When I walked into Zzaam for the first time, I must admit I was a bit overwhelmed. Did I want a burrito or a noodle bowl? Wait, what – I get to choose six toppings? And I have to choose a meat and a sauce? So many options!
Located in the heart of Carytown at 3300 W Cary St., Zzaam offers what seems like an endless supply of choices, sort of like Chipotle on steroids. After walking through the door, you must make your first decision: do you want to build your own or go with one of the Chef Zam specials? I typically opt to make my own, although the Man Doo Guk (dumpling noodle soup) and Japchae (potato noodle dish) do sound delicious.
When you go down the make your own route, there are what feels like a series of endless decisions to make, but let’s look at that as a positive – you could come to Zzaam hundreds of times and never get the same exact meal twice.
Okay, on to the decision making. First, you pick your Zzaam which is basically your base — rice, noodle or salad bowl, or burrito. The bowls are available in two sizes, small and large. I typically go with the small which is extremely reasonably priced at just over $5 with tax.
After you choose your Zzaam, you pick your protein — the spicy pork and pork belly options are my personal favorites. Next you choose your toppings, oh and you get to pick six of them (!), I typically go the more “traditional” route with a mix of kimchi, edamame, pickled cucumber and a few other options depending on how healthy I want to attempt to be. The owner of Zzaam, Derek Cha, is also the creator of Sweet Frog, the nationwide frozen yogurt chain, so he knows a little something about toppings.
Last but not least, you pick your sauce, my go-to is the spicy teriyaki sauce that has hints of orange, apple and ginger and is relatively mild compared to some of the hotter options. All sauces are labeled with the appropriate heat level, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally picking a sauce too hot for your palate. Before you pay, be sure to ask for a drizzle of sesame oil and a sprinkling of sesame seeds for an added dimension of flavor.
Here’s my full go to order: a small noodle bowl (with broth), pork belly, kimchi, pickled cucumber, roasted carrots, edamame, zucchini, bean sprouts, spicy teriyaki sauce, sesame oil and sesame seeds. It honestly is the perfect dinner on the go, especially if you don’t want to break the bank or go totally off the rails on your diet. And at about $5 it could quite possibly be the best deal in town.
While I’m not exactly sold on how authentically Korean Zzaam is, what I do know is that I always leave feeling happy and full. The transformation of this former dry cleaners into a sleek and inviting restaurant is an impressive feat and the fact that you can enjoy a local craft beer on the restaurant’s expansive patio makes it even better.
Keep an eye on Zzaam’s Facebook page for updates on weekly specials and events. Current weekly special include: Mandoo Monday (Mandoo aka dumplings are discounted), Taco Tuesday ($1 off tacos) and trivia night every Wednesday. And the beer is pretty cheap here every day.
Zzaam is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, with the exception of Sunday when it closes at 9 p.m. And there are even a few parking spaces out front, making it a little easier on those who don’t love parallel parking in Carytown. Oh, and a second location is opening near Brandermill in Midlothian soon for all you Southsiders!
If you’ve been to Zzaam let me know what your go to order is in the comments, I’d love to try it!