|Zamora's omelet house has a reputation for a great place to catch a very tasty breakfast. Their food is fresh, plentiful, well-seasoned, quick, and has quite a nice variety. Zamora’s has developed quite a local following, and is pulling significant crowds from around the area for their delicious breakfast and lunch selections.
Recently, they’ve started something new and interesting: the Pop Up Dining House.
The premise is; once a month, they will feature a local chef from one of the cooking schools/institutions in the area. That chef will prepare signature dishes of their special styles and serve the Zamora’s customers with their offerings at suppertime. Seating will be limited, as will the serving time.
January’s offering starred Chef David Powel. His style was Southern Comfort Food Fusion. His menu featured two appetizers, two desserts, and a selection of four or five entrées ranging from chicken and waffles, pork chops, southern fried catfish, and others.
The appetizers sounded so good, this wuff couldn’t decide, so Vargr opted for both of them. They were:
- Mescaline salad with goat cheese, dried cranberries, and an orange vinaigrette.
- Roasted Squash Soup
The salad was garden-fresh, crisp, and full of delightful flavors. The vinaigrette was quite understated, lending a hint of citrus scent and a touch of brightness to the greens. The goat cheese crumbles were robust, salty, and the main note for the salad. The sweet dried cranberries paired perfectly with the cheese, offsetting the pungent goat flavor with a fruity sweetness. Presentation was immaculate. This was definitely a 5-paws selection.
The soup was savory, with a touch of sweetness, silky, and creamy, with round, full flavors. The portion was modest, as befits an appetizers, but this wuff could certainly have enjoyed it as a featured entre’ on its own. Also a 5-paws selection.
After the appetizers, a plate of dinner rolls were delivered, to nibble while waiting on the main course. Instead of individual rolls, these were pan-baked in a sort of “monkey bread” version, with individual lumps baked together and pulled apart to eat.
The rolls were hot and tender, yeast-risen. Unfortunately, their yeast flavor was very strong – with almost an alcohol highlight to the flavors. Not quite this wuff’s cup of tea. And no butter accompanied the rolls, which could have mellowed the yeast-y highlights somewhat. 3-paws out of 5 for these.
Vargr also opted for “southern sweet tea” for his drink. A non-descript, probably tea-bag brewed tea; it was neither strong enough nor sweet enough to really qualify as “southern sweet tea”, though it did use a simple syrup for the sweetening instead of just stirring in sugar. Zamora’s normal unsweetened tea, served off their normal menu, was stronger than this version. 3-paws out of 5, once again.
While waiting for the main course to arrive, this wuff observed the other plates going out. The pork chops looked quite tempting; four of them lined up on a bed of veggies. And the chicken and waffles were awesome! A half a chicken, parted out (wing, thigh, drumstick, and breast), deep fried and riding atop a full size Belgian waffle. It filled the platter!
Vargr selection was the Catfish with garlic/pepper sautéed green beans and the chef’s special “spicy spaghetti”. This wuff’s selection arrived within about 10 minutes after finishing the appetizers.
The plating was nice, in rustic “comfort food” style without any gourmet sauces or flourishes. The portions for the beans and spaghetti were substantive. And the portion of catfish was huge! Two big slabs of catfish fillet, coated in a seasoned corn-meal batter and deep fried until crunchy.
The green beans were definitely fresh, not canned. And just gently run over the grill so they still had all of their fresh bean crunch and snap. Though obvious pieces of garlic and black pepper flakes clung to the beans, their flavors were very light. None of the fresh garlic ‘pop’, so it’s likely the garlic was roasted or previously prepared. The beans also needed a little application of salt to bring out their full flavor. Wuff would have liked a little more pronounced flavor here, and they definitely needed that touch of salt. 4 paws here; almost perfect, but not QUITE there.
The “spicy spaghetti” was perfect! This version had the noodles cooked in the sauce, instead of the sauce topping bare noodles. The sauce had a great tomato flavor, with a noticeable but light touch of cayenne pepper-style heat, and diced onions. Perfectly seasoned. Definitely a comfort food style, and one Vargr would enjoy tasting again. 5 paws on the spaghetti.
The catfish didn’t fare quite as well as the spaghetti. The breading was nicely seasoned, with a hint of red-pepper heat there too. It was very crunchy and crisp, perhaps a little too much so, as it tended to break into chunks and fall off the fish. The fish was moist, tender, and flakey, with enough of that ‘catfishy’ flavor to know it was catfish, but not overpoweringly so. Unfortunately, when the breading broke loose, the fish had no seasoning of its own. A dusting of salt and pepper before adding the breading to the fish would have helped. A little lighter on the breading thickness, or perhaps some dredging in buttermilk would have helped the breading cling better. And perhaps a bit of adjustment of the fryer temperature to lighten the darkness/crispiness of the breading, while still keeping the fish cooked properly, would have made this absolutely top notch. As it was, though the fish was a great dish, it could have been just a little bit better. 4 Paws up for this wuff’s rating.
Dessert offerings were beignets or pound cake. Unfortunately, though this wuff was one of the first in line (reservations for 6:15 for a supper seating starting at 6 PM), all the beignets were gone by dessert time, and wuff wasn’t in a “pound cake mood”. So no report on dessert. Wuff suspects something went awry with the beignets to run out so early in the evening. The big rush was just hitting by the time wuff was ready to depart, so none of those guests had any choice at all for their dessert.
Over all results:
- 3 Paws for Drink and Dinner Rolls
- 5 Paws for Appetizers
- 5 Paws for spaghetti, 4 for green beans, and 4 for fish (I’ll give it 4 paws over all for the main course, since the fish is the most important)
- No dessert this time
- TOTAL: 4.5 Paws up, or about an A- in other terms
The wait staff was somewhat limited (2 servers, a manager, and a busboy), and they were occasionally over-whelmed as the place filled up. It took occasional motions to the waitress to keep wuff’s tea filled. But they were concentrating on getting the plates out while hot (and they did a great job of that), so that can be forgiven.
Overall an excellent experience!
Dinner Reservations are strongly encouraged for these! They only served 80 dishes this time, between 6 and 9 PM. So the chances of “off the street” seats being available are not especially high. Wuff’s reservation was for 6:15. The restaurant was about 1/2 full at that time. By 7PM it was nearly full, and waiting lines were forming from time to time.
Vargr is also especially delighted with the whole idea of turning over a local restaurant to a new and budding chef, to let them “show their stuff”. It gives great exposure to potential new talent in the area, and offers a student chef the chance of doing a ‘head chef shift’ in a ‘working’ restaurant, while still giving a bit of a controlled environment. It also seems a great idea from a business sense; certainly a bit of a risk, but with potentially great rewards in advertising and reputation for Zamora’s. This wuff really wishes some of his home town restaurants would adopt this idea. We have a small cooking school in town that could serve as a source for these.
This wuff strongly encourages those who support “local cuisine” and home-town establishments to check these out! Who knows what you might find? In any event, these are a “step out of the ordinary”, and that’s not a bad thing, from wuffy’s point of view.
We grow not old, so long as we continue to chase our dreams.