We’re not exactly sure where the time has gone. Before we knew it the cherry blossoms came and went, and acclaimed Chef Richard Sandoval’s Latin and Asian fusion restaurant, Zengo, released their newest Test Kitchen experience, Thailand to Cuba. Offered exclusively during dinner service between April 1st through June 30th, guests will have the opportunity to experience two cocktails crafted by Rob Day, Richard Sandoval Restaurant’s National Beverage Director, four plates created by Chef de Cuisine Jason Streiff along with the zengo team, and a not-your-average dessert by Corporate Pastry Chef Jose Luis Flores. Just look for the “TK” marked items on the menu to know that you’re ordering from the Test Kitchen.
This is the third Zengo Test Kitchen we’ve had the opportunity to check out for ourselves. The previous Test Kitchens included Japan to Mexico, and Peru to Malaysia. We absolutely love the concept of blending two totally different countries and cuisines making each experience completely unique. The most recent Test Kitchen is no exception. Artfully combining seasonal ingredients and modern techniques to create delicious dishes, we left full and grateful for the experience. So, here’s our rundown:
- As we’ve said time and again, the drinks at Zengo are nothing to turn your nose up at. That includes the two Test Kitchen drinks; Daiquiri Kaffir (Bacardi Castillo, Kaffir Lime Simple Syrup, Fresh Lime Juice) and the Spicy Siam (Vodka, Mango, Simple Syrup, Thai Chili). Our waitress was correct to suggest that one starts out with the Daiquiri. It’s light, easy to drink, and the perfect starter. The Spicy Siam, created to honor the Thai New Year, is a thick concoction of mango puree, alcohol, and spiced with Thai chili. And we mean spiced. It might leave your lips tingling, but we loved the creativity and thought the drink paired well with the entrees.
- Under the Dim Sum and Antojitos section of the menu you’ll find two small Test Kitchen plates; the Curry Bacalao-Shrimp Spring Rolls (Potato, Sweet Chili Mojo) and Pollo Asado Pad Thai (Peanuts, Mojo, Egg, Tamarind Sauce, Carrots, Bean Sprout, Cilantro, Scallion). The spring rolls are filled with a salted cod that is strained overnight before being added to raw shrimp, cabbage, carrots and scallions. The mojo dipping sauce made from citrus flavors was an interesting balance to the saltiness of the spring rolls. However, it was the Pad Thai that took our hearts. So much so, that we’ve included a recipe for it below graciously given to us by Jason Streiff. The Cuban flavors can be found in the citrus-y flavoring of the chicken and crunchy skin.
- And finally, before dessert, came the main dishes: Thai Style Snapper “Escabeche” (Chili, Onion, Citrus, Pineapple, Thai Fish Sauce) and Mojo Grilled Pork Chop (Massaman Curry, Boniato Puree, Avocado-tomato Salad). The flowered and fried snapper seasoned with pepper, onion, white vinegar, salt and sugar was a little salty for us, however the texture and other flavors made the dish devour-able. The sweetness of the spicy pineapple helped tone down the saltiness of the dish and we enjoyed the combination of sweet and savory. Definitely heard at our table, “This is the best pork chop I’ve had in my life!” The nearly 10oz chop was accompanied by boniato, a type of sweet white flesh potato, and a gorgeous massaman curry that blended everything on the plate together. The pork chop, along with the Pad Thai were the two dishes of the evening we just couldn’t stop eating.
- For dessert came the Chilled Lemon Grass Coconut Soup (Water-Chestnuts, Mango, Litchi and Passion Fruit Granite). We just wish it had been an 80 degree day so we could have better appreciated it. Just picture sitting outside on a patio, with a warm breeze, stunning cocktail sitting in front of you and the beautiful cool soup… Ahhh, summer. We found the litchi to be our favorite fruity inclusion. And, after the massive pork chop and snapper portions, slowly sipping on a light soup was the best way to end our meal.
Once again we loved our Test Kitchen experience. We hear they might be running out of countries, but we’re excited to see what they come up with next. For an idea of what was prepared, we highly suggest making the recipe below. While there are a lot of components, none are difficult to assemble, and can easily be done by the most novice of home cooks.
781 7th St., NW
Washington, DC 20001
- Plate components
- ¾ cup – Tamarind Pad Thai Sauce
- 1lb bag – Pad Thai Rice Noodle. (Soak in hot water for 10 min, strain, cool & reserve until ready to use.)
- Egg omelet
- Protein of Choice (We use chicken thigh marinated in an citrus achiote marinade. Could be made with tofu, chicken, beef, pork, duck, etc)
- 6 TBSP – Crushed Peanuts
- 1 ea – Large Carrot (Julienned)
- ½ lb – Bean Sprouts
- ½ Bunch – Cilantro (Sliced)
- 1 Bunch – Scallions (Sliced)
- Salt to Taste
- Tamarind Pad Thai Sauce
- ½ cup – Tamarind Puree/Paste
- 3 TBSP + 2 tsp – Sugar
- 3 TBSP – Fish Sauce
- 1 TBSP – Spanish Paprika
- 1 tsp – Salt
- 2 ea – Lemons (Juiced)
- Egg Omelet
- Heat a none stick pan on low heat.
- Once hot, ladle scrambled eggs into it.
- Let sit for thirty seconds of so and pour off the remaining raw eggs back into your container. This forms a very thin layer of cooked egg in the pan.
- Once the eggs are cooked through, flip them out on a plate or cutting board. You will need to repeat this until you have enough for six portions.
- Once the thin omelets are cooled down they are ready to be cut.
- Slice them the same width as the noodles and reserve until you are ready to use.
- Tamarind Pad Thai Sauce
- Combine sugar, salt, fish sauce and lemon juice in a pan.
- Place on medium heat and bring to a boil.
- Remove from the heat and incorporate the remaining ingredients.
- Cool down and reserve until you are ready to use it.
- Putting everything together
- On one burner boil water for the noodles.
- On a separate burner heat a large sauté pan or wok on high heat.
- Once hot coat the pan with cooking oil, pour off the excess oil.
- Drop your noodles in the boiling water for about 20-30 seconds.
- Strain them out, but leave the water close to you as you will add it to your pan to finish cooking the noodles.
- Add the carrots and bean sprouts to the hot sauté pan, season with salt and sauté for 30 seconds constantly stirring.
- Next, add your strained noodles and season them with salt.
- Stir constantly to avoid the noodles sticking to the pan (they will also stick if your pan isn’t hot enough).
- At this point add ¾ cup of the tamarind pad Thai sauce, keep stirring.
- After about 30 seconds ladle in ½ cup of the hot water (the water that was used for the noodles) to continue cooking the noodles.
- Don’t stop stirring.
- Add your egg omelet and more water as needed to cook the noodles to the proper consistency.
- If the noodles start to break they are becoming overcooked but still good to eat, just not as pretty.
- Finally season with salt to taste, remove from the pan onto your serving dish(es).
- Sprinkle the crushed peanuts over it.
- Place whatever protein (cooked separately) you decided to use sliced on top of the noodles and garnish with the scallions and cilantro.
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