This year WEEKEND is taking advantage of New Haven Restaurant Week to see what gourmet goodies the city has to offer. Reporter Juliana Hanle kicks off the series with her take on Zinc.
When the waitress at Zinc set down our bread and chutney and walked away, my friend and I called after her to repeat the ingredients (fennel, roasted pepper, and ginger). It is the how of this restaurant’s dishes — the orchestration of spices and techniques — that shows a delight in fall’s local produce in Zinc’s globally conscious way.
The shrimp were moist, the sausage ready to pop from their casings, and the tortellini tender.
The American ingredients, chicken, spinach, squash and cranberries, have adopted new worldviews — dressings of dried orange peel and cardamom, European techniques, and Asian and Mediterranean flavors. Black-pepper-crusted shrimp shared a plate with leek flan. We ate a roasted squash soup meaty with porcini mushrooms, chicken apple sausage with golden raisin chutney, and Moroccan Harissa flavored pasta.
Though the chef seemed hesitant to completely commit to loud foreign flavors, allowing a dairy broth and to mellow the shocks of spices and bitter greens, redemption arrived in small and surprising pops of salty complexity. Fried capers with the shrimp tasted impossibly tangy, bitter and rich. Oil-cured black olives saved the tortellini from being too meek. Bright, syrup-soaked cranberries in our favorite dish of day — a frozen cranberry nougat — simultaneously melted and popped, complementing the nougat’s floral rosewater.
We came out of Zinc sated, but more importantly, joyful from the communion of the strange and familiar. This ain’t the pilgrims’ cuisine.