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Fearless Critic restaurant review
New Haven
Food
Feel
Price
7.5
7.5
$70
Modern
Upmarket restaurant

Hours
Tue–Thu noon–2:30pm
Tue–Thu 5:00pm–9:00pm
Fri noon–2:30pm
Fri 5:00pm–10:00pm
Sat 5:00pm–10:00pm
Sun 5:00pm–9:00pm

Features Date-friendly, good wines
Bar Beer, wine, liquor
Credit cards Visa, MC, AmEx
Reservations Accepted

www.zincfood.com

Chapel District
964 Chapel St.
New Haven, CT
(203) 624-0507
Zinc
Once worth the high prices, this dated pan-world restaurant is now slipping into obsolescence

We’ve never given über-trendy Zinc the benefit of the doubt. We’ve never had to. The kitchen proved itself sufficiently enough to make up for the restaurant’s pendant-lamp posturing, its swaggering logo, and even the 1980s-ish “Z” door handle. And you can still enjoy a very good meal made with local ingredients now and then. This kitchen can braise a mean Arctic char in thyme-scented olive oil, reminding us of its talent for cooking fish to moist deliciousness. And some flavor combinations on the dinner menu are equally exciting, such as grilled Berkshire pork sausages with truffled goat cheese butter and broccoli rabe that makes a play on an old Italian-American dish, even employing American South’s take on polenta: corn grits.

In the past, most of this feisty, creative cross-continental menu generally lived up to the prices and the pretense, but lately, it’s been suffering from the inconsistency and execution problems that tend to befall a listing ship. We’ve been particularly disappointed with starters. Smoked duck nachos have suffered a greasy decline, and a fried spring roll filled with crab and shiitake mushrooms might just be the most tired pan-Asian dish around these days—nor is it helped along by its so-called “kimchi cucumbers,” with no detectable fermentation. We happened to have a Korean friend with us when we last tried that dish; after finishing the pickles, she asked, “which one was supposed to be the kimchi?” Calling these pickles “kimchi” is like calling an old potato “vodka.”

On one visit, a Southwestern treatment of slow-roasted pork employed a chile-and-mustard-seed syrup that tasted strikingly like saccharine Yankee BBQ sauce. Dal-covered salmon, meanwhile, has come devoid of salt…or presentation…or anything distinctive that would justify its high price. Yet Zinc’s hickory-smoked duck still finds élan and intensity when paired with sweet pumpkin polenta and chipotle-apple sauce.

Their simpler lunches remain the most consistent successes here; Zinc’s famous shrimp Cobb salad is fresh, bright, and filling, if predictable, and the Zinc burger is almost as well respected as the one from Caseus. We also love the chef’s involvement in community and farm-to-market causes. The wine list is nothing earth-shattering, but it’s one of the better ones in town, diverse in region and price with many unusual and exciting choices. But there are better dinners to be had now in town.

Are fried spring rolls, steamed pork dumplings, Cobb salad, and pan-seared, sesame-crusted tuna with wasabi oil really “Modern American Food”? Suggestions for a new subhead, anyone? How about “Dated Pan-Asian Food”?

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