Zot – Mostly Looks…

Zot is a fairly new Belgian restaurant to grace the Philadelphian scene. We weren’t sure, but we think it opened earlier this year. Located on an unfortunate block of Lombard near South Street, it serves “belgian food by a belgian chef”. The place is very attractive. You can definitely tell they spent a lot of money on the construction and decoration. Located in an old rowhouse, there’s a wine bar and piano in the first room, the regular bar in the second room, and then just dining at the back.
We got there fairly early on a Sunday, so for awhile, we were the only patrons in the place. Everybody had a beer before we were seated, but I was not partaking that evening. They do have a tremendous beer selection. They’d better, after all, it is belgian. The tableware was also attractive. The water glasses slant sideways. The silverware is freakishly long and different.

I and L ordered the pate as an appetizer. It was served on a piece of 12×12 ceramic tile. This is the first time I’d ever witnessed anything like this. Although cute, honestly, it was much too big for the small tables. The tables were already overrun with crooked glasses and long skinny silverware. The tile was just too much real estate for not that much food. The pate also did not come with enough bread/crackers. And while they did give us complimentary bread, it was gone very quickly and they weren’t very good about giving us more. We had to keep asking. You’ll see that as a running theme here.

I went with the orval onion soup as an appetizer. I enjoyed this very much. It’s pretty much their take on french onion soup, but made with orval beer and with different cheeses on top. It was strongly flavored, yet as you can see, a bit too charred on top.

For main courses, the options are few: a selection of mussels, a selection of various meats, or a selection of fish. And with each of these, you can pick the sauce or the ingredients for how it is prepared. D ordered the monkfish. The green sauce is the spinach garlic sauce. With meat/fish entrees, you also get to pick a starch. D picked the stoemp bacon. Stoemp is basically like mashed potatoes, but also includes other root vegetables, and in this case, also bacon. The fish and the sauce were quite good.

L was a brave one. She went with the sweetbreads. I forget what kind of sauce she picked. She picked the stoemp with leeks. I’d never had sweetbreads before, so this was a real treat. To my surprise, I liked it!

I’s selection was the duck breast. I believe he got this with the choron sauce. Choron is like hollandaise or bernaise, but with some tomato puree. The duck was extremely well cooked. I’m not a duck fan myself, but my little bite was scrumptious. I’s stoemp of choice was with carrots.

So that left me, and I went with mussels. I picked the “snob” mussels, which are made with lobster bisque, cream, and cognac. I only got the 1/2 kilo but there were plenty of mussels for me. And they weren’t puny either. There was a good mix of sizes and some were quite large. I enjoyed them a lot. In fact, I really enjoyed all the food that night.

Now here’s where the problems began. I also ordered a side of the pommes frites. But did I get them? No, at least not right away. All of our food came out, everybody else dining in the restaurant got their pommes frites, but I did not. So I asked for them. And then I waited some more. The mussels were soon all eaten. I asked a second time. Then they finally came out. Did they apologize? Half-assed, yes. Our server joked “well, they’re good for dipping!” since all I had left was the broth from the mussels. As if making light of the situation that I did not get the food I ordered until after everyone was done with all their food and until I’d asked about it twice, would make me feel better about the situation. She was so wrong.

So the service is lacking. Seriously. They don’t fill your water much. They do the first time and then leave wine bottles filled with water on the table so you can refill. But they don’t check to see if you need any more. Like I said before, they also don’t give you more bread. They also don’t really bother to check if your food is ok. And they certainly don’t seem to care if you get the food that you order. And don’t get me started on the check. I don’t know how long we had to wait until they picked up our check, and getting change, even that was a hassle.

It’s a pretty restaurant. It has pretty servers. The food is pretty. But really, it’s missing something. I’m not sure what it is, but it’s just too much show and not enough substance. It’s all very pretty, but underneath it all, you see some homeliness. They definitely need to step up their game because Zot could be so much better. It has so much potential, but it has to follow through. Otherwise, you’re going to keep reading reviews like mine.
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