Jump to content

Zentan, in Donovan House Hotel on 14th Street at Thomas Circle - Chef Yo Matsuzaki Replaces Jennifer Nguyen - Closing Jun 30, 2018


Recommended Posts

Susar Lee is a legend in Toronto. For years this was the most difficult reservation in the city; at his best he can compete with ANY chef in North America. But I understand that this restaurant is different and he will probably not be in the kitchen. We had actually considered this for our anniversary dinner because of my Toronto experience ten years ago. (We are going to Volt instead for Table 21.) I have no idea what his D. C. restaurant will be like. A friend whose opinion I trust and a Toronto native was disappointed in his New York restaurant. We will still go but with tempered expectations. If it approaches my Canadian dinner this will be a real rose in D. C.'s crown. Good luck.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

My husband & I went a few weeks ago and I really enjoyed it. We ordered way too much food - Sushi Platter, Singapore Slaw & Tempura Rock Shrimp appetizers. Everything was great- would definitely go again. Although, I don't think I would go for an anniversary dinner or special occasion, more just a "date night." Volt is probably more special, although haven't been there yet. I assume that the owner will be on Top Chef will make it challenging to get a reservation there!

If you are the same Joe H that has been incredibly helpful for planning my trip to Italy from the Chowhound boards- THANK YOU!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Susar Lee is a legend in Toronto. For years this was the most difficult reservation in the city; at his best he can compete with ANY chef in North America. But I understand that this restaurant is different and he will probably not be in the kitchen. We had actually considered this for our anniversary dinner because of my Toronto experience ten years ago. (We are going to Volt instead for Table 21.) I have no idea what his D. C. restaurant will be like. A friend whose opinion I trust and a Toronto native was disappointed in his New York restaurant. We will still go but with tempered expectations. If it approaches my Canadian dinner this will be a real rose in D. C.'s crown. Good luck.

I read in FoodService Monthly that he has signed a lease, I believe, on a second location here already.

Will asking if Zentan wasn't the name of the wish machine in Big get this post deleted, Don?

Link to comment
Share on other sites


My husband & I went a few weeks ago and I really enjoyed it. We ordered way too much food - Sushi Platter, Singapore Slaw & Tempura Rock Shrimp appetizers. Everything was great- would definitely go again. Although, I don't think I would go for an anniversary dinner or special occasion, more just a "date night." Volt is probably more special, although haven't been there yet. I assume that the owner will be on Top Chef will make it challenging to get a reservation there!

If you are the same Joe H that has been incredibly helpful for planning my trip to Italy from the Chowhound boards- THANK YOU!

Yes, thanks for the nice words!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Having eaten at Susur in Toronto, I can say that Susur Lee has the talent to place him among the top chefs in DC. That is, if he is there, or has someone very capable with/under him. Either way, it's definitely a restaurant to check out in my book.

(edited for accuracy)

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Susar Lee is a legend in Toronto.


Having eaten at Lee in Toronto, I can say that Susur Lee has the talent to place him among the top chefs in DC.

You two obviously didn't have the chicken I had last night at Westend Bistro.

Westend Bistro opened, what, a year and a half ago?

Let's just say ... Danny Bortnick's chicken up the street at Firefly blows it away - not even close.

"Elvis was a hero to most but he never meant shit to me."
-- "Fight The Power" by Public Enemy

"Don't compare two diff..."
-- Naive chorus

"I know what I'm doing."
-- Don Rockwell

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Having eaten at Lee in Toronto, I can say that Susur Lee has the talent to place him among the top chefs in DC. That is, if he is there, or has someone very capable with/under him. Either way, it's definitely a restaurant to check out in my book.

His restaurant in NY is really pretty mediocre.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not speaking for anything but the meal that I had at Susur, which was nothing short of spectacular. I understand that he hasn't had the success in NY that he did in Toronto, and that opening another restaurant in DC so relatively soon after the opening of Shang is going to be viewed as sort of a suspicious move in terms of food quality and execution, but I still remain hopeful that a meal at Zorak.. erm... Zentan could come close to what I had at Susur.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Arcturus, we probably have had similar experiences at Susur Lee's Toronto restaurant. By any definition or measure it was an extraordinary experience. He is a truly gifted and imaginative chef. What people on this board don't know is his reputation in Toronto, an international city of 5+ million. My guess is that if people on this board reacted to Toronto in the same way they did to, say, San Francisco or Chicago there might be a greater appreciation of Susar Lee's accomplishments there. Eiginsinn Farm, North 44 and others are unheard of here. There is just no familiarity at all. Still, Susar Lee is an incredible talent. If he is anywhere near the level of what you and I experienced in Ontario then the D. C. area will truly benefit. Overnight, this WILL become one of our city's best restaurants. IF it approaches what he created in Toronto.

Again, this is a restaurant that has slid under the radar. There should be as much publicity for it as Alain Ducasse coming to 16th and K or Michel Richard returning to the kitchen several years ago at Citronelle. Susar Lee IS that great of a talent. It is a shame that no one is out trumpeting it, that no one on this or other boards really know who he is or what he is capable of.

