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Zao Noodle Bar


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Well, at least really one really wonderful dish, that would make me go back anytime I'm in the University Village. It's a pleasant space, and we had an awesome server (you're lucky if Jeremy waits on you), and some better than expected food.

First, I suggest avoiding the tofu "fries", which are some sort of lo-carb abomination. We ordered them because I love tofu, and virtually every table had a martini glass of them, with three dipping sauces. Our server didn't recommend them, but we ordered them anyway. The fried tofu achieves a texture so far from its natural creaminess as to be astounding - it's dry and sort of woody. Jeremy came by, saw us not eating them, and took them off the bill without us saying a word and even though he had warned us about the dish.

But I had a Vietnamese noodle bowl with caramelized shallot pork that was truly delicious. I love a classic noodle bowl, and this was sort of fusion, but, dare I say, it was better than a lot of authentic bowls I've had. The noodles were rice, although not glass. There was an amazing amount of delicious, small bits of grilled pork with a great and classic caramel flavor. Lots of greens, including crisp lettuce, cilantro, and mint, and a nice nam pla-type sauce that needed a little perking up. With a good squirt of sriracha, and a dump of the contents of the bowl of lime-cucumer dipping sauce that came with the fries, I had one of the best lunches in recent memory. I'll ask for that sauce on the side next time I order the bowl, because it finished it perfectly.

Does anyone eat there, and if so, what else is really good?

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I find the Zao in UVillage really underwhelming. We used to live in San Francisco, where the chainlet is based, and we got spoiled. The food at the California locations is so much better than at their lone Seattle outpost.

Their pad thai is tasty, if you like the sweet, americanized kind (sometimes that is what I am in the mood for), and their chicken satay salad with peanut dressing is yummy, but really bad-for-you. Their spicy edamame appetizer is good, as are their potstickers, but both are overpriced. Their pho-style items are reasonable riffs on the genre, but about 3 times the price of the real thing.

Zao's biggest problems, though, are routinely terrible service and stunning lack of consistency. For every decent meal we've had there, there have been at least two that were downright gawdawful. We haven't been back there in months. (Of course, that may have more to do with my Burrito Loco addiction than disappointment in Zao, but...)

~Anita

(Sorry for the near-duplicate posts. Thus we see the perils of having your spouse on eG. At least we're consistent.)

Edited by ScorchedPalate (log)

Anita Crotty travel writer & mexican-food addictwww.marriedwithdinner.com

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Anita and I were big fans of Zao when we lived in San Francisco; we were regular patrons of the one in the Castro.

It's encouraging to hear good things about the U Village outpost. We ate there a handful of times -- I can't remember the date of our last visit, but it's been months. We had a couple of okay experiences and several really bad ones (uncaring, inexpert service + sloppily prepared food), and finally gave up. It was a bummer, because I'm a fan of the noodle bowl myself.

So when we're in that neck of the woods we console ourselves with the U Village branch of Burrito Loco, which is roughly ten times better than any mall Mexican restaurant has any right to be. Just don't bother with the Gatorade Margaritas. :laugh:

cameron

i play the rock. you shake the booty.
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Glad to hear you had a good meal at Zao. My one experience was so bad that I haven't had the inclination to go back. A really bad noodle soup--all I can remember is that the broth tasted like watered-down soy sauce. Maybe I'll give it another try.

I also like Burrito Loco--although they have been a bit inconsistent lately. Maybe it's just at lunch...? Why can't U Village get some decent restaurants :hmmm:

Jan

Jan

Seattle, WA

"But there's tacos, Randy. You know how I feel about tacos. It's the only food shaped like a smile....A beef smile."

--Earl (Jason Lee), from "My Name is Earl", Episode: South of the Border Part Uno, Season 2

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So when we're in that neck of the woods we console ourselves with the U Village branch of Burrito Loco, which is roughly ten times better than any mall Mexican restaurant has any right to be.

Where exactly is this? Is it actually in U Village or on one of the side streets?

Practice Random Acts of Toasting

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Caveat: I haven't been to Noodle Ranch in a while (I'm on a diet - no, not low carb :raz: ), and I hear they've changed chefs.

That said, Get thee to Noodle Ranch! It's downtown, on 2nd ave, next door to Mama's Mexican Kitchen. What you describe is their Mekong Pork, and it wipes the floor with Zao's version. It's one of the few dishes in Seattle that makes me want to order it again, right then, without even leaving the table. Wonderfully sweet/spicy pork, heaps of fresh herbs, cucumber and lettuce, and perfectly cooked, cool rice noodles, with peanuts and slices of chili, complimented by a sweet/sour/garlicky sauce for dipping/drizzling. Mmmmmm.....Nooooodle Raaanch...

“"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully.

"It's the same thing," he said.”

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...Burrito Loco, which is roughly ten times better than any mall Mexican restaurant has any right to be.

Where exactly is this? Is it actually in U Village or on one of the side streets?

It's in UVillage, across the street from Banana Republic and Restoration Hardware, next to the Hallmark store.

mmm, Tacos Dorados with shredded beef <drool>

Edited by ScorchedPalate (log)

Anita Crotty travel writer & mexican-food addictwww.marriedwithdinner.com

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It's in UVillage, across the street from Banana Republic and Restoration Hardware, next to the Hallmark store.

mmm, Tacos Dorados with shredded beef <drool>

Yes, Yes! I love the Tacos Dorados, though I like the shredded chicken. (I'll have to try the beef next time)

I also love the Coctel de Camarones...A big goblet filled with shrimp, avocado, onions and cilantro in a sweet/spicy broth..kind of like a cold shrimp soup. :wub:

Jan

Jan

Seattle, WA

"But there's tacos, Randy. You know how I feel about tacos. It's the only food shaped like a smile....A beef smile."

--Earl (Jason Lee), from "My Name is Earl", Episode: South of the Border Part Uno, Season 2

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Yes, Yes! I love the Tacos Dorados, though I like the shredded chicken. (I'll have to try the beef next time)

Hmm, the coctel sounds like Cameron chow.

I used to get one of each (chix/beef) taco, and then I realized that I always ate the chicken one first to save the beef for last. It's not like they're health-food anyway.. a little less cholesterol isn't going to save me! :rolleyes:

My other favorite there is the Tres Marias... three enchiladas with three different fillings/sauces (mole, red chile, and tomatillo). They have it as a special, off and on; it's not on the regular menu.

Maybe we need a Burrito Loco thread... <she said guiltily>

Anita Crotty travel writer & mexican-food addictwww.marriedwithdinner.com

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Drat, I was hoping that our good lunch wasn't just an anomaly. We'll try them again, and see what we get. We have been to Noodle Ranch and like it pretty well. I love noodles!

We saw Burrito Loco but didn't know it was supposed to be good - next time we'll try them.

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I have had mostly good experiences at Zao, I think only once I would consider the food as having slipped. Service has always been somewhat poor though.

Burrito Loco is pretty good too, they had a location in Kirkland that unfourtanetly closed. They were a good standby for Mexican. The taco wagon down the street will have to sate my hunger. :smile:

Gimme what cha got for a pork chop!

-Freakmaster

I have two words for America... Meat Crust.

-Mario

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