By: Candace Elizabeth Brooks (a.k.a. Ariadne Phoenix Levinson), Uptown Dallas Art Collective Editor in Chief
So I went to Zaguán earlier this week, approximately lunchtime on Monday. This is the second time I have been to this restaurant, and not much has changed since the first time I went: the ambience is modern and attractive, with an attention to the traditional architectural styles evocative of the cultural origins of the Latin food served. I like the color of the walls, yellow-orange, which sets a happy tone in the atmosphere there, which possibly helps to induce people’s appetite when they go in and grab a bite (1). The restaurant itself looks like a traditional South American hacienda “Balcón,” especially the kind sold for Souvenirs in the Centro of Bogotá or Venezuela (or I imagine any other South American Country with centers of town where crafts are made and exchanged and sold). In other words, to me, the exterior of the building (which is located on a strip mall on Oak Lawn Ave.), evokes a sense of the unreal, to the point where it reminds you more of a toy or souvenir model than an actual architectural structure.
There is porch-style seating on the outside of the building, cooled by shrubbery and ferns and structural awning, and the inside reminds you of a ranch. The plants inside look healthy and green. Zaguán seems like it would be a festive place to visit for dinner, especially because of the beautiful special effects promised by the small, round, decorative light bulbs that hang over the porch awning. Even if someone went to Zaguán for dinner and ate inside the restaurant, the visibility of the porch from within enables restaurant goers to see what’s going on outside, and I imagine the effect and the scene would be quite picturesque at night, both because of the verdant porch and the lights, as well as because of the fact that the restaurant is located alongside Oak Lawn ave., which seems to be a major street in Dallas, right off the highway that goes towards Parkland Hospital.
I also imagine that breakfast is a pleasant time of day for Zaguán customers, because of the wooden floors inside the restaurant, and the upholstered cushioned seating…the mediterranean influences of the decour seem to connect the restaurant in a discursive, postmodern way, to a global awareness no doubt informed by the instantaneousness of social media. For instance, I think the mediterranean influences of the interior design of the restaurant help to temper and balance any potential political dialogues that might come up by clientele while eating (if Latin American Politics are considered from an American perspective, the memories evoked by mediterranean (Greek) architectural styles (such as blue tiles on the walls) seem to help remind that history moves towards Freedom, and dissonance will always be a passing phase: so the real purpose customers should focus on is making the most of their meals and carrying the message of joy to whoever they are charged with meeting/having to communicate with, later in the day).
There is a juice bar and pasteleria at the entrance of the restaurant, which presents the pastries behind glass in a way that is reminiscent of Europe, for some reason I think of Europe, especially France, because I imagine that the French probably innovated upon and helped to develop the glass display case, and Zaguán has one.
I bet you the fruit juices are good at Zaguán, I was not able to find out whether they have any vegetable juice there. I remember in Colombia one of the typical beverages we would drink would be a “batido” made with Bananas, milk, and sugar, in a blender. They probably have Batidos at Zaguán, but I have a banana allergy now, which causes my skin to have melasma, so I would only have one when it wouldn’t offend everyone if my skin suddenly changed color temporarily because of something I ate (2).
They serve gelato at Zaguán.
There an industrial style ceiling inside Zaguán, which reminds me of the movie Brazil
because of the way it shows the ventilation system tubing wrapped in aluminium, which seems to underscore the interior decorator’s intention to achieve a postmodern fusion of styles that reflect what is achieved by the (phenomenon of the instance of) Latin food being served in an American Metropolitan City like Dallas.
Perhaps it speaks to the financial class of the clientele, as well as the industries in which they might work (which might include farming industries), because the ceiling, which also has a ceiling fan,
evokes a farm style feeling.
There are wine bottles on one of the walls of the restaurant, in metal wine holders.
AS FOR THE FOOD:
I ordered a traditional plate of Arroz con Pollo, and I would say more than anything that “honest” is the adjective I would use to describe Zaguán’s presentation of its typical Latin food. The flavor was “honest” in the sense that it seems to accurately convey the idea of rice that is cooked with vegetables in chicken broth so that the rice has some of the flavor of the actual chicken, and so that the rice also tastes like the vegetables it is served with. They probably use a little oil in the cooking process, so that the texture of the rice has a soft consistency, which blends with pieces of chicken that in this case seem to have been added in after the rice and vegetables were cooked with possibly some bouillon. The softness of the rice in Zaguán’s rendition of Arroz con Pollo compensates for the fact that the chicken was a little dry. But being someone who was raised in Miami, which is an environment influenced heavily by its Latin community, and having been born in Colombia, I felt a little sense of pride to think that Zaguán managed somehow to achieve the plating and serving of Arroz (rice) that is cooked tenderly and complemented by just a few very precious morsels of carrots and green peas (the nutritional value of the tiniest amounts of vegetables makes the hugest impact) (3). Even though I finished my meal satisfied, for the fact that I am a small person, I still think the portion size could have been slightly more generous….the actual size of the plate is a little more than two ice-cream scoops worth of food, and since I don’t eat bread or plantains, the dish looked a little meager when it was put on the table.
Nevertheless, I really think that Zaguán would have plenty of reasons to feel unashamed about showing off their awesome rice and vegetables by making their portion sizes a little bigger (because another adjective I would use to describe the taste of the rice and vegetable part of the dish is “authentic”). I think they would probably feel better doing so if their chicken was less dry.
- According to the internet there have been some studies done about the degree to which interior decoration can help to induce healthy appetites in people. Here is one, although I haven’t had the chance to read it yet: http://designlike.com/the-psychology-of-color-for-interior-design/.
- I developed adult onset Melasma at the age of 22, and the internet says it is a hereditary condition. Through a lot of trial and error I found that if I avoid bananas, it’s barely noticeable, and that broccoli clears it up.
- Marilou Henner’s Diet Books talk about her discoveries related to food combinations that are color sensitive and also ingredient sensitive (for instance: starch with oil or protein with oil) https://www.amazon.com/Healthy-Life-Kitchen-Marilu-Henner/dp/B0009309D6, and her findings are echoed by what I learned in my Nutritional Anthropology class at Hampshire, such as how pieces of corn or servings of orange can “unlock” the nutrition content found in spinach by helping people to absorb more vitamin C (which is crucial for the immune system). http://www.fitday.com/fitness-articles/nutrition/healthy-eating/the-nutrition-of-corn.html Meanwhile the Wai Diet is focused on the importance of balancing your blood sugar when you eat fruit: http://www.waiworld.com/waidiet/