration, date night or any type of get together where you want great food, atmosphere and service. We can’t wait to see what they do next!

Zengo is located at 622 Third Avenue (at the corner of 40th Street). Dinner is served Monday through Saturday from 5:00 PM onward. Lunch is served Monday – Friday from 11:30 AM -2:30 PM. For reservations, please call 212-808-8110 or visit their website at This Link. The Argentina-Philippines menu is featured through March 31st, 2013 at all Zengo locations including New York City, Denver, Santa Monica and Washington D.C.