July 3, 2011

Six at Zen

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When I first arrived in Hong Kong in the mid-90s, my office was conveniently located in Pacific Place.  It was commonplace for me to have lunch with visiting colleagues at Zen (采蝶軒), since many visitors from London were already familiar with the name.  I would also grab lunch boxes from the restaurant as a quick and easy solution.  As I changed employers and started going to work somewhere else over the years, I stopped my regular visits to the restaurant.

So once again, it seems appropriate that I would be dining here tonight... as I count down to the last couple of weeks before leaving town.  Another review, and another location I would otherwise not have chosen myself.

I asked a waiter for some recommendations, and he pointed to the little card on my table which has a list of "daily recommendations", as if to say: "Can't you read it yourself?!" Then he basically started repeating a few items from the list...

Deep fried boneless chicken wing stuffed with glutinous rice (古法糯米釀雞翼) - this was a delicious way to kick off dinner!  The skin of the wing was nice and crispy.  The rice stuffing was made with fried spring onions, conpoy and shiitake mushrooms.  Very, very tasty.  Wouldn't mind having a second wing...

Interestingly, they seem to have forgotten about a couple of tiny feathers on my wing...

Sliced shin of beef (密製牛腱) - this was OK and about what I had expected.  A hint of chilli on top of the sweetness.

Mixed mushrooms with black truffle in taro nest (黑松露什菌荔芋盒) - we were a little surprised when the dish arrived, as there was clearly no taro nest.  The manager explained that this isn't the best season for taro, so the kitchen has chosen to skip this ingredient.  He apologized for the waitress not informing us when we ordered the dish.  The dish tasted OK otherwise.

Fried rice noodles with scallops, shrimps and scrambled eggs (蔥花滑蛋蝦仁帶子炒河粉) - this Cantonese classic was well-executed here.  The scallops were very fresh and sweet.  The runny and wet scrambled eggs benefited from the addition of finely diced spring onions.  Mmm mmm good.

These four dishes were served within about 5 minutes of each other, which once again hits one of my pet peeves... We had a pretty tough time trying to squeeze them onto the small table top.  And what's with serving the carb dish so early in the dinner?  We still had 2 more dishes to go!

We kinda got a break from being served any more dishes, but after a pause of 10 minutes, the last 2 dishes arrived... Geez...

Baked spare ribs with "Chin-Liang" vinegar (鎮江排骨) - clearly a spelling mistake on the menu, as the "L" should actually be a "K"...  This was always going to be a crowd-pleaser, as it's slightly crunchy, a little fatty, and the flavor profile is sweet and sour.  The fragrance of the black vinegar was indeed alluring.

Deep-fried prawns with garlic, chilli and herbs (密製甘香生中蝦) - very nice.  The prawns were fresh, and the pile of finely chopped garlic and chilli fragrant and delicious after deep-frying.

Sweetened almond cream with egg white (蛋白杏仁露) - seemingly more fragrant compared to last night, but possibly due to the use of essence.  I thought I detected a little bit of the toasted almond flavor.

Adet Seward Chablis, vintage unknown - served too cold, so there was very little nose to speak of in the beginning.  Lemon and toast emerged after warming up a little.  Not very interesting.

When I was presented with the bill, the charge for the almond cream had been struck off.  Perhaps this had been done by the manager as a way to apologize for the missing taro nest.  In any case, I thought this was a small but very nice gesture.

For a more concise version with scores published on AsiaTatler Dining, please visit here.

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