Of course, having said this, if he is not in the kitchen and the D. C. staff doesn't know the level of expectations associated with him then perhaps we are both blowing smoke... But one night, if he is there, and you or I or anyone reading this is fortunate enough to be in the dining room then the meal could simply be one of the best in North America. Again, Susar Lee is one of the great talents of North America.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Does anyone know where I can find a menu? Zagat.com and Zentan's website doesn't seem to have one up.

Also has anyone actually eaten in the DC restaurant (NOT Toronto)? I'm looking for a real review of his local restaurant.

I'm really curious about this place. I went to Shang in NYC and thought it was great...plus they had really good drinks!

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Thanks! I had that 16 ingredient slaw at Shang. It was really good (although I stopped counting the ingredients once I reached about 8...and had about 3 drinks!). The menu looks good. I look forward to trying it soon.

So the menu looks really good. Makes me a bit on the fence about Sei, wish there were more reviews.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Our appetizer sampler was served lukewarm. Husband raved about the duck roll, but the satay was dry and the fried calamari wasn't crispy. The vegetable dumplings were mushy and unpalatable. Maki and sashimi were fresh and tasty, but also pricey, as expected for good quality seafood. I was particularly impressed with the silky sweet scallops and the buttery salmon. We also received some delectable complimentary crudo from the sushi chef (maybe that was our reward for eating everything with chopsticks). The spicy Thai martini served with sweet ginger garnish had a nice chili flavor, well balanced, and not sugary sweet. One of the best cocktail I have ever had. Conclusion: skip the cooked food and stick with the sushi at Zentan. Don't forget to earn 1000 dining points by making a reservation through opentable.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

A mixed experience at dinner last night, since everything we ate was delicious but other aspects of the restaurant felt very perfunctory.

Shared big appetizer bowl of "singapore slaw" ($16), made up of a huge number of ingredients nicely balanced, from jicama to flowers, was (somewhat surprisingly) worth the price.

Kid had a vegetable sushi roll (Buddha delight, $9) and dumplings, and loved them.

Salmon with yuzu-tarragon hollandaise ($25) was beautifully cooked. Shrimp and scallops in an XO sauce (c. $25 or so) was different from what you can see on the online menu, and great. Side order of long beans ($6) was an appropriately greasy sodiumy delight. Really, this was all very very good - I know some people hate the word and concept of "fusion" and want to avoid it at all costs, but I am not one of those people and I loved every taste. The dishes were designed well and were also executed well.

So what's the problem? I guess it's that the rest of the experience screamed "hotel restaurant." Host who tried to seat us not in the main dining room that had plenty of space, but in the literally empty room reserved for boring and ugly people. (Maybe I am, but please don't make it so obvious.) Boring decor, not sexy or cozy or artistic or anything. Waiter who didn't seem to care much about food. Drinks that were good, but not $14 good, especially since the second one came out tasting and looking so different from the first one. And desserts were uninspiring, at least as described on the menu, begging to be skipped and so we skipped them - a chocolate cake and a creme brulee (tahitian vanilla bean, yeah yeah ok) and so forth. Don't know if they need a pastry chef or just a better copywriter for the dessert menu.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


For all you Susur Lee fans out there: According to Metromix, he'll be in town cooking and book signing on June 24th from 6-9 PM. (Take note of the $140 price.)

Cheers,
Rocks

So what's the latest on this place? I work around the corner and was going to head over for lunch (before I learned that it's open only for dinner). And why aren't they open for lunch? We need more interesting lunch options, and especially sushi, around her, goddamnit.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Honestly, the only thing I thought was really worth returning for was the Singapore slaw, which is apparently Lee's signature dish; if that's an example of what he can create when he's on form, then there might possibly be something to the hype. The rest wasn't bad, it just wasn't particularly memorable (a couple of the maki, the veg dumplings, I think maybe the duck?)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

I was contemplating a dinner at Zentan so thought I'd read up on it's thread here.

Rocks...why is it all "bullshit" and "laughable"? I assume there's some a good reason for your contempt for Lee? Any thoughts on the actual food being served here?

 

No contempt whatsoever for Lee; contempt for the herds of journalistic sheep linking him to this restaurant; he has nothing more to do with the DC restaurant scene than Eric Ripert, although I suppose it's possible, and probably financially desirable, to milk the sheep in order to make a good round of cheese.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

This post is long overdue. Thanks to the generosity of a mysterious benefactor ( :D) I received a $50 coupon to Zentan on its last usable night in early December. We went in with zero expectations given it was the last night of the coupon deal, but the experience could have hardly been better. Managed to snag the last two bar seats and received absolutely phenomenal service from the bar staff. Happy hour drink prices were honored all night (with a couple of comped beers) and our accidental order of the small sushi plate ($21) instead of the platter ($51, I believe) resulted in a second, much larger sushi plate coming out in addition to the first one. The best part? They charged us $11 bucks for the second plate. I've always been a bit squeamish about coupons and still believe that this is a bubble that is going to burst significantly in the future, but this was a wonderful coupon experience. Zentan was not a restaurant on my radar, but now I'm eager to go back after being treated so well. This isn't Sushi Taro, but it's very good. Our final bill was a good $30 less than it needed to be, which we gladly compensated for with the tip.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Honestly, the only thing I thought was really worth returning for was the Singapore slaw, which is apparently Lee's signature dish; if that's an example of what he can create when he's on form, then there might possibly be something to the hype. The rest wasn't bad, it just wasn't particularly memorable (a couple of the maki, the veg dumplings, I think maybe the duck?)

