I’ve come to the not-so-shocking conclusion that I am officially a fuddy-duddy. (Who else but a crotchety old fusspot would even use that phrase?) I realized it while I was driving my four-door sedan eleventy-seven miles under the speed limit cruising, of all places, the West 7th corridor looking for a bite.
This paper picks on the Mc7th development a lot – so much so that my editor has asked me to stop – but I’ll say this for the area: It’s never short on young people looking for a fun time. And that’s what ruffled my dander. All of that youth, energy, and reckless abandon in one place? Back in my day, that plot of dirt was just a warehouse district filled with auto mechanics. No one had fun, because we were all too busy checking our oil and exchanging ill-fitting shirts at the nearby Montgomery “Wards.”
After parking with shocking ease, my guest and I were led through the dining room of the newly opened Zenna Restaurant, the Dallas-based chain’s fifth outpost, by the hostess of the Japanese/Thai fusion eatery. She began to seat us in a booth next to a table of young revelers, who were making an obnoxious amount of noise carrying on and enjoying themselves. After aggressively clearing my throat for four minutes, I hiked up my Woolworth-brand trousers well past my navel, spit out my Werther’s Original butterscotch hard candy into a shriveled tissue out of my front pocket, and demanded to be moved away from people still capable of laughter.
If there’s such a thing as a bro Asian place, I think Zenna might be it. Its purple vinyl booths, high ceilings, neon-decked walls, and industrial-looking metal exterior fit right into the area’s party-or-die vibe. Aside from the loud youngster table, the place was half empty– of course, it was only 5:30pm, and nothing in that part of town gets cracking for another three hours.
The service staff as a whole was pleasant, though their inexperience was evident. When I ordered a pinot noir, my prompt, polite server brought me a pinot grigio. After I sent it back, she brought me a rosé made with pinot noir grapes. When I asked for menu suggestions, all of her favorite flavors of sushi were of the cooked variety, and everything else she recommended was a steak or chicken dish. No matter. She was nice, and I don’t need a guide. The vast, plastic-covered menus are lined with pictures of the food, like an order-by-numbers children’s book.
The best thing I put in my mouth was also the first. The appetizer portion of Chilean sea bass ($10.50), served with a ginger cabernet sauce, was cooked so the perfectly flaky slabs of well-seasoned fish slid off the fillet at the touch of a fork. We stuck with the things-that-sounded-like-entrees ordering theme, and the appetizer of grilled Thai pepper steak ($9.50), served with mashed potatoes and a red wine sauce, looked magazine-ready but tasted chewy and bland.
Both of our sushi orders, the white tuna ($9.95) and snapper sashimi ($9.95), were beautifully presented and fresh tasting. Our shared ginger rice dish ($11), with five plump shrimp, fresh ginger, garlic, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions, and snow peas stir-fried in a mildly sweet brown sauce, was a picture of understated, elegant Thai fare. It’s easy to overcook veggies in a stir-fry, and most restaurants do. The kitchen at Zenna’s preparation preserved the snappiness of the peas and bell peppers, and the sauce complemented instead of dominated.
Zenna stays open until 3am for the after-bar crowd. If only they served breakfast – because that’s about the time I wake up in the morning these days.