Thursday, January 23, 2014

Zandunga Oaxaca: Beware of the Blob

Against the better counsel of "B", our expat amiga in Oaxaca, Sra. Cuevas and I lunched at Zandunga, a restaurant the is billed as "Comida Istmena". (Food of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.)  She said, among other things, that the food is heavy. (Well, we are well acquainted with heavy Michoacán fare.)

The new location is next door to La Biznaga. It's a dazzling, contemporary styled space, with a long list of mezcales inscribed on the tall, white wall.

We liked the ambience, we liked the genial servers, but the food failed to meet some basic expectations. Zandunga seems more of a hip mezcal bar with a relatively short food menu.

Food menu-there's more but not shown here
I was given a couple of generous samples of mezcal to assist me in choosing which I would drink. I decided to have the Espadín Destilado en Olla de Barro, for its smoothness on the palate.

Mezcal tasting
We were brought a plate of complimentary botanas.

The brown, ground stuff is fish. Surprisingly good!
Sra. Cuevas' first course was a Molito de Camaron, an intensely flavored dried shrimp soup. We liked it. The orange colored rice was reminiscent of a curry.

Molito de Camaron
I had a Sopa de Frijol, which unfortunately was too salty.

Sopa de Frijol
I was able to redeem it to a large degree by adding a bit of a hot-sweet-sour chile and onion pickle.

The platos fuertes were a mixed success and a failure.

I ordered Cochito Horneado, interested in comparing it with a dish I'd recently made myself. This oven baked pork dish was good in a homey way, but nothing extraordinary.

Cochito and Mashed Potatoes with Vegetables

Doña Cuevas did not fare well with her Estofado de Res con Frutas. I was dismayed by the appearance and texture of the stuff on her plate. (I would have sent it back, but she is more accepting than I.)

It was a flattened blob of brown pulp, like a reheated leftover, as from our freezer, of last month's stew. This is the sort of thing we might possibly eat at home, but for a restaurant to offer it is unacceptable.

Estofado de Res con Frutas. A simple salad.
Then, to aggravate matters, the food was tepid. I sent mine back for heating. Sra. Cuevas ate hers, said it didn't taste bad, but would never order it again.

To send out food in such poor condition is unacceptable to me, and I would not recommend the restaurant, except possibly for drinks and antojitos. We would not go back.


Service: ****

Ambience: Hip, Contemporary

Price: $$$ Not worth the price. La Cuenta.

Restrooms: Clean and artistic

Lo Bueno: good bar

Lo Malo: too much brown food

Keywords: drink here, eat at La Biznaga next door.

Location: Garcia vigil 512-E, Oaxaca 68000, Mexico
Tel: (951) 5162265


jennifer rose said...

Always be wary of a place that advertises home cooking. Or "like Mom made."

DonCuevas said...

They generally liked it on TripAdvisor. Maybe we just hit it wrong or chose the wrong dish?

No, between the salty soup, the tepid food and the disgusting blob, what this place needs is a chef who gives a damn.


jennifer rose said...

Maybe the TripAdvisor commentators just got out of prison.

merry said...

I'm glad to read you again. Thanks for this post. Make me hungry, Best for you Buddy!

George Browning said...

If you don't like the estofado, that's fine, but to describe it as a "disgusting blob" is just ignorant. That's what estofado looks like, and if it's not to your taste, that does not mean you should describe it that way. If you're going to review a restaurant, you should first know a fair amount about the food you are assessing, and second understand the difference between facts and your own personal preferences (which seem to be rather limited for someone who thinks they are qualified to review restaurants.) If you are going to present yourself as some sort of expert, it would be better if you actually were one.

DonCuevas said...

Welcome to the discussion, Mr. Browning. Your comment is thought provoking, and I am grateful for that. It gives me an opportunity to clarify my philosophy of my blog's restaurant reviews.

I have never presented myself as an expert. (I can't think of anywhere I might have written about my supposed "expertise". Show me where, and I will delete it.) I have a lot of accumulated knowledge about food, but that does not make me an expert.

Here's what I am: I'm a guy who likes to find new, interesting restaurants, eat in them, and if I so fancy, write a review to share my opinions with anyone who might be interested. Yes, it's all about my personal preferences, not yours nor anyone else's.

Here's a specific fact regarding our meal at Zandunga: even if I'd known of the tradition and provenance of estofado, it would still have looked to us like a disgusting blob on the plate.

I want you to know that I was very discreet in my description. I restrained myself from writing a much more vivid description.

By the the way, you are correct, "That's what estofado looks like .." I saw a photo of a similar blob at another restaurant of Istmeño cuisine in Oaxaca, La Teca. It still looked disgusting and unappetizing to me, But maybe not as compact a mass as we were served at Zandunga.

Don Cuevas