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Zola


vengroff
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Just a quick note:

I visited Zola for the first time the other night, hoping to sample Frank Morales' revamped menu. Unfortunately, most of what was on offer consists of holdovers from before his tenure in the kitchen began. Perhaps he's changed a few things; for example a lobster and swiss chard ravioli dish that Sietsema thoroughly panned was not half bad. It had a nice amount of fresh tarragon, and the lobster itself was well prepared. I'll have to reserve further judgement on Morales' efforts until he has a little more time in the kitchen.

Outside the kitchen, though, Zola has quite a different character then most anyplace else in DC I have been. One gets the impression that an 8x10 glossy is required when applying for a front of the house job. It's a common practice in New York, where aspiring models and actors with rent to pay are a dime a dozen. Here in DC, the focus on staff as eye candy is not so prevelant. Minor note to management: lower the lighting in the bar to complete the look you are going for. At present, it's brighter than the restrooms.

Service wasn't the stellar, but not terrible either. The napkin swapping ritual (my white napkin was taken away and replaced with a black one because I was wearing dark pants) didn't make me feel like I was getting better service, it just seemed wierd. We had a couple of menu and wine questions, which our waiter had to go back to the kitchen to answer. But he was enthusiastic and more than willing to do so.

I'd go back for a drink and perhaps a quick bite at the bar, but I'm going to give Morales a couple more months to work on the menu before I try it again.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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  • 7 months later...

I had dinner at the bar at Zola tonight. Want to see me the next time I go in? Look for the guy being dragged, kicking and screaming.

There were several bartenders, and the one I had was polite, nice and cool: the one-and-only highlight of the evening.

I immediately asked for the winelist, and ordered a half-bottle of Bandol Rose, and watched the bartender type the bin number in the computer, only to return and ask me 'what was that you ordered again?'

"The Bandol Rose, the half-bottle."

"I can't find it in the computer."

"No problem - can I see a list of beers?"

"We don't have one, but I can rattle them off."

"Cool."

"On tap, Stella Artois, Pilsner Urquell, Samuel Adams. In bottle, Budweiser, Miller Lite, ...."

"I'll have a Pilsner."

"Coming right up."

He went to the tap, and pulled it, only to get a hiss of air. He called another person over and asked him to check the Pilsner.

"No worries, I'll have a Stella."

"Are you sure?"

"No problem!"

The Stella arrived, and I asked to look at the menu and winelist again. I ordered a Viognier "from the south of France" (translation: not a Condrieu) by the glass to have with my 'Buffalo chicken croquettes.' While I was nursing my Stella, the bartender poured me my glass of Viognier. Then, about three minutes later, the croquettes arrived while I was still about a third of the way finished my beer. I left the wine and croquettes alone and did a double-time on the Stella, then pulled my wine and my appetizer in front of me.

Everything was well-and-good at that point, the croquettes being perfectly serviceable although I'm still in a daze that the sauce was billed as 'Maytag Blue' because I've had that cheese many times in my life, and they must not have used very much of it.

About halfway through my appetizer, the complimentary basket of garlic pita chips arrived. They tasted so strongly of cheap garlic powder that I took about three reluctant bites, desperately hoping I wasn't tasting what I thought I was, and then left them alone for the rest of the evening.

I finished my glass of Viognier, had two croquettes remaining, and the bartender came back and said, 'another glass?' I did a double-take, wondering what to do, and wanted to say, 'just a splash,' but didn't want to sound cheap, so I said after a moment, "sure."

He went to the wine fridge, pulled out a bottle, and emptied the remnants into my glass. There was only enough to fill the glass halfway, so he went back to the fridge and pulled another bottle, and emptied its remnants in my glass as well! I looked at my glass, and it had a ton of crystalline tartrates which often form at the bottom of the bottle in white wines that have been refrigerated at too low a temperature.

I finished my croquettes, and had only taken a few sips of the glass, so I pushed it to the side, wondering if the bartender would take it away and comp it, which he didn't.

I then asked for a glass of Barbera to go with the pork chop I had ordered, and when the pork chop arrived a couple minutes later, the wine was poured, and my entree was in front of me.