The Post reports that whatever connection Lee had with the restaurant is now severed: http://www.washingtonian.com/blogs/bestbites/chefs/chef-shuffles-susur-lee-parts-with-zentan-jennifer-nguyen-takes-over.php

This also means that he took the Singapore slaw (among other things) with him.

  • Like 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Post reports that whatever connection Lee had with the restaurant is now severed: http://www.washingtonian.com/blogs/bestbites/chefs/chef-shuffles-susur-lee-parts-with-zentan-jennifer-nguyen-takes-over.php

This also means that he took the Singapore slaw (among other things) with him.

Well, I *guess* I got to at least see what the fuss with the Singapore Slaw was all about.

Please (and I'm obviously shifting my audience here to "everyone") note that this website never acknowledged Susar Lee at Zentan in the first place, just as we never acknowledged Eric Ripert at Westend Bistro, Michel Richard at Central, Michael Mina at Bourbon Steak, Wolfgang Puck at The Source, José Andrés at Jaleo, Art Smith at Art and Soul, Todd English at Olives, Robert Wiedmaier at Brabo, Charlie Palmer at Charlie Palmer Steak, Laurent Tourondel at BLT Steak, Todd Gray at Watershed, Bobby Flay at Bobby's Burger Palace, Richard Sandoval at Zengo (despite Placido Domingo being at the opening party with dancing girls in the background), Antoine Westermann at The Willard Room, or Alain Ducasse at Adour. If anyone can find a single post where I've done otherwise, please send me a PM so I can correct it - there shouldn't be any.

You can judge the self-confidence of a publication (and perhaps the number of pats on the head they receive) by how much they suck up to and publicize celebrity chefs. Incidentally, I've had private and semi-private dinners with M. Westermann and M. Ducasse, and like them very much; perhaps they respect that I choose to give proper credit to their Chefs de Cuisine for running the restaurants.

Part of me wants to slap the entire farce down, but I generally choose to live and let live - the publicists stay away from me, and go to get their bread buttered elsewhere.

---

If you like this post, and wish to support this type of independent thought, you can do one of two things:

1) Follow me on Twitter, and retweet the Tweet

2) Click on #31 (at the top right of this post), and then click on the Facebook "Like" icon

These seem like small things, but they are important in terms of showing your support for publications focused on critical, independent thought and original reporting; instead of merely reprinting what's fed to them by the publicists and/or accepting, shall we say, "courtesies" from restaurateurs.

  • Like 6
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Zentan put out the following statement yesterday:

"Chef Jennifer Nguyen has left Zentan to pursue other opportunities. We are very grateful for the passion, dedication and talent she brought to the restaurant and will be actively seeking a new executive chef who can carry the torch of Zentan. In the meantime, our team remains committed to creating the great Japanese cuisine and warm service our guests have come to expect at Zentan."

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Surprised no one has eaten here recently. Catching up on reviews and we ate here for Christmas eve dinner after services at church a few blocks away. Overall, our meal was very nice, but do not go here for sushi which is not very distinguished. we test sushi chefs by asking for an assortment at a price point, usually around $60 for two with no rolls to see what they give us. Here it included pretty standard selections like salmon, hamachi, and toro.

The dishes from the kitchen are much better and worth eating here. The top section of the menu is small dishes from the kitchen. One of our favorites was the peas and sprouts which is nice since Japanese restaurants don't often have a lot of variety in greens available on the menu. The seafood gyoza are also really good and rich with a little but of butter to add some richness. The dote yaki was also really nice and had the gelatinous richness of the tendon to really make a nice stew. The ton toro katsu was equally decadent with the fattiness of the pork and a nice curry sauce to accompany. The kids really liked the black sea bass.

The middle section is robata, or grilled items. All of the items we got here were good though you might consider the prices of things as some are better value than others.  I think this section produced the one miss as well. The yaki tako was a little overwhelmed with the pesto sauce, and it lost the char grilled flavor, so the resulting dish was a little off in texture for what we expected with a grilled octopus.

For dessert we had the beignets which was very nice and the chef also brought out a small chocolate fondue with fruits which everyone at the table kept trying to find something to dip into the hot chocolate to not waste any.

Chef Matsuzaki is doing some really nice things in the kitchen with the dishes he is producing, some very much based in Japanese tradition, but others bringing in some interesting fusion elements. In at least one case this didn't work so well with the tako, but in the case of the brussel sprouts, does work very nicely. Just to reiterate, stay away from the sushi and you will do well here.

Also, my wife enjoyed her sake flight very much. They seem to put a strong emphasis on the drink options though I just had a beer.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...