Maverick Monday: Just Call Me Flipper?

Our last Maverick Monday (a couple of weeks ago—I know, I’m super late) found us all the way in Yonkers for Hudson Restaurant Week. Never have I ever explored this area, so what better time than when there’s a good food deal to be had? I’m so glad we are in agreement, dear reader. That’s why my fellow Maverick and I ended up at The Dolphin for a seafood feast. Before you even ask, no, we did not stick to the Restaurant Week options—we succumbed to offerings from the regular menu and threw caution to the wind. The following is a visual stream of our selections:

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Our appetizers were baked clams (me) and steamed mussels (Marissa); our second courses were seafood in tomato sauce atop squid ink pasta (me–I’m a sucker for squid ink pasta whenever I see it on a menu) and branzino simply grilled with herbs and fresh vegetables (Marissa—she’s a sucker for branzino every time she sees it on the menu). To round out the meal, I had homemade bread pudding with crème anglaise and Marissa cleansed her palette with sorbet; she’s not really a dessert person so we have to forgive her for her choice.

The rundown: The baked clams and steamed mussels were perfectly cooked and seasoned pretty well, however the tomato broth from the mussels was a bit tart for my liking. Thank goodness that wasn’t the case for my pasta dish; the tomato sauce was just right (I believe the little bit of cream tempered the tartness) and again, the seafood was cooked faultlessly. The downside was that the squid ink pasta—my reason for ordering this dish in the first place—was overcooked and felt borderline soggy while chewing it. If it weren’t for the sauce, the linguini would have become one congealed blob. Major points lost for this faux pas. Marissa’s branzino was basic, but tasty and grilled with precision timing; conversely, the vegetables tasted like they were on life support, in need of the lemon juice and jus from the fish to revive them. So far, the only well-rounded course was my baked clams. I was really hoping dessert was going end the meal on a high note, especially after all the hype our waiter gave to the bread pudding. One bite of it left me speechless…because I thought my teeth were going to fall out, it was so sweet. I didn’t even need to put sugar in my coffee, for if I did, I think I would have gone into a diabetic coma right then and there, and I’m not even diabetic! I saw the end of the tunnel only because of their coffee, which happened to be excellent; smooth, rich, flavorful and full-bodied, the coffee was liquid velvet. I don’t think I’ve ever had such a bipolar meal in my life. The peaks and valleys of our dinner left me confused and thinking whether or not there was something wrong with me. My taste buds were flipped out of whack and needed some rest. I was already planning a meal of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for the next day. Marissa’s sorbet was average enough for me to think that I could probably get better from the freezer aisle at the supermarket. It served a purpose though, because it was an adequate palette cleanser.

Albeit I had a wonderful night, I will not be returning to this mediocre [at best] restaurant. If you’re going to serve a basic menu with simple and unchallenging fare, it should not be a challenge to eat it. I don’t need to go to all the way Yonkers for a good martini and few baked clams. Yes, I will travel for food. Good food.

Leggo my Zengo

Once again Maverick Monday (MM) was upon us and, yay for our wallets, it was still Restaurant Week. My fellow maverick and I took a departure from our usual Lower East Side exploration and decided to try Zengo, located in the Midtown East area of Manhattan. The restaurant’s website billed Zengo as “an artful blend of Latin-Asian styles and flavors. Chef-Owner Richard Sandoval, whose accolades include Bon Appétit Restaurateur of the Year and Mexico’s Toque d’Oro, spins regional ingredients into beautifully balanced dishes designed for sharing.” Upon looking at the menu, the claim seemed true enough and had our interest peaked. However, with such a beefy pedigree, I was hoping Richy Rich wouldn’t disappoint us, as so often happens in venues such as this (see my last MM review for The General to see what I mean). Not a huge fan of fusion cuisines, my expectations were set to “average;” I’m quite guilty of getting my hopes up very high when it comes to trying new restaurants, only to have those hopes dashed in extreme anti-climaxes. I prepared myself this time, expecting the worst and hoping for the best, yet confident that good conversation and company would see me through the night no matter the quality of the food.

Upon entry, the décor did not disappoint. Distressed wood, steel, dramatic staircases, black walls and glass; high ceilings, a marble lit-from-within drinks bar, and Asian antique reproductions were all softened by sprigs of cherry blossom throughout the restaurant and upstairs bar, La Biblioteca.

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After we made our way to our leather, semi-circular booth in the middle of the room, an initial perusal of the Restaurant Week menu didn’t disappoint either. Once our drinks arrived, we ordered the following mouth-watering dishes from the 3-course menu:

Me                              
Salmon Ceviche
Tagalog Style Churrasco Steak
Arroz con Leche (Rice Pudding) 
Marissa
Thai Coconut Chicken Soup
Chipotle Miso Glazed Back Cod
Tropical Fruit Sorbets
Us
Bok Choy Kimchee

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The rundown: ceviche was good, but too much radish and not enough fish; the steak was perfect in every way—I’d go back just for this dish, it was that delicious (so were the accompanying sweet potato tostones); the rice pudding was served warm and, to my delight, the rice wasn’t hard like I’ve found at so many other places. Also, the Chinese almond cookies on the side were a nice touch and smart way to apply the fusion theme. The one detractor from the meal was the bok choy kimchee—can you say salt lick?! Even as I write this, my mouth is puckering. I asked Marissa if she felt the same way when she took a bite, just to make sure I wasn’t being overly sensitive because I don’t like a lot of salt on my food. She agreed 100% and confirmed that this dish felt like someone just poured salt in our mouths. I took a bite from each of her dishes and enjoyed them all as well. The soup was smooth and delicate, the cod was flaky and perfectly seasoned, and her sorbets were refreshing and mild. Overall, this meal was a success. Kudos, Chef Sandoval! The Mavericks will be back for more in the not too distant future (read: when our wallets allow us to order from the regular, high-priced menu and we’re too lazy to travel south or north).