Zero X unfortunately sacrifices quality for innovation

Nicholas Roh/HIGHLANDER
Drinks 6.5/10
Food 8/10
Ambience 6.5/10

 

Some stick with the classics, others go for something more adventurous. If you’re looking for an exciting new flavor combination that you’ve never tried before, Zero X is the place to visit next.

Just as they have a series of drinks with “twist” in the name (Mangonada with Twist, Pink Guava Mojito with Twist, etc.), their items are unexpected takes on a familiar theme: Milk and Cereal Sundae, Berry Milk, Sea Salt Thai Tea Slush, etc. Zero X’s extensive drink menu, which features bubble tea, mojitos, coffee, slushes, milkshakes, sundaes and frappes, fuses the classic with the unconventional to generate items that are entirely their own creations. They even provide the option to invent your own drink through the Split Cup, which would combine two specially marked milk teas of your choice into one cup.

The “twist” doesn’t end there: The food makes the visit to Zero X just as worth it. Similar to the drinks’ Mexican culinary influence, such as with their Mangonada, spiced fruit drinks and various horchata-infused drinks, the food combines Asian street food with Mexican street food for a menu a college student could only dream. Featured here are offerings such as XXtra Flamin’ Hot Elotes, Popcorn Chicken and Fries, Chilotes (which are chicharrones with Classic or XXtra Flamin’ Hot Elotes dip) and Fried Chicken Poutine. Could a menu this appealing taste as delicious as it sounds? Zero X says yes.

The highlights of what I tried were hands down in the milkshakes. They were creamy and maintained their flavors without being too sweet, which can be hard to find with all of the syrupy, sugary milkshakes out there. The S’more Coffee Milkshake, which blended premium cold brew with chocolate milk ice and was topped with graham crackers and toasted marshmallows, reminded me of taking secret sips of my parents’ mocha drinks as a kid because that was back when coffee still tasted magical. Zero X managed to maintain the sharp, exciting flavor of coffee that, when combined with the right amounts of chocolate, cream and crunchy graham crackers, can taste like something from your childhood. For those who are not fans of coffee drinks, the Ube milkshake is also a strong and delicious option.

Unfortunately, the freshness and quality found in Zero X’s milkshakes was lacking in their tea offerings. The Thai milk tea, a boba spot staple, did feature a distinguishable black tea taste, but was too watery with the boba itself being too soft and overcooked. The matcha milk tea also lacked in creaminess and had an odd, slightly fishy taste that I’ve had in other poor matcha milk teas. The Peach Blossom citrus green tea, which comes with chia seeds and fruit bits, smelled and tasted like a fragrant, floral perfume, so it could have been good for someone who likes more muted, earthy flavors. However, this drink was too bitter for me and tasted like flower-infused water.

As Zero X’s signature drink, I was excited to try the Mangonada. Containing mangos, chamoy sauce, lime juice, chili powder and a tamarind straw, on paper this is a surefire flavor explosion, and while it didn’t work for me due to personal preference, Mangonada fans will surely be impressed.

The food didn’t disappoint either, incorporating Mexican culinary influences that I have always wanted to try. The elotes, XXtra Flamin’ Hot Cheese Fries and popcorn chicken and fries all complemented the establishment’s delicious drink offerings. Often, food is a sideshow to the boba main act, but Zero X delivers on their promise and offers delicious, flavorful snacks.

The interior of Zero X has an artistic feel with its wall plants, glass jar displays (which you can also purchase your drink in) and black walls that provide a warm, modern ambience. Their angel wing designs, which are seen all over social media, adorn their walls and add a fun aspect to take pictures with. The pretty, unique decorations reflect Zero X’s inventive, unique menu items. However, if you’re looking for a place to study or socialize in as many college students seek in boba stores, you may not find that here: The tables are only two-seaters and they are scattered throughout their thin, hallway-like space. The atmosphere might look pretty at first, but after sitting for more than ten minutes, you realize it’s not very comfortable, similar to the visual appeal contrasting with the actual quality of many of the drinks at Zero X.

Having tried a variety of options, I can see why Zero X has the split cup: there might be so many alluring items on the menu that you just can’t settle for one. Unfortunately, Zero X earns a mixed record. Having drunken taro milk tea and Thai milk tea hundreds of times, I would have preferred either one from my favorite boba store over a majority of the drinks I tried at Zero X.

No matter how innovative a restaurant may be, what it comes down to is taste, and although an interesting menu might make a customer visit, quality keeps a customer returning. There may be some items at Zero X that you cannot find anywhere else in the world, but after trying most of them, I think I would be OK with never trying them again. I just want good drinks and food, and while Zero X is an interesting concept, its lack of solid tea offerings prevents it from fully realizing its potential.

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