ZTejas_1_web.jpg
Siiri Sampson 2011
Dumplings get me every time. I don't care what part of the world they come from--I'm an equal-opportunity eater!
When the weather

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Amped About Apps at Z'Tejas

ZTejas_1_web.jpg
Siiri Sampson 2011
Dumplings get me every time. I don't care what part of the world they come from--I'm an equal-opportunity eater!
When the weather starts to warm up, the layers of clothes start to drop. It doesn't take nearly as much food to fill the void, and the need for refreshing flavors like citrus, fish, and fresh veggies overtake any previous desire for heavy chilis, potatoes, and steaming bowls of soup. Squeezing a little south-of-the-border flair into the meal to boot is just an added bonus. So making the short jaunt over to Z'Tejas in Bellevue (535 Bellevue Square) for some festive appetizers and post-work drinks is a great way to kick off the upcoming warmer weather.

Z'Tejas has been around for a number of years, in five different states, and does a couple of things very well. As soon as you sit down and waters arrive, each table gets their own little cast-iron skillet of heaven. Housemade cornbread in Barbie-sized iron skillets with honey butter come straight from the oven to the table. They're small enough so you can polish off the whole thing, but not so large that you'll ruin your appetite. There are nice bits of whole-kernel corn in the bread, and the density and crumb are just right.

Besides the fabulous and free cornbread treat, Z'Tejas has great appetizers. The standouts are clear: cast-iron skillet dumplings ($10) and the grilled shrimp and guacamole tostada bites ($10). Even though it makes absolutely no sense to have Asian dumplings on a menu that is supposed to be Southwestern, these are a good version of a classic. Shrimp and pork on the inside and pan-seared wonton outsides with a dipping sauce. The sauce is overly sweet, but since it's just a dipping sauce, really there's no harm done. The tostada bites are pure heaven, with the perfectly crescent shaped shrimp grilled to a tender yet crunch-in-your-mouth consistency. Their guac is fresh enough, although its doubtful the line cooks are making it every day. The whole bite (and each one is really only one mouthful) borders on the noticeably salty side. If you like salt then this is the right plate to order, in fact get two orders of this and a drink, and forget everything else.

ZTejas_2_web.jpg
Siiri Sampson 2011
Glorious little shrimp treats on crispy pillows of fried tortillas with spicy guac? How could I say no?
Of course there are a few things, on the other hand, that Z'Tejas doesn't do very well. Their service over the past year has really began to dwindle. First it was in the bar, with an unhelpful server who said they didn't serve nachos, which they do. He then proceeded to bring out dishes in the wrong order (don't you love it when you get your entree and then your appetizers?), and didn't omit the chopped pumpkin seeds from a dish after being told there was an allergy. Sometimes people just have bad days, though, right? If he had ever come back to check in after that, take another drink order, or anything, maybe his tip would have resembled something other than the tax.

Another visit a few months later just confirmed our previous skepticism, when a different server brought out the entrees with each set of special instructions applied to the wrong dishes. One salad had the dressing mixed in but all the toppings on the side, while another had all the toppings (including the allergy-inducing ones) mixed in and the dressing on the side. Rather than just taking them away and redoing them--after all, they're only salads--he just apologized and asked if we needed anything else. And of course, as predicted, the salad dressing was too oily and there was way too much of it, which is why the "dressing on the side" request was made in the first place.

If that doesn't scare you away from the full dining-room experience and back into the bar to soothe your post-work woes, than here's something that will. This place is almost as much of a jungle gym as Red Robin--screaming kids are everywhere, and their parents (now permanently deaf) think the high-decibel screeching is just adorable. In fact, they encourage it--right next to your table. There's not enough stank-eye in the world to discourage that. The only way to drown it out is a third drink at the bar while watching the NBA finals.

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