Cuisine Rouge Rating:
Cuisine Rouge made a promise to not focus or promote chains, but this local chain (started in Harahan, LA) deserves to be mentioned. Zea’s combines Asian and Mediterranean flavors into classic American foods. The outcome is a tasty fusion of big flavors. Zea’s rotisserie meats are some of the best around. Each day, a new slow roasted meat is featured (veal, lamb, pork, and beef are some) and their famous chicken is offered all the time.
I arrived at Zea’s on a Sunday night. I was celebrating my birthday with friends and concluded that Sunday would be the best night to entertain a table of ten. I walked in and noticed plenty of tables available. I asked the hostess for a table for ten and she looked at me as if she didn’t understand. “A table for ten, please.” I said again. She told me they would set me up a table, but I couldn’t sit there until 75% of my party had arrived. I glanced around the restaurant (which was approximately 75% empty) and said, “Fine.” I must admit, when a hostess cannot use good judgment it absolutely annoys me. I understand if a restaurant is full or near capacity, but I should be able to sit in a nearly empty restaurant. When 5 of my guest arrived (only 70%), we were able to sit.
The waitress was warm and friendly. She readily took our drink orders and brought us our drinks promptly (non-alcoholic). Shortly the remainder of my party arrived. Several of us ordered alcoholic beverages. Zea’s offers a variety of mojitos so I ordered the ginger mojito. It was delicious. The spicy ginger mixed well with the cool mint and the burn of the rum was pleasant. Several others ordered different mojitos and another guest ordered a cucumber martini; which she loved. In all, six of us ordered a mixed drink and another a beer and still the drinks took a long time to come out. This is excusable when a restaurant is full, but not when it is nearly empty. I wonder how long the drinks sat at the bar before being served.
We went light on the appetizers; with one couple ordering the Mediterranean hummus. This hummus is some of the best around. A large serving of creamy hummus is crowned with feta cheese, strips of julienned basil, sun dried tomatoes, olives, roasted garlic, and olive oil, Served with warm pita bread, this is a delicious way to start the meal. Other excellent appetizers are the Asian almond shrimp and the duck empanadas. Also, Zea’s signature spinach salad with pepper jelly vinaigrette is a must.
For entrees, Zea’s offers a wide range of roasted meats, seafood dishes, sandwiches, and local favorites. For my meal, I split the Thai ribs with my girlfriend, who ordered the twice cooked duck. The Thai ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender and were very juicy. The ribs were glazed in a sweet and spicy Thai sauce and adorned with toasted sesame seeds and cilantro. The twice cooked duck, (which three people ordered) was perfect as always. Two large leg quarters were slow roasted till juicy and then flash fried to make the skin crisp. The spicy honey soy sauce was a perfect sauce to bring out the duck’s natural flavors. Another diner ordered the rotisserie ribeye steak, which he enjoyed. Two diners sampled the rotisserie chicken; one opting for lemon and rosemary flavor and the other opting for a sweet chili glaze. Both were very pleased with their meals. Two diners also ordered the rotisserie meat of the day, which was the beef with mushroom sauce. Both were very pleased with the flavor of the meat, but wished more mushrooms could have been present in the sauce. The side dishes of Zea’s were also delicious. Creamy roasted corn grits, spicy braised cabbage, tangy Thai snap beans, and sugary mashed sweet potatoes were some of the sides enjoyed by all.
A complaint, and this shows the wait staff of a college town, was about ten minutes after we ordered the waitress came back saying there was a twenty minute wait on the chicken. She wanted to know if the rest of the table wanted their entrees. Why would I go out to dinner with friends if I wanted a twenty minute head start in my meal? I politetly told her we would wait. The meals were all brought out together and all were pleased.
For dessert, one diner ordered a homemade chocolate brownie and another ordered the bread pudding. The brownie was hot and gooey with chocolate and served with ice cream. The bread pudding was unique in that it was served like a wedge of cake. It was huge and the women (and Wesley) were very happy.
Zea’s is the kind of restaurant I enjoy eating at. Its mix of familiar foods with an exciting twist that certainly makes for an interesting meal. Its heavy Asian and Mediterranean influences can also serve as a stepping stone for new diners to try other ethnic dishes. Zea’s has become one of my “go-to” restaurants due to its diverse menu and big flavors. Zea’s is sure to please any person in search of a good meal.