Shawna Wilkins, the manager at Zunum in Shenandoah, invited us to stop in and sample some of the menu items. We hadn't had a chance to stop in since early February, when we brought you our initial report about who - or what - Zunum is, and we were happy to oblige.
We were having a bit of a struggle agreeing on an appetizer, so we went with something more middle ground rather than his or her choice, and settled on the Sunrise Chicken Quesadilla ($8.95). The quesedilla is nicely presented, and thick with high a quality Mozzarella cheese. The large quesedilla could easily be shared by three or more people. Initially I thought it was a little boring as the chicken has no addeed seasoning, but the tomato, basil and cilantro tortilla adds some nice flavor. The home made salsa has a nice, subtle warmth to it, so the overall experience was a pleasant one.
She Said: I wanted to get something different, but also something I wouldn't make any special requests or modifications to. I'll say this: if you're an artichoke or avocado fan, Zunum has you covered. I found at least a half-dozen dishes which contained either one or the other, and I wasn't in the mood for either of them. Instead, I went with the Rustic Turkey & Apple Panini ($9.95) with the house-made potato chips. And the result is that I now have a new favorite sandwich.
Allow me to elaborate. Have you ever seen someone have a slice of warm apple pie, top it with a slice of cheese and wonder, "what the heck are they doing?" Every time I've ever seen someone do that to a perfectly good piece of pie, I've wondered if they weren't quite right in the head. It just seems - well - wrong. But then I tried this Rustic Turkey & Apple Panini, with its scrumptous slices of moist turkey, provolone cheese, cinnamon-covered, thin-sliced Granny Smith apples and a smattering of crushed pecans, and I realized I just might have been missing something this whole time.
I'm telling you this sandwich had it all; it was warm and melty, the apples were crisp with a tart yet sweet flavor, the crushed pecans, though abundant, weren't overwhelming at all, and the provolone tied it all together with the layers of turkey breast. It was like having my dinner and dessert at the same time, without feeling the least bit guilty about it. I highly recommend this sandwich to anyone. Oh! And don't forget the chips. Shawna stopped by our table to see how we were doing. No special treatment, by the way - she was out in the dining room, stopping by every table, talking with every party the whole time we were there. She told me they make their chips there in-house twice daily, and never carry any over from one batch to the other, so you always get fresh chips. These were really good - just a hint of salt, crispy and not at all greasy.
He Said: I asked our server to help me decide between the Flat Iron Steak, which sounded phenomenal (it's an eight ounce steak served in a Pinot Noir glazed mushroom sauce, with grilled asparagus and a potato medley, $17.95) and the Sirloin Steak Tacos ($11.95), which he informed me were his current favorite. As Zunum is far from being a Steakhouse, I was a bit skeptical about ordering the flat iron steak. The sirloin tacos seemed like a safer bet, and based on his recommendation, that's what I ordered. The dish comes with three, double-stacked, and topped with multiple strips of tender sirloin steak, grilled onions and tomatoes, along with a side of their special sauce made in-house with sour cream, mango, honey, and cilantro.
The overall presentation was pleasing to the eye and the flavors were greater than expected. The sirloin was tender and juicy with just the right amount of seasoning making each bite a delight. As I mentioned earlier, Zunum is not a steakhouse, nor is it a Tex-Mex cafe, but it is does hold a very distinctive position between the two. I let her try a bite and she said if Mi Cocina could figure out how to make their Tacos Mi Tierra even remotely close to how good these were, she would at least entertain the idea of giving them one more chance.
You may recall from our reviews of Pallotta's Italian in Oak Ridge North, or Russo's New York Pizzeria in College Park, who all offer desserts created by Celebrations and Sweet Creations. You can understand then how even with bellies seemingly full, we simply had to make room for dessert when we learned Zunum also brings in a number of their after dinner sweets from the Magnolia bakery. Try as we might, though, we couldn't even get through half of the Carrot Cake or the Chocolate Mousse and had to pack them up and take them home. Our advice? Either save room (if you can) or get a slice of that Carrot Cake to take home and enjoy later. In either case, you'll be glad you did.
As it turns out, good things come to those who wait. Over the past several months, Zunum has undergone several modifications and improvements to the dining area, including the installation of sound-absorbing ceiling tiles, carpet, and some rearrangement of the dining room layout. This has made for a much quieter and more enjoyable dining experience than our initial visit earlier in the year. We here at TWE! only have children of the four-legged and furry variety, and weren't sure Zunum was a place we would really enjoy with the prospect of a bunch of children running around. Our fears were unfounded, even though the gleeful screams of children could be heard, they were all but drowned out by the regular, dull "roar" of conversation in the dining room and the thick glass partition between the us and the play area. And with dishes on the menu like Portobello Risotto with Asparagus and Panko Crusted Salmon, as well as a wine list as long as your arm - it's easy to see the adults were every bit as thought of as the children at Zunum. The kids play area is now available at no extra charge and as of 2013, is only open in the evening hours so the business lunch crowd can enjoy the counter service minus the distractions.
Think we got it wrong? Or did we hit the nail on the head? Let us know in the comments below. And remember, you don't have to take our word for it - give them a try for yourself and decide! Maybe we will see you there as we plan to return for more.
Zunum closed for business August 4, 2013