With its ideal location on Nicollet Mall, it’s not surprising that Zelo is so popular. You’ll find a great mix of people – the after-work crowd grabbing a drink, business folks entertaining their clients, or people celebrating special occasions (we had a group of women celebrating a bachelorette event sitting across from our table – it’s the sexy lingerie gifts that gave it away). It was a beautiful summer evening and we wanted to grab one of the sidewalk tables (very popular on summer weekends and weeknights) outside but the wait was too long. However, sitting inside wasn’t a compromise by any means. We loved the restaurant interior – you walk in through this grand gateway draped in black cloth. The first thing that hits you is the cozy, dimly lit dining area in dark wood but accented by silver highlights. With modern paintings and sculptures, the pseudo contemporary coupled with old-world charm makes this part of the restaurant special and ideal for a romantic getaway. The main dining room is a little different however – it’s larger, brighter, and not as ornate. Off to one side of the restaurant is a lounge with full bar, decorated with ample use of dark wood and leather. An added highlight is that it looks outside onto 9th Street and Nicollet Mall. The owners of Zelo also own Bacio and Ciao Bella.
831 Nicollet Mall
Recommendation: Very Good. They have one of the more stunning interiors of the restaurants in Minneapolis – pair that with a diverse menu that’s executed well, and you have a winner.
The menu confused us a little – we thought we were dining at an Italian-inspired restaurant but many of the items on the menu strayed from this course. It’s more diverse than we had expected with pizzas, pastas, salads, flatbreads, seafood and meats. Many of the dishes, especially the specials were Asian inspired. We started with the Ahi Spring Rolls, which we highly recommend. A simple preparation where the Tuna is cooked to rare perfection, the exterior of the roll is crispy and served with accompanying soy and wasabi sauces. The server pointed out their new seafood menu and recommended us a couple of options – it was interesting to see that most of the seafood options actually had an Asian twist. We were a little reticent but proceeded to order the Grilled Shrimp and Scallops in a Ginger Thai Broth. It was stunning…the scallops were soft, the broth fragrant, and the wild mushroom medley had subtle rustic flavors. Our only gripe was that the shrimp were a touch overcooked. The Tagliolini with Shrimp was also very good – cooked in a simple tomato sauce that we had asked to be spiced up. Well they did spice it up (a touch too spicy) but the flavors were outstanding. The classic Spaghetti with Meatballs was outstanding, proving that this restaurant can execute well on a wide variety of dishes. The thick meatballs were made with veal and sausage and were really flavorful. The only thing we wouldn’t recommend on the menu is the Heirloom Grain Chopped Salad with farro, quinoa and vegetables in a lemon vinaigrette. It was bland and under-dressed. Both desserts we had were good. Being chocoholics, the Budino (Molten chocolate cake with Vanilla gelato and Fudge sauce) was our preferred choice – the chocolate was dark and rich and the gelato was rich and creamy. The Lemon Tasting Plate with mousse cake, shortbread cookies, and strawberry lemonade sorbet was a hit as well. We enjoyed a bottle of the Ferrari Carano Siena but thought that the wines are priced on the high side (location, location, location). Our service was wonderful – our bubbly server made some good recommendations and was more than willing to do separate checks for our large table.
$$$-$$$$. Pastas are under $15 while the meats and seafood range from $20-$40. Dinner for 4 with a bottle of wine, tax, and tip was $206. They also offer valet parking