I took one sip of the wine and it was served at room temperature, and I actually let out a sigh of despair that nobody else could hear. The pork chop was about two-inches thick, and was as tough as a shoe. I had a butter knife to cut it with. I have been to the corporate-owned Artie's in Fairfax at least twenty times, and have had their pork chop at least a half-dozen times. On its worst night, it was not as bad as what I was forced to eat tonight. To add insult to injury, the wine was plonk, tasting like high-yield, overcropped industrial swill.

At that point, all I wanted to do was finish the meal and leave. I looked longingly out the window at Poste, over the horizon was Matchbox, Ella's ...

As I was about to walk out, the bartender said to me, 'sorry we didn't have that Bandol.'

To the owners of Zola: you must have done well at adding two fractions together in elementary-school math, as you seem to know quite a bit about the lowest common denominator.

To the people in charge of the RAMY award given to Zola this year for "Best Wine and Beverage Program": you are unqualified to give such an award out, you do not know what you are doing, and this borders on being a crime against humanity.

This was not an off-night; this restaurant misses, plain and simple. Do not spend your money at this theme park.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Edited by DonRocks (log)
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After my meal there in October, I wholeheartedly agree, Rocks. I too suffered through the pork chop (same dull knife and all). A college roommate took me there for a birthday dinner so it felt wrong to complain to the waitstaff.

It's such a shame too...the space is gorgeous and the location, very close to my office, is so convenient for socializing or entertaining clients. But I know better.

I have to confess that our appetizer (cheese fondue served with bread and a kielbasa-like sausage) and dessert (again, fondue - this time chocolate served with sliced fruit, cookies, tiny rice krispie treats and peanut butter cookie dough for dipping) were pretty good. But those entrees and the service make me say "I probably won't."

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The visuals at Zola are stunning. And maybe I'm luckier than Rocks, but I've had no problem finding a bartender who knew how to mix a proper drink--not just the frufry special "martinis." But if I start getting hungry, I prefer to walk across the street to Poste.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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  • 3 months later...

Well, surprise! I had dinner at Zola Sunday night this week (would I be intellectually honest if I didn’t retry some of these places?) My server at the bar was Ryan, a quiet-but-cool young man who refilled my glass of Transylvanian (!) Sauvignon Blanc without asking or charging me. And then I sat and listened to Younes, a charming bartender from Morocco who has worked at Zola since it opened – he was regaling an older out-of-town couple sitting next to me with his friendliness and vignettes about his country. He made their evening, and when they left, I mentioned to him how much I appreciated his gesture of kindness towards them, which was above-and-beyond the normal call. I ordered a burger and fries with gouda, medium-rare, and a glass of red Cotes-du-Rhone which, sigh, was served too warm. The three of us (Ryan, Younes and I) continued to talk as the bar wasn’t terribly crowded at that time. Ryan is an expert at motorcycle mechanics, specializing in the astounding combination of Harley-Davidsons and Ducattis, and if I had a bike that needed any work done to it at all, he would be the first person I called. The cheeseburger arrived with five pounds of fries, and when I cut into it, it was cooked throughout and well-done. I took a couple of polite bites, and then just lost interest in the sandwich itself, preferring to enjoy my vino. Ryan asked me how it was, and in an unusual moment of candor, I said “it’s well-done, and I’m just not a big fan of well-done meat.” Younes overheard this, and immediately apologized and said they would redo the burger, to which I said it wasn’t their fault, and I really didn’t care that much about the outcome of a cheeseburger. Nevertheless, Ryan chimed in and said “it’s our responsibility,” and so they took my plate from me. In the interim, Younes mentioned that it seemed like I appreciated wine, and that they’d soon be offering a flight of three Austrian red wines, and would I like to try them? How was I to say no? The wines, as it turns out, were imported by one of my dearest friends Terry Theise, and I was poured three glasses to try and enjoy, which I did with gusto. Then the burger arrived, perfectly cooked medium-rare. What was not to like? Their concern over something as simple as a cheeseburger changed a bad food experience into everything one could possibly expect, and their magnanimity and generosity with the wines made the evening. I asked Ryan to serve me a digestif of his choice, and to Younes' objection, he chose and served a perfectly fine Bonny Doon Vin de Glacière (I think Younes had something a bit stronger in mind!) I then asked for the check. It was impossibly low, and I mentioned to them that it needed to be updated. “That’s the check,” Younes said. I said thank you and left a tip that was commensurate with their extraordinary level of service. I saw Ryan take the check over to the register, open it, and try to maintain his composure when he saw the tip I left them. They deserved what they got, because they were both wonderful, and my experience at Zola this week was a winner because of the efforts of these two fine bartenders. Kudos, gentlemen, and my best wishes to you.

