August 7th, 2009
Zentan recently opened in the Donovan House Hotel in Thomas Circle. The restaurant itself is good, in theory. We went before their site was up so we didn’t know much about the menu except for the fact that it was Asian. At first glance, the menu reads like a confused and slightly pretentious pan-Asian mash-up. Our server, slow to the table, “guided us through the menu experience”, which took about ten minutes. When we asked for recommendations, the most expensive and most boring dishes were recommended (Was it because they were having trouble selling them?).
Also, Asian Crudo is ceviche. They assume you don’t know what ceviche or little sashimi salads are, so they European-ize and call it crudo. Right when I heard the explanation of “crudo”, I steered clear from that menu section on principle. We ordered the tempura rock shrimp, Singaporean Slaw, and spicy scallop sushi. Everything was mediocre but the slaw. Even though the overall package of service and food wasn’t anything special, this slaw coupled with the decor of the restaurant and hotel over all and the rooftop view is worth going back. The slaw has over 19 ingredients including several types of nuts, a salted plum dressing, carrot, jicama, and other things I couldn’t find in the dim light. It’s served mostly dry, but it’s condensed and mixed table-side to become the ultimate delicious-ness that hits your mouth.
Alone, I don’t think Zentan is worth going to. The publicity photos make it seem much larger than it is. In person, it has a hotel lounge feel to it. But the hotel really jives with the overall hotel’s decor, which is modern and organic and includes a currently un-matched rooftop view. Unfortunately, the rooftop is quite popular and is often reserved. We didn’t want to go to Zentan without the option to go on the roof, so that’s why it took us so long to go here. If you have to choose between the restaurant or the rooftop, go to the roof. The drinks are better up there and so is the service. Not that I’d know about the service since I was resting on an ultra-comfortable lounge chair the whole time while my boyfriend fetched drinks at the bar next to the fireplace and pool.