The best thing about eating at Zentan was meeting the couple seated next to us. They insisted on us trying their order of the 19 ingredient slaw after seeing how big the order was. That dish turned out to be the best dish of the night with its multiple textures and flavors. They also recommended trying Brasserie Beck which we promptly went to after a few disappointing dishes at Zentan.

I should have known it was going to be a bad dining experience after receiving a voicemail from the restaurant’s staff at 7:31 saying that they were going to mark down our reservation as a “no-show.” Our reservations were for 7:30 and we got to the restaurant at 7:34 — 4 minutes late and they were basically telling me, “Thanks, but no thanks. Dine somewhere else.” If the place was packed I would have understood their snooty attitude, but there were probably a dozen tables that were open when we arrived.

They did seat us and our waitress was nice enough. But, the problem was the mediocre food. We started off sampling the slaw. After that we had a pretty good tuna tartare which had a refreshingly sweet and citrusy flavor with Asian pears and mandarin oranges. Following that was the Donovan Platter, a sampling of some of their more popular appetizers. The best of the bunch was the crusted vegetable dumpling and the salt and pepper calamari. The duck roll was a soggy mess, the shrimp satay was slightly overcooked, and the chicken and beef satays were dry and tough. Rounding out the meal was their Fire Dragon roll (spicy tuna, barbeque eel, avocado, and tobiko) that was made with mushy rice and tuna that didn’t have much of a kick to it. I could have gotten a similar (and better) roll at a million other hole-in-the-wall sushi joints for half the price.

I know Susur Lee wasn’t working there, but I still expected more from a restaurant he lends his name to. Now that I’ve been disappointed by Susur’s place and Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood in Las Vegas, I just need to have Marcus Samuelson’s restaurant let me down before I lose complete faith in Top Chef Masters.

2 Stars

1155 14th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 379-4366

Zentan on Urbanspoon