Zin is here
Manhattan style in a Secaucus location
by Al Sullivan
Reporter staff writer
Dec 20, 2009 | 4278 views | 0 0 comments | 45 45 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KEEPING IT SIMPLE – Zin’s main ballroom can be decorated to suit each event.
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In the 1950s film “Love Come Back,” Rock Hudson plays a Madison Avenue advertiser who promotes a product for which he has only a name and no actual product.

Until recently, Zin, a restaurant in Secaucus, suffered from a similar identity crisis.

Formerly Lantana’s at 1150 Paterson Plank Road, the new management initially promoted it as a diner – perhaps in an effort to fill the gap left by the Plaza Diner when it was replaced by a bank a few years ago.

But recently, Zin has had a significant change of identity, returning to its roots as a quality restaurant. It serves downtown Hoboken-quality or Jersey City-quality dishes, but at more reasonable prices.

With two of the shrimp types, the spices were so good, we didn’t need the cocktail sauce.

Yet the restaurant is only a small part of what Zin has become, since it offers a large banquet hall for events like weddings, showers, bar mitzvahs, graduations, and even – in the newest retro fad – Sweet 16 parties, while also offering, on its upper floors, accommodations for more intimate parties.

This space is not overly ornate, so it allows each group to fashion the space to fit their own needs. A separate entrance allows people attending the event to come easily into this room from the convenient parking lot across the street.

Zin picks up on a long tradition of quality restaurants in that location, and hopes to provide people with the same fond memories old timers had when they held important events here.

The facility is far different from Lantana’s, because Zin has opened up the other spaces to provide for more uses. What used to be the restaurant has become a vast space that can seat up to 150 people comfortably, providing space for dancing, a DJ, and possibly even a small musical combo.

Complete with granite bar tops and subtle lighting, all of the rooms have an upscale feel that is hard to find outside of the Manhattan scene.

Zin has five distinct entertainment areas, a lobby bar, the banquet hall, the restaurant, the lounge on the second floor, and a loft the third floor, each with its own personality.

Bathroom facilities are available in the upstairs rooms as well, allowing people to remain in those areas. These areas are also equipped with large screen TVs so can also serve for sporting event parties.

Groups have a lot of options depending on their needs to rent the lounge – which accommodates about 30 people. That area and the loft provide the atmosphere found in private clubs in Manhattan, but offer views of the New York City skyline, and a second floor outdoor porch where smokers can indulge without having to make the trip downstairs. Packages for catering vary depending on the selection.

Kim Caputo, catering manager, said groups can cater their own affairs, especially if there are dietary issues such as with some kosher required items, charges based on space rental, and other accommodations.

Zin, of course, may well serve the corporate needs of people who wish to avoid the sterile atmosphere of hotel banquet spaces. Indeed, Zin has hosted several holiday parties, as well as special events for non-profit groups. A full liquor selection is available. People can even hang out at the lobby bar. Happy hour is on Thursdays and Fridays from 4 to 8 p.m.

Upscale menu as reasonable prices

Individuals and couples, of course, can make use of the restaurant. It has a variety of booths and chairs without feeling crowded. With views of a widescreen TV and with subtle jazz playing, it provides an atmosphere that is both cultured and cool.

Gone is the menu of diner food which has been replaced by an ample selection of continental cuisine.

It provides an ample selection of appetizers, small plates, sandwiches, and entrees, but avoids the historic diner trap of providing everything to everybody, by offering quality and tasty dishes at reasonable prices.

Each table receives a basket of sliced bread – in this instance flavored with rosemary and with a sundried tomato sauce – changes Kim Caputo insisted upon.

Appetizers run from $3 for a cup of soup to $10 for a grilled hanger steak salad. Other dishes priced between these two include a Zin salad for $8, a Caesar salad for $6 (or $10 with chicken), grilled portobello salad at $7, Asia chicken salad, and blackened salmon salad.

Small dishes and sandwiches start at $8, with nothing more expensive than $12. There is a very healthy selection of choices, too, including a shrimp sampler, Mediterranean Sampler, Calamari Frito, artichoke hearts, Chesapeake crab cakes, grilled vegetable wrap, grilled children Caesar, and a variety of sandwiches that include Italian, pork tenderloin, a black angus burger, and yes, even a Secaucus burger – which includes grilled onions, sautéed mushrooms, and mozzarella cheese. Sandwiches come with French or sweet potato fries.

Entrees range in price from $12 to $23 and include risotto or pasta of the day with side salad, vegetarian plate, or chicken breast topped with asparagus, plum tomato, and fresh mozzarella. There’s chicken breast stuffed with wild rice, dried cranberries and walnuts, pan seared wild caught Atlantic salmon, pan roasted Gulf of Mexico red snapper, herb roasted port tenderloin, herb marinated pan seared hanger steak, Irish stout braised short ribs, and 12-ounce New York strip steak.

On this visit, we sampled the shrimp and calamari appetizers and the stuffed chicken entree.

The shrimp sampler provided three different shrimp preparations with a very tasty cocktail sauce, not too sweet, but very hot, although with two of the shrimp types, the spices were so good, we didn’t need the cocktail sauce.

Calamari, which is always something of gamble, was perfect, neither too greasy nor rubbery with a thin, plainly seasoned breading even the uninitiated would appreciate.

The stuffed chicken had a good honey mustard sauce that wasn’t too sweet.

Blatantly missing from the menu are the desserts. But don’t worry, the hostess is well prepared with a variety of desserts that included on this occasion carrot cake, truffles, peach cobbler pie, and other items, all of them intensely rich and delightful.

Although Zin stopped offering breakfast on weekdays, people can still come for breakfast on weekends with equally low prices. Some night time dinner specials are offered at $9.95.

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