Mark it with a Z
I spent last evening at Zola , sampling some of their most popular cocktails and selections from the new bar menu. My visit included an informative chat with Ralph Rosenberg, their Director of Operations.
The sleek restaurant, located next to DC's International Spy Museum (one of my fave museums in the city...) has lots of red and brushed metal. Spyholes allow you to see into the kitchen, without the noise that can often accompany the open kitchen concept. The bar itself is large and inviting, and adjacent small wooden tables allow you to linger with some nibbles and a drink.
As far as cocktails go, there are some stellar options. Much of what goes into the libations is seasonal, fresh and from scratch. The Zojito substitutes kumquats for limes, with platinum rum, housemade kaffir lime syrup, mint and Fever Tree (yum!) club soda. This version restored my faith in the Mojito--a drink I enjoyed for several summers but then kind of felt, well, over it. But I'll be grabbing my muddling and cutting up those kumquats this summer, I can see it.
The I.R.S. Raspberry made its debut on the cocktail menu during tax season, but its popularity made owners keep it on the menu. I was a bit skeptical, as the main ingredient is Maker's Mark, and I'm not really a bourbon fan. But the addition of raspberry green tea soda, limes and fresh raspberries definitely made it refreshingly palatable.
And the Passion is just a gorgeous drink--Champagne, citrus rum, passion fruit and a sugar rim, served in a trumpet-style flute.
The bar menu is divided into three (self-explanatory) sections: "I Feel Like Sharing," "It's All Mine" and "Zola TV Dinners." I pretty much tasted everything. The highlights for me were the savory cream puffs filled with braised beef and topped with a foie gras glaze; shrimp and lobster sliders--the purple potato chips on the side were to die for; grilled flat bread with prosciutto, figs, foie gras butter, mascarpone and balsamic drizzle; and the curried lamb tacos.
The TV dinners are a whimsical touch. Served on white ceramic trays with 4 compartments, the choices are duck salisbury steak, roast game hen, or broiled skate wing. Each comes with a starch and a veggie that change frequently--ours were creamy polenta and wax beans. And the "sweet surprise" was a decadent red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting--topped with a Z in red icing.
Skate has been one of my favorite fish dishes since having a heavenly one in Paris a few years back. Zola's version was rich and buttery, yet lights and flaky. Chef Bryan Moscatello explained that he grinds up duck legs and combines it with a blend of savory, sage and other spices for the duck salisbury steak--definitely not a Swanson's TV dinner.