We enjoyed a group dinner at Zelo this week. Located on the corner of Nicollet and 9th, the restaurant is an eclectically decorated combination of woods and leathers, accented by vivid artwork on the walls. On a busy mid-week evening it was bustling but the noise level allowed for conversation at our table. Of special note was our server, who was outstanding. She explained many of the choices and was spot on during the entire evening.
The food was very good, but there was nothing I would rush back for and there were some misses.
We began the evening with a few shared appetizers. The “calamari fritti” was accompanied by lemon aioli and gremolata. These were the most disappointing of the appetizers. I was impressed when they were delivered as there were plenty of heads, which I prefer, but the coating was very flour-y, very unpleasant to the taste. They were slightly overcooked. The “ahi tuna spring rolls” are filled with somen noodles and served with a touch of soy wasabi. This was my favorite of the three. It was a spring roll interpretation of a tuna-avocado roll, with the seaweed replaced with rice paper. The flavors were excellent and they were crispy on the exterior. I was excited about the “caramelized brussels sprouts,” but these too were flat. Served with Ames farm and topped with honey toasted almonds, I was expecting a sweet and crispy presentation. They tried on both counts but came close, but did not hit the mark on either.
For my entrée, the server recommended the “pesto crusted sea bass” served with mashed potatoes, crispy onions, nestled in a swath of Thai chili beurre blanc. This falls into the vertical food category. A mound of potatoes is topped with a large 8-10 oz. filet, topped with pesto and then finally topped with the crispy onions. The potatoes were very good, just a touch of wasabi to give a little spice. The filet was excellent, crispy skin adorned the moist and delightfully flavorful fish and the pesto (not crusted as described) added a great balance with its earthiness. The crispy onions were stale and cold and should have remained in the kitchen. The Thai chili beurre blanc was a little butter with no spice, where was the Thai chili? But I did like the dish, and it would have been excellent if the beurre blanc and the onions were better.
For dessert I ordered the “Bananas Foster Bread Pudding.” This is better described as Banana Foster and bread pudding. They were two distinct desserts sharing a plate. That being said, it was delicious. The bread pudding was moist and flavorful (although it would have benefited from a little more cinnamon) and the bananas foster delivered that sweet-pungent combination from the bananas and the liquor. It was served with a scoop of sweet vanilla ice cream.
Overall I was pleased with Zelo. It has excellent service and décor and very good food.