Cheers!

Rocks.

Edited by DonRocks (log)
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  • 2 months later...

I enjoyed a very pleasant lunch at Zola today. I had the Wild Mushroom Sticky Rice “Risotto” w/ tomatoes, garlic, mascarpone and lemon-basil tempura oyster mushrooms, along with a glass of the 2003 Fox Creek Verdelho from Australia.

My colleague had the Pan Seared North Atlantic Salmon with creamy ruby chard, roasted butternut, saffron and pickled ramps, with a glass of the 2003 Duck Pond Pinot Gris from Oregon.

It was the first time I had eaten there in a year or more. Service was prompt and courteous. Entrees were relatively reasonable, $13 and $16 respectively. The risotto was rich and delicious. The piece of salmon I had was fantastic--very fresh and flavorful.

http://www.zoladc.com

http://www.heatherfreeman.com/webpage/zola/zola.html

Liam

Eat it, eat it

If it's gettin' cold, reheat it

Have a big dinner, have a light snack

If you don't like it, you can't send it back

Just eat it -- Weird Al Yankovic

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On hearsay, at least, Zola seems to have been getting its, um, stuff together. My wife took some New York coworkers there last week, over my mild demurrals because I'd seen it beaten up here and elsewhere, and both she and they were very happy with the food and the service -- which has been a particular bone of contention. It's a cool bar and a great space. Be nice if the rest of the experience can regularly live up to that.

"Mine goes off like a rocket." -- Tom Sietsema, Washington Post, Feb. 16.

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  • 1 month later...

We took some friends to dinner at Zola on Saturday night... the experience was not fun to say the least. Our dinner arrived in 5 minutes of ordering.. even before the cocktails. The cocktails showed up half way thru the dinner. The waiter was apologetic...

It just killed the evening - we were seeing these folks after a while and had intended on sitting and chatting before dinner. I know its not a big deal but for such an expensive restaurant.. these kinds of gaffes are not forgivable.

Am I being too picky??

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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We took some friends to dinner at Zola on Saturday night... the experience was not fun to say the least. Our dinner arrived in 5 minutes of ordering.. even before the cocktails. The cocktails showed up half way thru the dinner. The waiter was apologetic...

It just killed the evening - we were seeing these folks after a while and had intended on sitting and chatting before dinner. I know its not a big deal but for such an expensive restaurant.. these kinds of gaffes are not forgivable.

Am I being too picky??

no.

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We took some friends to dinner at Zola on Saturday night... the experience was not fun to say the least. Our dinner arrived in 5 minutes of ordering.. even before the cocktails. The cocktails showed up half way thru the dinner. The waiter was apologetic...

It just killed the evening - we were seeing these folks after a while and had intended on sitting and chatting before dinner. I know its not a big deal but for such an expensive restaurant.. these kinds of gaffes are not forgivable.

Am I being too picky??

no.

Double no.

I like Zola for drinks, but dinner there seems to be asking for too much. They don't deliver, so to speak.

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Glad to hear that I am not being overly picky. It was kind of a bummer. These friends were visiting from Boston and we have not seen them for a while. We really wanted to go somewhere we would be treated nice and could sit and have a lovely conversation and catch up. I felt we were treated very poorly and rushed thru dinner. Not once did anyone ask how the meal was or anything. Oh well.

Monica Bhide

A Life of Spice

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  • 3 weeks later...

