We'd read cryptic press releases about a new restaurant being developed in the Woodlands, and wondered what was behind all the mystery. Called Zunum, it's a new concept being launched on Research Forest within the city of Shenandoah. The team behind Zunum isn't new to the restaurant business, owning Russo's Pizzeria.
The concept is a unique one. Zunum is a place for families, catering to both children and adults while not expecting either to compromise. For the adults, Zunum offers them a place to "relax and enjoy a gourmet meal in an adult environment", while the kids can "play, be active, and behave as kids in a safe environment".
That's the promise. Short of attaching a Chuck E. Cheese to Tony's, how would you pull this off? On a drizzly Tuesday, we went to find out.
Zunum's execution is tasteful, and shows a clear vision. The front of the house is a modern, airy restaurant, featuring dishes aimed at an adult palate. It's a bright, attractive space, featuring modern decor and muted earth tones.
|The dining room at Zunum|
Behind a glass wall are multiple supervised play areas designed for kids of different ages. Cleverly avoiding the one-size-fits-none issue, the first play area features soft surface, active toys, and a bright, fun environment for toddlers and early school-aged kids. The area is themed with creatively imagined creatures, each with its own back story; I expect that at least one will appeal to every young child.
|Little kids' play area at Zunum|
The bigger kids (up to age 12) have their own space, with an active climbing area and a zone featuring multiple state-of-the-art game consoles. There's also a private party room complete with an interactive projection game system sure to fascinate both kids and adults.
|Big kids' play area at Zunum|
Parents can keep an eye on the little darlings via a panoramic window between the play areas and the dining room; thankfully there's a door that should keep the roar to a minimum.
Unlike other places that cater to kids, Zunum has a wide variety of inventive dishes that won't make the grown-ups think they're in the penalty box. Beer and wine are available. From seafood to salads, panini, burgers, crepes and pastas, there are dishes to appeal to almost anyone. There is, of course, a dedicated kids' menu with the usual suspects and also a variety of healthier options.
On their recent soft opening, we sampled several of their dishes, and management graciously picked up the tab. Since the restaurant isn't officially open, this isn't a full review, but rather a preview of what's to be offered when the doors open.
We started with a couple of appetizers. Our favorite was Zunum's unique spin on the traditional Italian bruschetta. The crunchy Italian bread was topped with a generous portion of marinated tomatoes and shaved parmesan cheese, but the flavor profile was more southwestern than Italian, a surprise that we found delightful.
|Bruschetta at Zunum|
Next up was Zunum's tuna tartare. Chunks of fresh tuna were bound in a creamy dill sauce with avocado, with wasabi drizzles on the plate to spice things up.
|Tuna Tartare at Zunum|
We then ventured into the entrees. Zunum's version of parmesan crusted chicken caught us by surprise; instead of breaded chicken with the traditional marinara, the grilled chicken breast was topped with artichokes in a creamy mushroom sauce. It was served with chunks of potato and gently grilled asparagus.
|Parmesan Crusted Chicken at Zunum|
We couldn't avoid a the epic, 1 pound Zunum Burger that was featured on the menu, even though it contains two or three times the amount of meat we usually prefer in a burger. Up for the challenge, we put in our order, and this behemoth appeared:
Yes, folks, that's a 1 pound burger patty parked on a bun the size of a personal pizza. We'd forgotten to mention cheese, so a quick spin back into the kitchen resulted in a lovely glaze of melty, high-quality American cheese. The burger was so huge that we cut it in half for maneuverability, and we were impressed by the meat's perfect medium preparation.
|Inside the Zunum Burger|
Other than its enormous proportion, the burger was exactly what we hope for in a burger; nicely handled and seasoned beef, good quality cheese nicely melted, and fresh, crisp veggies. The only flaw was a bottom bun that simply wasn't up to the task of supporting a pound of juicy beef; we wonder if Mrs. Baird's will consider titanium reinforcements. Maybe not.
All in all, we're intrigued by Zunum's unique concept. We believe that a restaurant that offers to delight both kids and parents has a bright future in the Woodlands, and we look forward to the grand opening and seeing how crowds react to this unique restaurant.
Zunum | 1620 Research Forest Drive | The Woodlands, Texas 77381 | 281-419-5400