A platter of sushi is placed before me, and I pick one up, dip one of the edges lightly in the accompanying soy sauce, add a tiny hint of the pungent wasabi before putting it in my mouth in one go. A burst of flavours hit my senses: the soft chicken lightly tossed in a creamy dressing, the soft rice right underneath, the salty seaweed touched by the merest hint of soy, and then, the wasabi, which comes last, in a rush, suddenly there. I finish my mouthful, then reach for a sliver of the pickled ginger, picking it up with the end of my chopsticks.
The lights are dim inside Zen, the oriental restaurant of The Park, a place which I have loved for a long time. Zen to me is comfort – the familiar flavours make me happy. Over the years, the menu has changed and reinterpreted itself, and currently, they serve an extensive menu, filled with Japanese, South East Asian, Chinese and Bhutanese delicacies. If you read my previous post, you would know that Restaurant Week India is upon us, and currently, it’s in full swing. It will continue until Sunday, May 1st, so I would suggest you book your tables quickly.
At Zen, you can pick from two starters, one main course, one accompanying staple with it (Rice or noodles), and a dessert. I pick the Crispy Double Fried Lamb as my second starter because I am horribly weak towards the presence of lamb in any given menu. I blame it solely on my childhood fantasy of owning a farm filled with lambs and sheepdogs. Anyway, I digress. The crispy lamb was crisp, tossed in a rather sweet sauce (and I wished it wasn’t that sweet), which I felt would be also quite good with some steamed rice.
My compatriots had been mostly silent as soon as the food arrived, and after our starters were over, we were slowly approaching the main course segment. I had a hankering for some Lamb Massaman Curry, but my server told me, with a knowing look in his eyes, that I would like the Lamb with Pickled Chilli and Oyster Sauce more. Sigh! If only I was a mysterious creature to them, who they would be baffled by! But, this wasn’t going to be like that, and the thin slices of lamb was bathed in a light gravy which was perfect for mopping up with some plain, steamed rice, because, and here I quote my server, “Madam, the noodles will completely overpower the meat, and you won’t like that”.
Damn them for making me sound predictable!
Meanwhile, my partner had to try out something vegetarian, and we picked, after a considerable amount of hemming and hawwing, the Water Chestnut, Trio of Mushroom and Asparagus in Rice Wine Sauce. The dish smelled strongly of the rice wine it had been flavoured with, and the three kinds of mushrooms: cloud-ear fungus, shiitake, and button, added a delicious edge of umami to the otherwise what could have been a rather bland dish.
The Burnt Garlic Noodles had a rich, deep smokiness from the ‘breath of wok’, which can only be achieved if one cooks over really high heat, and the garlic shone through. It complemented the light and simple mushrooms, and we rounded off the meal with a glass of red wine.
After a considerable amount of thought, we ended the meal with the Chocolate Fudge Cake with Sesame Ice Cream, because a chocolate-addict needs her fix. The chocolate fudge cake probably didn’t contain any flour, because it was deliciously mousse-like inside, with a light and crunchy exterior, topped with a generous drizzle of rich, dark chocolate. I was slightly iffy about the sesame ice cream, but I hate to admit this, I was wrong. The sesame ice cream was creamy but not overpoweringly so, with a hint of sesame hitting your tongue just when you feel the coldness of the cream receding, and then, when you exhale, you can feel the sesame right there, holding its own ground steadily. Together, this was a killer combination, and I would return to Zen just to eat this again. Zen gets booked pretty quickly, so I would suggest you reserve your table and check the menu out! The extensive options make picking and choosing quite easy.
Disclaimer: Poorna Banerjee was invited to Zen by Restaurant Week India.