Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Polyface Chicken Liver Mousse
On Thursday I talked about it being “Restaurant Week” in Staunton.  After having such a good time at Staunton Grocery, I decided to try out another $25 prefix special and went to Zynodoa. 
Zynodoa opened in Staunton around the same time as Staunton Grocery.  Like Staunton Grocery, they too embraced the idea of supporting local farmers and wineries, and their connection to the area is reflected in the the origin of the restaurant’s name (which is based on the legend of how the Shenandoah Valley got its name).   
My main fondness for Zynodoa is as a late night hangout.  On quieter weeknights when I was feeling cooped up in my apartment, I’d take a book and go to Zynodoa.  Sometimes, I’d be joined by friends, and other times I would just enjoy my surroundings with a clever cocktail (like a fennel martini or a cucumber/black pepper martini) and interesting appetizers (like stuffed zucchini blossoms or fries made of grits). 

Given my partiality for Zynodoah, I was really excited about their “Restaurant Week” special.  But, sadly, even though the other people I went to dinner with really loved and enjoyed their meals and previous reports were all positive, I left the meal underwhelmed. 

Shrimp Skillet with caramelized
brussel sprouts, twice-fried potatoes,
and tri-pepper pan sauce

My main issue with the meal is how over-thought and over-worked the dishes were which made the flavor profiles too complicated.  My main entrĂ©e is a good example of what I’m trying to say. I ordered the Shrimp Skillet with caramelized brussel sprouts, twice-fried potatoes, and tri-pepper pan sauce.   Although not listed in the description, the shrimp also had light parsley, red, and green pepper salad/salsa on top.  While eating it, I realized that the potatoes, shrimp, and salsa would work, the shrimp and Brussel sprouts and potatoes would work, but altogether you end up with fresh and light competing with substantial and heavy.
In sampling other dishes at the table, the lack of balance and unity was fairly common.  My friend ordered the Wades Mill Grit Croquettes as her first plate.  To me, the grits lost their texture and the main note I got was the bacon mayonnaise, which overwhelmed the surryano and gruyere.  In my first course, the Polyface Chicken Liver Mousse, the liver came through and brought a lot of dense flavoring.  Its con was a seal of bacon fat.  The seal itself tasted more fatty and waxy than of bacon.  Trying to eat the seal with the liver created a concentrated fat combination that made the already rich liver somewhat sickening.  Lastly, my dessert, the Chocolate Pecan Frozen Nougatine, was light and fluffy with large chunks of chocolate and pecan.  But, it was served in a strawberry sherry puree that, though really amazing and flavorful, wasn’t that related to the Nougatine.  Either there needed to be more sauce to help bridge the gap, or replaced by a sauce that better hit the notes of the Nougatine. 

Chocolate Pecan Frozen Nougatine
The two best dishes were the Buffalo Creek Steak Frites (a grilled ribeye with crispy Yukon wedges, caramelized turnips, and horseradish aioli), and the Coffee and Roasted Hazelnut Cheesecake.  Both of these dishes had a successfully unified scheme.  The beef worked as something that you could put a little bit of everything on the fork and it was cohesive while still retaining the individual flavors.  The cheesecake also had a more concise flavor profile, taking two very compatible flavors, hazelnut and coffee, and letting those be highlighted by smooth, creamy goodness. 
While other of my blog posts have made me put into words what I value in a good meal, this post forced me to explore those values in a not so good meal.  Although the meal I had at Zynodoa was good enough and showed reflection, the overall objective of each dish was missing.  The effect was plates that looked great and had good individual components, but the disharmony of the components kept the foremost flavors muddied.  When I think about the two best eating experiences from this month, they would be Ceviche Tapas in Sarasota and Staunton Grocery.  The reason they are my two favorites is they were both able to let good food speak for itself.  Although I have had many other meals at Zynodoa that have done that, this particular meal did not.  
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  1. The bacon fat was a bit much and it did make it too heavy. At first I thought it was interesting, but I quickly ate under it. The steak was great, particularly with the turnips, as was the cheese plate.

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