Food Review: Zambuca great for first date or business meeting

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-118115464415201.jpg’, ‘Photo by Rachel Fisher’, ‘Downtown patrons enjoy the modern, artsy ambiance of Zambuca at 514 E. State St.‘);

I first heard of Zambuca shortly after I began working at 505 Lounge. No one quite knew what kind of services they would offer at the new establishment. We heard about a coffee bar and music, but reports proved vague. I finally made it there myself Saturday night, May 12, during Groove Walk.

Most of the seating at Zambuca sits flush against the east wall, opposite the rather large bar area. We sat just past the front door in no man’s land—the tables bare except for candles. The place defined clean, not just hygiene, but design as well. Dr. Andreakos certainly spared no expense giving the smoky ambiance an extremely modern decor. I particularly loved the artwork on the west wall by the entrance.

I arrived at 9:20 p.m. to learn they stopped serving entrees, but would accommodate any appetizers I would like to try.

Chef Charles whipped up a three-course appetizer sampler for us. Grilled scallops with au gratin potatoes and a melon sauce arrived first.

The second course included a roasted brie and a spicy raspberry sauce. To my recollection, this is the first time I have tried brie. The raspberry sauce complemented the crust of the cheese beautifully. Not normally something I would order, I enjoyed the opportunity to try something out of my comfort zone.

An artichoke dip with homemade crackers arrived last. It’s pretty hard to go wrong with this new picnic staple. The artichoke got a punch from grated parmesan, and the soft crackers ensured the consistency. My picky-eater companion even enjoyed it.

An offering of chocolate cake ended this light feast. Extremely rich in taste, but light in texture, it’s a cross between cake and fudge. One piece can satisfy two people, especially on the heels of dinner.

Our waiter recommended a fantastic Pinot Grigio, not too fruity and very smooth.

We entered Zambuca to the strains of The Jazzguize. The laid-back trio provided Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane and even the Spider-Man theme. The band crammed itself into the southeast corner of the room, hiding behind their instruments and each other. They provided a great soundtrack for the mellow crowd.

Go to Zambuca for a first date, a business meeting or when a change of pace is in order. They offer many different coffee drinks in addition to wines. The entree menu offered chicken, pasta, steak and seafood. Some patrons donned jeans, but I believe Groove Walk brought in some of those people. I would feel more comfortable dressed up there. I sat with my back to the restaurant, watching people slop from one bar to the next enjoying Groove Walk.

All tolled, I would certainly visit Zambuca again the next time I have to play dress-up.

Zambuca is at 514 E. State St., Rockford. Info: (815) 489-9380.

from the June 6-12, 2007, issue

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