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Ann Arbor

Cafe Zola (Ann Arbor, MI)

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Cafe Zola (Ann Arbor, MI)

Tammy Coxen | Aug 9, 2003 12:34 PM

This is becoming one of my favorite places for dinner. It's not cheap, but the quality is so much better than similarly priced Main St. restaurants, that I'm happy to pay it. I've been for dinner three times now, and been very happy everytime. Vegetarians beware, though - while there are some veggie options, none of them particularly offer much in the way of protein. But they do meat and fish and seafood really well.

They have an extensive cocktail list, and make a very good martini, according to my husband. I'd like to say their wine list is "small but well-chosen" but really, while I'm learning a lot about wine, I don't have the experience to say whether that's true or not. They have about 10 by the glass offerings, and about 30-35 wines total, with prices ranging from low 20's to mid 50's for bottles. I ordered a glass of a Rhone Rose and enoyed it quite a bit.

The menu is best described as pan-Mediterranean. Last night we started of with an antipasto platter - three different kinds of cured Italian sausage, slices of a really lovely prosciutto di parma, divine marinated mushrooms, a mound of various olives (reportedly excellent, but olives are one of the few foods I just can't stand), a very good smoked mozzarella, and some roasted peppers and grilled asparagus. At $10, this would be a fine and cheap dinner for one person, and was more than enough for two as an appetizer. Other appetizers I've enjoyed tremendously in the past are a round of soft goat cheese topped with fig conserve and chopped hazelnuts, and the seared gulf shrimp.

For entrees, my husband had the peppered tuna. While good, this wasn't as stellar as when we've had it before - it was a wider but not as thick a cut of tuna, and was definitely not rare as suggested and requested. In retrospect, we should have sent it back. But on previous trips this has been a definite highlight - they use an excellent cut of tuna and prepare it well. I had the Shrimp Batu - sauteed shrimp in a hearty tomato and onion sauce, sprinkled with feta cheese. Served in a casserole with some hearty italian bread, this was "simple food, well prepared" and a relatively light meal (a good thing after eating half of the antipasto). I've never had a bad entree there - previous choices have included the chicken with mustard sauce, steak with gorgonzola, and the chile-rubbed scallops (a frequent special, but not on the regular menu). There are still a bunch of things on the regular menu I'd like to try, and they always have 4 or 5 specials.

We were too full for dessert, and anyway, our plan for the evening involved wandering around downtown after dinner before hitting a cafe for coffee and dessert later.

Besides the slightly overdone tuna, my only main complaint is that Zola is loud! The cafe has a lot of exposed brick and the sound just bounces off of it and can create quite the cacaphony when they are busy. It's not as bad at dinner as it is during Sunday brunch, but I long for the days when the rotating selection of art on the walls were tapestries that helped cushion the din.

Total, for two martinis, a glass of wine, one appetizer and two entrees was $78 before tip.

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