Noodle-wise, we tried pad see ew ($8.95/vegetable; $9.95/chicken, beef, or pork). The pad Thai here is popular, but with three other fine Thai restaurants in the neighborhood, we went for wide, soft noodles, rather like Chinese chow foon, without the wok burn. Here, they were prepared in a Chinese-style stir-fry of vegetables and sliced chicken in brown gravy.
Chicken mango curry ($11.95) is made with Thai yellow curry, the dry version of an Indian-style spice (the Massaman curry is the sweet one), all the better with semi-ripe mango chunks, sliced chicken breast, and western tomatoes with red and green bell peppers. Tamarind duck ($15.95), a house specialty, is boned and batter-fried, then hacked up and decorated with sweet-sour tamarind sauce. The duck is quite good, especially alongside contrasting dishes. But the accompanying vegetables, mostly broccoli and straw mushrooms, were far too sweet.
Chili-lime seafood salad ($14.95) was not the shredded salad I expected, though the flavors of lemongrass, fish sauce, and a bit of hot pepper were there. The fusion idea here resulted in the light grilling of seafood, instead of the traditional stir-frying or shredding of vegetables. It was most effective on the squid, scored to make “dragon scales,” but also fun on the shrimp and scallops. The salad is sort of underneath, so you have to remind yourself to make little multi-texture bites in the Vietnamese manner.
Beer and wine are available, including Tsingtao ($4), the fine Chinese lager. Continuing the fusion theme, there’s Vietnamese coffee ($2.50), which has condensed milk, and Thai iced tea ($2.50), which is scented with vanilla. Sparkling limeade ($3) is genuinely refreshing.
The cuisines of Southeast Asia are blessed with fresh tropical fruits, and have never developed much in the way of composed desserts. Mango sticky rice ($4.50) is the most traditional here. It’s rice cooked in coconut milk and sweetened by a sliced (almost ripe) mango. Banana flambé ($4.50) is deceptively named. It’s actually four fried, wrapped packages of banana, as sweet as McDonald’s fried pies, with a lot of ice cream (ask for the ginger, which is vanilla with ginger chunks). Or you can opt for the ice cream ($3) alone, which also comes in green tea and coconut. There’s tiramisu ($4.50), as well. But we didn’t want to try it.
Service at Zenna was quite good on two visits, and the restaurant is large enough to get seated right away at all but peak times.
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Robert Nadeau: RobtNadeau@aol.com