We arrived just as Zimzala was opening, around 6:00pm. This gave us a few minutes to check out the scene. The bar area was full of beach go-ers enjoying some fútbol on the flat screen. The furniture is modern yet chic, although I did almost fall off of the tiny white bar seat. The music is an eclectic beat that might become annoying if it were any louder. The vibe is very cool; they definitely created a unique ambiance that can take you away from the usual scene in downtown Huntington Beach.
We were seated on the back end of the restaurant near the window. Our two-top table was longer than most, so all the more room for food. But first, I started with the “Impeared” martini. It’s a pear martini (get it?) with Grey Goose vodka, fresh peach nectar, muddled pear and sage leaf. So different and light. I think I like a pear martini! Dear Ben had a beer.
Amuse bouche: A lovely shrimp and lobster ceviche in a lemony brine. It was a delightful palate cleanser.We started with the Zimzala Mezze Plate. It was the only item on the menu with a box around it, and we can take a hint. This multi-tiered “plate” contains a lot of food! This is a meal in itself with homemade thick hummus topped with fried chickpeas, pita triangles, cool tzatziki sauce, panzanella salad with red and green tomatoes and a caper kick, couscous with grapes, marinated Mediterranean vegetables, and a cheese filled Moroccan cigar. The Moroccan cigar was my favorite, filo dough wrapped around melty feta cheese. There’s just one, and sharing can prove difficult.
And you can’t live without the black truffle risotto appetizer. Creamy mascarpone cheese with the tang of Parmesan and the rustic flavor of seasonal mushrooms and black truffle is the perfect way to enjoy a well-prepared risotto. Yes, the chef here at Zimzala has the technique mastered beautifully. This is definitely right up there with the best risotto I’ve ever had.
It’s hard to follow that risotto, and perhaps that’s why the flatbread pizza might have been my least favorite flatbread pizza. We got the special: shrimp, prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, and a romesco sauce, topped with freshly dressed arugula. Sounds delicious, but tasted kind of sour. I can’t put my finger on exactly what didn’t work, but the flavors just didn’t jive together. We liked the crust; cornmeal on the bottom makes me smile, but we only ate one slice each. Why waste the calories or the room in our tummies?
There were nine main course selections, but the Moroccan Chicken Tagine seemed like a must-have. It’s prepared with preserved lemon and olives served over a golden couscous. This is skin-on chicken on the bone. I know, I know…the bone provides wonderful flavor, but I’m just not a chicken on the bone kind of girl. Maybe I was already too full to enjoy this creation because I just picked around the plate. Dear Ben thought it was fantastic, and you might love it too. I would get something different the next time though.
Dear Ben decided on the Herb-Roasted Lamb Roulade, and he loved it! I haven’t heard that kind of rave reviews about lamb in a long time. “This is just like Grandma’s!” he said. The flavors must have brought back some great memories. I didn’t have those same memories, and to be honest, I had a hard time swallowing the bite I tried. I think I got a little too much fat on my fork. The dinner was served with a pearl couscous and little vegetable balls. That was just okay too.
I was feeling some carb-love, so we got a side of the fried potatoes. They are actually baby Yukons roughly cut in varying sizes, some almost whole and some small enough to really get a crispy crunch. The pecorino ribbons made this side dish special.
As if we weren’t full enough, I really needed something to bring back that lovin’ feeling. The chocolate ganache seemed to be the ticket. Big salt crystals sprinkled on top a generous scoop of creamy decadent chocolate then drizzled with just the right amount of olive oil. The chocolate reminded me of Mama’s homemade chocolate pie filling. You can eat this with a spoon, but grilled olive oil bread slices accompany the dessert. I ate one bread slice lathered appropriately with the chocolate, and that’s about all I could manage.
Overall, I’d say YES to Zimzala. The service is wonderful, and the menu evolves with the season to reflect what’s fresh. With the exceptions of a few kinks, our night was a success. Huntington Beach has a great new upscale spot in the downtown area. I just hope it sticks around without compromising quality. Plus, I dare you to find a better risotto. But if you do, please let me know so I can check it out!
500 Pacific Coast Highway
Huntington Beach, CA 92626