Side Order of Chaos

eatZi's may know how to cook, but convenient? Forget it.

I encountered a similar frustration at breakfast. When I ordered my migas frittata, I thought how nice it would be to wash it down with a good cappuccino. I was directed to the coffee bar, where a lone employee was preparing for the day. I ordered my cappuccino (which was admittedly excellent) and asked to pay, since I planned to eat at one of eatZi's inside tables. He proceeded to place the plastic clamshell that housed my breakfast into a plastic takeout bag. Unsure whether he had heard me, I repeated that I planned to sit at one of the 14-odd high-top tables nearby, all of which were empty, and eat now. Unperturbed, he informed me that he had to place it in the bag; otherwise, he couldn't be sure I'd paid. When I pointed out that there was no one else around, all I received was a blank look.

Still, the food itself was memorable. The frittata, a one-inch high omelet with cheese, scallions and tomatoes, had a nice heat level thanks to some jalapenos. The tortilla strips at its heart had softened, but they still added a nice textural diversion. The new potatoes I chose as an accompaniment were pan-sauteed along with onions and red and green peppers; they proved perfect.

For all the frustrations, it's easy to get caught up in the electrifying energy and sheer excitement of eatZi's. Some people are fanatical about this place. Once, as I was pondering the multitude of dishes in the main serving area, an elderly man approached me, tapped me on the shoulder, pointed to some coconut chicken and muttered, "Try this, you'll love it." He proceeded to let me know that this was his fourth visit, and that things kept getting better. On the chicken, at least, he was right. I did love it. It was a delicious chicken tender that had been gently breaded, fried and then sprinkled with coconut. While it was wonderful reheated, it would be a serious contender cold for my next picnic.

EatZi's makes a big deal about its roasted chickens, and with good cause. Weighing in at close to two pounds, the one I tried remained moist whilst maintaining a crisp exterior. The herbal seasoning rub, heavy with garlic, sage and onion, penetrated the entire bird. I enjoyed this with some roasted corn on the cob. The chicken cordon bleu, with its crisp, breaded exterior and a cheese and ham filling, was also done well.

The on-premise bakery turns out more than 50 different piping-hot loaves of bread daily, and those loaves rival what's available at the Empire Bakery just down the street -- which is high praise indeed. The sun-dried tomato and cheese loaf is particularly interesting. It weighed in at close to a pound and a half and tasted a lot like cold pizza that had been left in the fridge. The tomatoes were woven into the dough, but the cheese was in the hollowed-out center, turning it into something of a sandwich.

Next to the bread counter is an incredible array of luscious pastries and cakes, all of which look worth sacrificing a few calories for. The English trifle was rich with cream, fresh fruit and the required sponge cake, though it was light on the sherry. The apple tartlet had a wonderful marzipan filling that was hard to resist. The apple feuillete, with its beautifully sliced and displayed apples on a flaky-pastry base, went well with coffee. The desserts were definitely delectable.

Too bad all this comes with a side order of delay. The first-rate food and reasonable prices deserve better. If only I could examine eatZi's menu on-line and place my order for pickup in the drive-through -- now, there's a thought.

eatZi's, 1702 Post Oak Boulevard, 629-6003.

coconut chicken, $6.99 a pound;
whole roasted chicken, $6.99;
teriyaki shrimp roll, $5.99;
migas frittata combo, $3.99;
cappuccino, $2.25;
sun-dried tomato and cheese bread, $4.99;
apple feuillete, $1.69.

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