Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Soft Opening Preview: Zunum

6/3/2012 Update: We've been getting overwhelmingly negative feedback from our readers about Zunum. Caveat diner.

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:

Zunum Burger
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

Zunum on Urbanspoon


  1. The food looks good, I think we need to try this. Very great for weekend getaways with my friends.

    weekend getaway Philippines

  2. I hope that the children menu is interesting and not only pizza and mac and cheese...

  3. Sounds like a win win..

  4. I went to the soft open with my kids. The kids had a great time in the play area and my food was good. kids menu is basically chicken strips, mac&cheese, spaghetti with marinara... typical kid stuff. All come with chips. You can order fruit or veggies separately. I would have liked to have the option to give the kids fruit or veg instead of chips (they may allow this, i'm not sure). They did bring out some fruit that I requested, so not sure if they would charge to substitute. Overall I was impressed, and my 5 year old said... "mom, I want to have my 6th birthday there at Zunum!"

  5. From what I hear they are trying to look into a fruit cup for the kids as a choice instead of just chips. I went to the soft opening and the food was great and the staff was wonderful.

  6. I wouldn't recomend anyone eating there. People who have placed their careers on the line are being told in return as "on call workers" leaving everyone, including people with children with no job until they say so. They did a horrible marketing job and the play place, well you can find a place like that at McDonalds, or The Woodlands Mall... why pay 10 bucks when you can have it for free.

  7. There isn't much to do for the children. The Woodlands Mall has a free play area and a food court. We went there Sunday afternoon and it was busy. Service sucked as there were too few waiters. Food was cold and took a LONG time to get it. I know they just opened but they need to work on a lot of issues. The food probably would ahve been decent if it was not cold.

  8. Surprized - there is a charge for the children to join in on the play area. No thanks.

  9. inedible! Tried it based on this blog... and wow, not sure if the food could be any worse.

  10. What the heck are Zunumites? We took are kids there and paid $10 each for them to play and eat. The "Zunumites" were nothing more than drawings on the walls. No real characters for the kids to play with. The play area was nothing more than a slide and a few overhead walk-ways. There was nothing else for the kids to do but run around and play on a slide. I still do not understand what the "Zunumite" thing is all about. And to pay $5 for a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is BS! I won't go there again. The managers wouldn't let me into the play area to check on my children because it is "policy". That palce will be out of business very soon.

  11. Food is mediocre. And the place is incredibly noisy. As they say....grab your hat on the way out of business.

  12. I concur with all the anonymous reviews. Poor food. the burger tasted steamed like at the ball park. All of our orders came out wrong, the staff was turning away customers because of the wait and then 10 minutes later, 8 tables were empty waiting to be bussed. They arent running this place anywhere but into the ground. Won't be back. You should make an update to your review sir and then tell us if you feel the same way. $ bucks to have my kid play while I pay $5 for a sam adams and $10 for a burger that makes mcdonald's taste like a kobe beef burger.

  13. Very bad experience. Overpriced frozen food advertised ad "gourmet". Unhealty environment...filthy and unsanitary. Obviously underpaid staff who do not want to be there. Poor service. General Manager had no people skills. Had to pay an extra $5 at the door for grandson to play in their unsanitary play area. Will not ever go there again and very strongly recommend that if you are considering going...to think twice before you have the same experience as we did. To give you an idea of the prices...very small lunch portions for 3 adults and one child was over $50. Save your time and money and go somewhere else.

  14. Horrible food and poor playground. First off they do not advertise that you have to pay $5.00 per child for them to enter the play area. The menu did not have healthy options and for a kids meal the fries were extra! The chips that came with the kids meal were so hard they could not eat them. We had to wait another 20 mins for out food to come after the kids (salad and wrap) should not take that long. The salad had so much dressing on it the lettuce was soaked and lost all the flavor. Waited another 10 mins for a refill on our drinks. After playing in the play area for about 15 mins my 5 year old came out and said she was bored (she can play at McDonalds or Chick-Fil-A for longer than that for FREE). Waste of money, poor food, terrible service - don't waste your time with this place.

  15. We have been regulars and I am not sure if we are talking about the same place. The food is amazing and a very diverse menu. My children never want to leave. All our friends keep talking about it very positevely

  16. I'd bought a Groupon to try this place out, so we went on a Saturday around noon. There were very few patrons- not a good sign. We ordered a club sandwich to split- we ALWAYS split a sandwich everywhere because generally speaking restaurant sandwiches at this price point are giant. I ordered an extra side of sweet potato fries for me and my husband had the regular fries. When the food arrived we were quite shocked at how little meat there was on it- I mean hardly any! It had a little chipped ham and turkey and fewer bacon bits than would make up a complete strip of bacon. Sad. We wondered if they had ever seen an actual club sandwich- it didn't even have 3 slices of bread and had no dressing of any kind- no mayo. Then they cleverly disguised the fact that there weren't very many fries by stuffing the little metal fry container with paper topped by maybe 15-20 fries. One the plus side the bread was good.

    Skip this place, and go to Jason's, or- at these prices- you could go to Hubble & Hudson and be very satisfied.