New Delhi, India
September 20, 2012
Anyway, to begin with: the place. This one lies behind Naivedyam (both restaurants share the same address; to get to Zo, keep walking down the narrow alley past Naivedyam). Keep a sharp eye on your left, because the only sign Zo has (at present, at least) is a small blackboard on which the name of the restaurant has been scrawled in white chalk. We’d have missed it, if we hadn’t been paying very close attention.
The temporary, makeshift nature of the sign is at odds with the interior of the restaurant, which is fussy and pretentious in the extreme. The floor’s cobbled stones, with what looked like bits of rounded white marble, each the size of an orange, laid in cement: it’s so uneven that when my husband pulled back his chair to seat himself, the chair nearly fell back. There are grand murals (some actually quite pretty), stone sculptures, a glittery chandelier—someone here has obviously spent a lot on the décor.
We were more interested in Zo’s menu, which turned out to be quite brief. Each section—soups, appetisers, pastas, main courses, etc—feature only about eight or ten dishes, with an almost equal balance of vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. Italian seems to be the reigning favourite, with the rest of the Mediterranean reflected in only a couple of dishes scattered here and there. We decided to begin with a starter—a funghi imbotitti fritti—and a main course each: a seafood risotto for me, and a dajaajah tagine for my husband. With that, we ordered a fresh lemonade each.
With our drinks came a basket of hot rolls (hot, but not terribly interesting when it came to flavour) and a minuscule blob of butter, which was really too little to do justice to the amount of bread they’d given us. About five minutes later, the funghi imbotitti fritti arrived: five large button mushrooms, filled with a mixture of grated cheese and herbs, breaded and deep-fried. Along with that was a tomato salsa, which my husband—even without tasting—pronounced as ‘part proprietary sauce’. I had to agree once I tasted it: this was definitely a Thai sweet-hot red chilli sauce, with some chopped tomatoes and some indefinable herb (parsley?) added. Nice, as were the mushrooms, but not spectacular.
The main course was served up soon after we’d finished the starter. My husband’s chicken tagine came with a portion of couscous. The tagine itself had a lot of thick, cumin-scented tomato sauce with carrots and pieces of chicken, and a helping of cooked red cabbage on the side. I had a taste and liked it (as did my husband), but we both agreed that there was just too much sauce in the dish—it swamped everything else.
My risotto was like no risotto I’ve seen before: the seafood angle of it seemed to be confined to a heap of calamari and prawns, cooked in a creamy tomato sauce, that had been heaped on top of the creamy white risotto. The dominant flavour in the risotto was of cracked pepper. I like black pepper, so I liked this, but I am inclined to think most people would find the pepper too overpowering. The seafood sauce on top was good, not extremely tomatoey, and with the seafood juicy and succulent. On the side was a nondescript slice of toasted baguette.
We’d probably have had dessert at Zo, if they’d had anything interesting to offer. The menu, unfortunately, has a terribly boring (and brief) list of desserts: tiramisu, chocolate fondant, blueberry cheesecake… the usual suspects in a Delhi restaurant that couldn’t be bothered with anything different. We therefore skipped dessert, and asked for the bill, which was Rs 1,580, including taxes and service charges.
Zo looks quite fancy, and if you’re not looking for a very exciting menu, you’d probably find this quite satisfying. We, however, decided that this isn’t good enough to go back to—the ambience is nice and we had no complaints with the service, but we like to be a bit more adventurous when it comes to menus. And the food, for the amount we paid for it, wasn’t mind-blowing.
From journal The Many Flavours of Hauz Khas Village