I had dinner at Zola on Saturday night. It was my third time there, and while I completely agree with and understand all of the service complaints, I really like this place.

I was sorry to read Monica's experience of being rushed because we experienced a very leisurely dinner. We did sit down to eat at 9 pm, so I don't know if that was a factor.

Anyway, I love their cheese fondue appetizer with smoked sausage and bread. It is a fun way to start the meal.

And while the lobster roll is a fairly small portion, I find it to be significantly better than the lobster roll at Kinkeads and the fries that come with it are SO good. And it is $17.

The reason why I can't hate on the service is because they seem to mean well. It would be another thing if they were snooty or indifferent. That said, on my three visits there, they have never really gotten it together service-wise.

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  • 5 months later...

I had NYE dinner here and it was quite a surprise based on the feedback I got from e-gullet and the general "amature night" status NYE has attained. The restaurant is a shiek and classy spot where you'd feel a bit out of place if you weren't dressed to the nines. The bar is very cool with a great selection of your top shelf booze, and they can make a good Makers Mark Manhattan which is always a plus. We had a very large table for 7 people (table 701) right by the bar, so we had room to move around mingle drink champagne watch the ball drop in the bar etc. Our server Emily was very good, she was accomidating with all of the wine we brought i.e. fresh stems and opening in the order I requested. On with the food. We did a Chef's Grand Tasting for $85 dollars which was a bargain for the quality and amount of food we had. I'll recount what my brother and I had.

Chef's Amouse: Nicholas Feuilleute Blancs De Blancs

Big Eye Tuna with Granny Smith butter; This was fantastic, extremely fresh fish with warm tart butter that accompanied the tuna perfectly.

Course One: 2002 Williams Selyem Heintz Chard

Warm Ricotta Terrine with Country Ham and Spiced Quince; Good but not spectacular, large portion of ricotta

Blue Hubbard Squash Chowder with Winter Kale and Smoked Sausage; Brian said this was inspired and truely awesome

Course Two: 2003 Loring Gary's

Cedar Planked Coho Salmon with Truffled Grits; This simply ROCKED, the grits were perfect the fish had a great smokey flavor and was cooked right on the money. With the 2003 Loring Gary's, Stunning

Cavitelli with House cured Duck and Butternut Confetto; My brother STILL hasn't shut up about this, that's how much he liked it.

Course Three: NV Bolinger Special Cuvee (we went too long without Champers)

Cheer Wine Braised Oxtail and Saffron Fritter, Wilted Pepper Cress; Oxtail was awesome sooo rich, safron fritters were bland and I can't remember the pepper cress

Hot Pot of Sweet Scallops, Mussels and Clams with Tomatoes and Anise; Not sure what the verdict on this was but it dissapeared quickly.

Course Four: 1996 BV Tapestry

Caramelized Delmonico, Mini pickled Peppers, Fingerlings, Chippolini and Fresh Horseradish; Bro and I both had this and with the 96 Tapestry it was a wonderful dish. Steak was prepared perfectly and the fingerlings had that great creamy texture which I really dig.

Cheese Course:

Wisconson Cheddar blue; Unbelieavable, this was an orange blue cheese that had some sharpness from the cheddar but unmistakenly blue.

Goat Cheese; Can't remember what kind

Vermont Brie; Very good

Dessert:1996 Dom Perignon

Blood Orange Sortbet

Overall just an awesome time. The one glitch was that they ran out of the lobster and shrimp courses which while odd didn't cause too much of a hassel and the Manager Dustin brought us a complementary ice wine from Hunter Valley in NY which was very good.

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Blood Orange Sortbet

Overall just an awesome time. The one glitch was that they ran out of the lobster and shrimp courses which while odd didn't cause too much of a hassel and the Manager Dustin brought us a complementary ice wine from Hunter Valley in NY which was very good.

Manager Dustin Martinez hails from Bistro Bis where he was overseeing lunch shifts - until a few weeks ago. The diminutive Dustin has poise and wit beyond his age and size, and we were sorry to see him go. He says he misses us too, but thinks clientele at Zola is better-looking.

On the other hand, we now have one more person to yell at when they send us late parties at 10.15, fifteen minutes before closing.

