Over the weekend, we went out to dinner and a movie (Julie & Julia — highly recommended) with Mr. & Mrs. JFJ.  It was JFJ’s birthday a few days before, so we obviously needed to do something fun and celebratory.  JFJ picked a restaurant called Zoot.  AEJ and I had never been there, but the menu sounded great, and JFJ has never steered us wrong, so Zoot it was.

Zoot’s menu has lots of fun & tasty-sounding offerings, and there were really too many to choose from on our own, so we went with the 5-course tasting menu instead. Three of us ordered the “Chef’s Tasting Menu,” and AEJ ordered the “Farmer’s Menu.” (AEJ is the furthest thing from a vegetarian, but she often finds that the vegetarian option on these big tasting menus is a little more imaginative.  Once again, in several of her courses in particular, she was right.)

Before we get to the pictures, a little disclaimer… It was really, really dark in there, and the light got worse as we ate (damn romantic mood lighting adjustments), and although I have good camera equipment, it can only do so much in the dark. I had to shoot everything at ISO 3200 or higher, and even with that, I only had frame speeds around 1/20 sec with no image stabilization, so it’s kind of a miracle that any of these shots turned out at all. That’s a testament to the Canon 5D MK II. Even still, the dim light, with a little candlelight, a little artificial light, and a little sunlight made the white balance go all over the place from picture to picture. I corrected a few, but they ain’t perfect…

Things started with an amuse bouche. This is AEJ’s — melon with strawberry on top. The others were smoked fish with strawberry. AEJ’s was prettier, but since it was too small to share, I’ll have to take her word that it was delicious.

AEJ’s first course was this: roasted peppers with squash, goat cheese, sunflower seeds, and sherry vinaigrette.

My first course was this: seared scallops with king oyster mushroom, forbidden rice (ooo laa laa, how risque), and tom kha soup. I don’t know what tom kha soup is, but I liked it. The scallops were great. Sometimes I get little grains of sand in my scallop, and there isn’t much nastier than that, but these were perfectly cleaned and very tasty.

Here’s the second course: melon and ciabatta salad with pickled shallots and blue cheese. I wasn’t too excited about the blue cheese — I’m not a fan — but if it was in there, I couldn’t find it. I think at best, it just added some tartness to the dressing. This was mega-tasty.

AEJ’s courses included this: a basil crepe with roasted peaches, La Tur cheese, saba, and a walnut butter. Holy hell, this was the best thing out of all of the courses between the two menus. Unfortunately, because it was so dark in the restaurant, this shot isn’t very sharp, but the flavors were spectacular. I’d order this alone any day.

This is the fish course: roasted snapper with celeraic brandade (I don’t know what that means), tomato confit, mantequilla olives, and herb broth. It was a very nice piece of fish, and it was cooked well. That tomato confit, in addition to being pretty, was great. I liked the juicy tomato next to the texture of the roasted fish.

And here’s the meat course: grilled NY strip with summer potato puree, marinated peppers, and garlic jus (sauce). The meat was perfect — nice and juicy.

Here’s AEJ’s dessert: lemon tart with cardamom berry coulis and whipped cream. It doesn’t look like much, but it was really good. This was the better dessert of the two.

And here is the other dessert: goat cheese panna cotta with pistachio shortbread, honey, and fresh berries. It was fine. The panna cotta was okay — not bad, not amazing — but that honey was incredible. I’d pour that honey all over everything, if you know what I’m sayin’! ZING! Or ZOOT!


Kevin Howlett says

Those pictures look pretty doggone good for ISO 3200. My Rebel XTi will go no higher than ISO 1600 and anything shot at more than ISO 400 is a mess.

Jennifer says

I think the pics are pretty amazing! The tasting menu sounds like the way to go, especially in a new restaurant. A brandade is a provencal dish made with salt cod; pureed with olive oil and milk.

And now I'm starving too. . . .

Your Mother says

In reference to the Tom Kah soup , it is in reality called Tom Kha Kai that is essentially from Thailand and the translation is Chicken-Coconut Soup with Siamese ginger and lemongrass.

The best one that I have tasted was the tiny family owned restaurant in Fort Myers (the one you and I went to when you were in Ft. Myers!

My favorite main dish was their Kai Phat Bai Kaprao aka Chicken with Green Chili and Holy Basil. I think you tasted it but I don't remember your comments. I have made it several times at home as well as Tom Kha Kai.

I have made the chicken dish using 'real' holy basil from a Thai market on line.Don't try to substitute with Italian basil as there is no comparison to the taste, flavor and fragrance of the licorice or anise taste.

I really enjoy reading your 'aside' comments in your Blog.

Your loyal old Mom in Columbus, OH

Love you

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