So a couple of weeks back we got an invite for an event Zed's. The good folks over at Newton-O'Neil communications sent us an invite to attend a media event welcoming their new head chef Jacob Hilbert. Having been to Zed's before, this one caught my attention. The food has always been good out at Zed's so the opportunity to come out and have a five course meal as a way saying "hey what's up, good to have you on board," to the new head chef was something we just couldn't pass up. Yeah you read that right, a five course meal. It was....well just keep reading.
First up was the appetizer of fried shrimp and Chef Hilbert's version of a Spanish tortilla. Fried shrimp? Really? Really. Seriously. It was no fast food or frozen-shrimp-in-a-bag from the local mega mart. The shrimp had a fantastic flavor, and the breading had a perfect crunch. For those not familiar with a Spanish tortilla, it has nothing to do with the Latin American style corn or flour based flat breads that we all know and love in Austin. A Spanish tortilla is more like an omelet or a frittata. In this case made with potato and served cylindrically. I've had these before (made by an actual Spanish woman no less!) and Chef Hilbert's version stands up very well, and not just because it was served on its flat end! It was great, and I'd totally get this appetizer again.
The next item served was a one of the favorites of the evening for a lot of the participants. I liked it a lot too, but it wasn't quite my favorite course. It was the Southern favorite, fish and grits. In this case it was a perfectly cooked piece of salmon on a bed of grits. Now personally I'm not usually a huge fan of grits but I liked these grits quite a lot. They had a nice rich flavor and a thicker texture than I’m used to with grits. Usually it’s the texture that I don't care for with grits so the thicker texture here may have been what put it over the top for me. This dish may not have been my favorite thing of the evening but if Chef Hilbert decides to keep it around this will be one of my go to items.
Next up was a lovely piece of duck. I don't know about y'all but I prefer dark meat poultry. White meat is good, but it just doesn't have a lot of flavor. That's what I think I like most about duck: it’s all dark meat! And it came served with BBQ, beans, and cornbread. You can't go wrong with that.
Finally, we get to my favorite dish of the evening. Lamb shank.....I still have dreams of the lamb shank.....My brother and fellow Junkie, David, has a theory regarding the inherent tastiness of lamb. He calls it his cuteness quotient. Think about it, beef comes from cows. Beef isn't bad at all. It's pretty good actually. But how cute is it? Any member of the bovine family is sort of there. Even as calves they're not the cutest things around. Chicken, and other poultry, well they're totally cute as chicks but by the time they're old enough to eat they're just sort of there. But think about sheep; even as adults they're pretty cute to look at. And as lambs, well they're just downright adorable! So it follows that lamb should be exquisite. And in this case the lamb certainly was. It was perfectly cooked with plenty of that lamb gaminess that I love so much. The broth was fantastic and it was served with a slightly sweet and spiced couscous. I would order this every time I come in.
And finally, mercifully we were served the final course. Don't get me wrong, the evening was great and filled with fantastic food. And the portions were large! All five of them were very generously sized, easily large enough for a regular dinner serving, including this absolutely fantastic chocolate peanut butter torte. A peanut butter mousse sandwiched between a layer of chocolate cake and chocolate mousse. This is another dish that continues to stalk my dreams.....If not for the lamb this may have been my favorite dish of the evening. But to be fair, I do have a quite sweet tooth and chocolate and peanut butter is one of my favorite combinations. I'd order this in a heartbeat!
As this was a media event, we won't be giving a rating to Zed's this time around. But not for lack of quality, it’s simply that we can't be sure how representative the tasting menu is likely to be of the menu after Chef Hilbert gets it tweaked the way he wants it. Personally I'm hoping the lamb stays on, and the salmon and grits too. While we may not be giving a rating this time around we are however giving a recommendation. We only write about places we like and we totally dig Zed's!