Resident Twizzlebum

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  • 2 months later...

I had a surprisingly good dinner at Zola last night. It was surprising in that I had not previously enjoyed a meal there after three or so visits.

This was a business dinner held prior to the Wizards game so we were on a pretty tight timeline. Certain other restaurateurs would have approved of our 90 minute turn-of-the-table. (kidding!! :biggrin: )

The restaurant itself is as gorgeous as ever. This time, though, I was more impressed with the courteousness and professionalism of the staff than I had been on past visits. When we arrived - ten minutes late and with six people instead of five (yes, I was suitably chagrined; blame my boss for both) - the host seated us promptly and without even a hint of wanting to chide us. Very smooth.

We let our polished female server (didn't catch her name - I was on the far inside of one of the six person booths) know that we were in somewhat of a rush and she paced our meal accordingly, somehow without ever making the service feel rushed.

Although two members of the party had salads, most of us went straight to the entrees in the interest of time.

My boss had:

Broiled Jumbo Prawns

harissa, green pea sticky rice and caramelized Meyer lemon

$23

He raved, but then again he always liked Zola which is how we came to go there, prospective client in tow. Carb-conscious man that he is, he didn't eat all of the sticky rice, but I know him well enough to know that it was not because he didn't like it.

My entree:

Lamb³

parsley greened potato, black olives, sun dried tomatoes

$25

All I can come up with is WOWEE. I really loved this dish. The three preparations of lamb were a nice meaty chop, a link of Merguez sausage and a slab of lamb meatloaf. Of the three, I have to rank the meatloaf a surprising first - I enjoyed the texture, the spicing, everything. Next would be the chop. Cooked a hair beyond the medium I requested, it remained juicy enough. Full of lamb-y flavor. The sausage was nicely spiced, but would rank third of three for me; could be that I'm burned out on lamb sausage from too many similar dishes at Bardeo.

The accompanying potato was served up almost like pilaf, under the three preparations of lamb. The olives added a nice dash of salt; there was a bit of spice

in there as well. Great accompaniment for the lamb.

I'd order this dish again in a heartbeat, specifying medium rare for the chop.

Sadly no one ordered dessert (I was forced to sneak into the Acela Club and mooch ice cream). When I have dined at Zola in the past, desserts were a highlight so this was disappointing.

Signed,

Gladly on the Zola Bandwagon

Side note: Although the web site is very attractive and the menu there is somewhat up-to-date, I find the full-screen, pop-up format really annoying. In order to close out of it, I have to go to Task Manager and quit the thing manually. I tried hitting Esc to make it go away - no dice. When you close out of the "base" site, it doesn't make the pop-up disappear. There also doesn't appear to be anywhere on-screen to click to make the full-screen imagery go away either.

Edited by JennyUptown (log)
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Thanks for the report! I have really enjoyed Zola every time I have gone. At times, I have had slow service, but nothing terrible really. And the place has great atmosphere.

Agree on the website front...I have made the mistake of going there myself and feeling stuck.

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Hmmmm.  Lamb 3 ways.  Where have I seen that before?

_______ Three Ways (insert lamb, pork, brussels sprouts, orangutan, etc.) is qucikly becoming one of those menu standards (cliches?) like mini-burgers, foie gras finger sandwiches and a new addition to the list - hot chocolate with house-made marshmallows.

Fortunately, I haven't tired of any of them - except the foie which I never really liked anyway.

Edited by bilrus (log)

Bill Russell

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Hmmmm.  Lamb 3 ways.  Where have I seen that before?

_______ Three Ways (insert lamb, pork, brussels sprouts, orangutan, etc.) is qucikly becoming one of those menu standards (cliches?) like mini-burgers, foie gras finger sandwiches and a new addition to the list - hot chocolate with house-made marshmallows.

Fortunately, I haven't tired of any of them - except the foie which I never really liked anyway.

Who will be the first to embrace the twelve way format?

If he is thin, I will probably dine poorly. If he is both thin and sad, the only hope is in flight.”

Fernand Point

Cirrcle Bistro, Potato Peeler

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