Thanks Todd, Brianna, Jon, Sarra and Sean for such a detailed review. Please visit us again.
(Note: Review contributed by readers)
Zenaida Chocolate Lounge
414 S. Main
Ann Arbor, MI, 48104
I had a lot of hope for this place, since it seemed that it would offer an actual good source for chocolate in AA in comparison to the crap they dish out at Kilwin’s, Chocolate Café and Schakolad. Instead, it turned out to be what I consider the prototypical AA restaurant – it lures you in with a halfway innovative and interesting menu and a cool space, and then drops you on your head with abominable execution. There is no doubt that this was the most comically terrible experience I have had at an AA eatery, and I was there on a Friday night so they should have been at their best.
Where to begin… Well, we walk in and see a “Please seat yourself” sign, although we were told that some of the couches/tables/beds were reserved. Luckily the place was pretty empty at the time (~7:30, still a little early for a lounge I guess) so we grabbed a bed and some extra chairs. Others after us weren’t so lucky; one group obeyed the “seat yourself” rules and took the couch next to ours, only to be evicted minutes later by the dishwasher coming out of the kitchen in full rubber glove regalia to inform them that in fact that couch was reserved. Ok, if you take reservations, perhaps you shouldn’t have a “seat yourself” sign.
After a few minutes of confusion about the ordering protocol (do we order at the counter or do they wait on us?) we managed to get the last two menus in the half-empty place. We perused the menus and saw a lot of items that sounded good, so we walked up to the case to see if we could get a look at things to narrow our choices down. Unfortunately, the case was pretty much bare except for a little mangled piece of chocolate mousse cake, a couple of cheesecakes and a few little tarts. To our inquiry of where the truffles are (there is a menu item that’s a selection of 4 truffles) we received the reply that in fact they were out of truffles, although they did have Vosges caramels for $2 each. This should have been our major hint to get the heck out of there, because we all knew from past experience that Vosges also follows the high-promise poor-execution methodology.
We decided to start out with a round of hot chocolates. We’d heard rumor that people complained about the small size and high price, but that the owner/chef had said that if you can finish the rich, decadent cup and still want more, just tell her and she’ll give you another one free. After waiting for 15 minutes for the beverages to come out, the joke was on us. They were all tepid, like they had been ready for 12 minutes before the waitress (who was a complete idiot, and had obviously never been a waitress nor bothered to look over the menu before) got around to bringing them out. Mine was the “best” of the bunch, with the best meaning that I would probably get it again if it cost half as much and was guaranteed to be hot. It was the Zenaida signature hot chocolate, flavored with rosewater (perfect proportion) and orange (non-existent). The dulce de leche one was what one would expect. The Carmen, which was supposed to have chiles and cinnamon, had hints of cinnamon but no trace of chiles and was a major letdown. After this we concluded that the owner could make the promise of free seconds not because the hot chocolate was so rich and decadent that one could not possible have room for another, but that nobody would wait around for 15 minutes for a subpar $4 hot chocolate.
To go along with the hot chocolates we had ordered the dessert cigars, which were corn tortillas rolled with cinnamon-sugar, fried and topped with gelato. We’d ordered dulce de leche gelato on top, but when the waitress brought it out she informed us that it was French vanilla because “that’s the way it comes.” What this is code for is, “I have no idea what the heck is going on and didn’t feel like telling the cook to scoop from the other bucket.” About 10 minutes after we ate the half-fried, doughy cigars with the French vanilla and Hershey’s syrup we saw someone come out of the kitchen with a half gallon of Edy’s French Vanilla. So not only was it vanilla and not dulce de leche, it was ice cream and not gelato.
Resolved to get some satisfaction before leaving we ordered the Belgian Bailey’s – a Belgian waffle with gelato of our choice drizzled with a Bailey’s & chocolate sauce. We again ordered the dulce de leche gelato on top. The waitress comes out 5 minutes later and asks “So, you wanted a dulce de leche hot chocolate with that, right?” Um, no. We had to go get a menu and show her than we had a choice of gelato. When the dessert came out 10 minutes later our hope was briefly renewed – it looked like it should and yes, it did have dulce de leche gelato on it. Who would’ve thought! We were brought crashing down once again when we dug in – the waffle tasted burnt even though it wasn’t, like they had burnt oil onto the waffle iron and never cleaned it off, and there was no trace of Bailey’s in the chocolate sauce/Hershey’s syrup (one of our group has an aversion to Bailey’s and confirmed that it wasn’t in there).
At this point we were resigned to the fact that no matter how hard we tried, we were leaving unsatisfied. We’d just get the bill and leave. Or maybe we would just wait around for the waitress to bring it by. And wait. And wait. The couch next to us was also thoroughly disgusted with their experience. They had been all lovey-dovey when they sat down and ordered their mousse cake, then had disgusted and ticked-off looks on their faces afterwords. They just gave the waitress their credit card and told her to ring them out. Once we saw this we walked up to the counter and paid rather than waiting any longer. One of our group asked the waitress if there was Bailey’s in the chocolate sauce. She had to reference the menu and said that no, it was “Gr-, Grand Murn-yer” (there was also a Belgian Grand Mariner). Then my friend pointed to the item above it, the Bailey’s version. So she replied that yeah it’s Baileys, and he retorted with “yes, I know it’s supposed to be Bailey’s, I’m asking you if there was actually any in the sauce because it didn’t taste like there was.” At this point, unable to come up with a reply that met even her low standard of intelligence, she just reiterated that yes there was Bailey’s in it and we left it at that.
During the course of our stay we saw the chef/owner talking to one of the large parties behind us; I’m not sure if she was just chit-chatting or if they were mad as well. It looked kind of like the latter. When she walked back to the kitchen I noticed she was wearing stiletto-heeled boots. What kind of chef wears heels? The answer, apparently, is one who had a lot of money laying around, friends & family who told her she was a good cook to not hurt her feelings, and a willing victim in the populace of Ann Arbor.
As an final indication for how bad our experience was, even after we had dropped around $30 on three hot chocolates and two bad desserts, we had to go to Busch’s and get some cookie dough and ice cream to make our own cookie sundaes. Our plan now is to get the owner of Chocolat in Brimingham to open a branch in AA to put the existing chocolate places out of business. In the meantime we will be going exclusively out to Birmingham when searching for chocolate, because Chocolat is truly a transcendent experience.