Upon arrival at Restaurant Zoe I was forced to engage in a game of one-upmanship with the maitre'd over whose sideburns were bigger. Winner: me, asshole. There are only a couple dudes on earth with bigger sideburns than me. One of them is the lead singer of Bloodhag. Another manly man capable of shaming my dundrearies is Burt Rutan, famous (kinda) engineer and aviator. Unfortunately, my victory in the facial hair arena did not come with free food. I guess the “prize” was that they honored my reservation.
The wine list is the only thing that sucks at Restaurant Zoe, because it is TOO EXPENSIVE. I think the bottle we ordered, Montegrossi San Marcelino, was at $42 among the cheapest on the list, and honestly I can't recall being blown away by that vintage. If you're one of those ostentatious bastards, the kind of guy who drives a solid gold car, and can afford to pay Bill Gates to walk your pet unicorn, and you have an entire staff of robot butlers which are powered by burning Picassos, or if you're an NBA player, maybe you wouldn't mind dropping $150 on a bottle of wine, but I'm so poor I would've settled for Thunderbird. Or an upside down can of Whip It.
I stopped complaining about the wine list when the food arrived. The romaine salad ($8.50) was good. It was a grilled romaine heart topped with sauteed apples, bacon bits, and Roquefort dressing. The edges of the lettuce were charred crisp, which combined with the bacon gave the salad a pleasantly smoky flavor. The dressing, tangy and creamy, delightfully balanced the sweetness of the apples.
Next up was the foie gras. Aahhh, foie gras, cruelest of the cruel foods. Or is that veal? Hmmm, I can't decide, so I declare it a delicious tie (at least until they finally invent “orphan cracklin's”). That foie gras was as juicy, yielding, and soft as a cloud of titties, with hints of curry powder and saffron. It was perfectly prepared, and served with sauteed mango slices. The mango had a carmelized sugar cinnamon crust, just like on top of a crème brulee, which gave it a sweet, spicy crunch to contrast the juicy ripeness of the fruit. The foie gras cost fifteen absolutely delicious dollars.
The yellowfin tuna nicoise ($22) was quite a treat. A square block of rare seared tuna topped a bed of green beans, olives, and roasted potatoes. Usually nicoise salad has chopped up chunks of boiled egg, which I hate because it seems like the kind of crap my grandma eats. This nicoise had instead a poached egg, which stared patiently up at me from the plate, like the old dude's vulture eye in “The Telltale Heart.” The yolk was runny. The white was firm and seasoned with cracked black pepper. Fucking AWESOME.
Next was grilled branzino ($29.95. What the fuck is up with that price? $29.95? It's like a damn infomercial. “But wait, there's more. If you call now, and promise to tell a friend, you get two branzinos for the price of one!”). Served whole, the waiter filleted the branzino right at the table. It was flaky, and the flesh had a pleasantly nutty flavor, reminiscent of trout. Actually the fish looked like a trout too, so maybe it's a kind of trout. I don't fucking know. What am I, an ichthyologist? As the old adage goes, if it looks like a duck and fucks like a duck, it's a duck. Or in this case, trout.
Dessert was interesting. I don't usually go for the ultra chocolatey bullshit, puddings, or cake, so I went with the blackberry sorbet ($6). Our waiter, who looked like the dude from Swingers (no, not Vince Vaughn, the other guy), recommended the Moscato d'Asti dessert wine ($6) to accompany. A perfect recommendation! The muscat was lightly sparkling, and just a little tart against the blackberry sorbet. The sorbet was smooth, not cloyingly sweet, and without a trace of the ice crystals that plague lesser sorbets, and it really tasted like fresh fruit.
The ultimate verdict is that Restaurant Zoe RULES. If I had any criticism, it's that the Swingers guy waiter was a little too chatty. I found myself wishing I could change places with him, and I could be the waiter and he could be the customer, so I could serve him a rich creamy bowl of SHUT THE FUCK UP. Now I'm no elitist, only because I'm too poor, but I generally prefer my waiters to be like culinary ninjas, or gustatory ghosts; in other words, I want the motherfuckers to sweep away my dishes, make the occasional recommendation, and otherwise stay the fuck away. But that's a minor quibble, I guess.
Rating: 9.5 chatty waiters out of 10.