Zento @ Dempsey Road

01 JUL 2009 – [INVITED SESSION]

Thanks to the invite from HGW, we approached Zento @ Dempsey, highly charged with keen anticipation for the food tasting session. One may ask… Why the anticipation? Well, Zento’s Chef Gunawan Wibisono did a stint under Iron Chef America – Masaharu Morimoto (perhaps better known as the third Iron Chef Japanese on the show Iron Chef)… We followed the earlier Iron Chef series when we were in Australia, and were constantly fascinated & enticed by some of the mouth-watering themed-creations produced… To have the opportunity to experience contemporary Japanese cuisine created by someone trained under a creative Chef with such credential… Need I say more?

Zento @ Dempsey Road

Zento @ Dempsey Road

Zento is located not far off Holland Road… So, it’s feasible to walk up from the nearest bus-stop under fair weather… or just take a cab up… 

Now, the fantastic decoration of Zento is really quite something…. Its atypical of most generic Japanese Restaurant with the exception of the Sushi Bar area… The high ceiling, characteristic of most Dempsey restaurants, together with nicely coordinated lighting dimly illuminated the extravagent “no expense spared” surroundings… and this sets the perfect tone for any relaxing chill-out session, romantic… or fine dining experience…

Interior of Zento

Interior of Zento

Looking through the very extensive menu, we were quite spoilt for choices… but eventually decided on a few key dishes from each section… Quality sake was served all round, and apparently for the month of July 2009, saying “HungryGoWhere” before ordering will entitle you to a free welcome sake (with any order of course)… After the initial introduction to new faces and catching-up with familiar ones, the food tasting session officially began…

Rock Shrimp Tempura, served with a flavoursome spicy kochujan aioli came with a hint of sweetness to it… Quite addictive for a lover of Prawn/Shrimp Tempura like myself and that initiated a great start to the session!!

Rock Shrimp Tempura

Rock Shrimp Tempura

The Kanpachi Carpaccio was another excellent starter… Wifey practically imploded savoring the freshness of the quality yellowtail… Thinly sliced, it was presented drenched with a masterfully mixed yuzu sauce with finely chopped ginger, garlic and mitsuba leaf sprinkled on top… Though I don’t really appreciate any sashimi other then salmon, I found this to be delightfully delicious!!

Kanpachi Carpacio

Kanpachi Carpacio

Tuna Pizza… Shaped like a pizza, looked like a pizza, but totally not your regular pizza! Served as a crisp tortilla, it was generously topped with spicy tuna, cherry tomato, and refreshing hiyashi wakame… Now, Wifey don’t usually take tuna… but she actually liked this unique creation!! Its simply fantastic!!

Tuna Pizza

Tuna Pizza

The next plate served was part of their Riceless Maki known as Mango Sashimi… which was rather novel to me… A combination of the three main sashimi – Salmon, Tuna, Yellowtail, together with a slice of avocado and mango, all wrapped in rice paper… I thought the creation was really interesting and innovative… Individually, the sashimi were fresh, fat and juicy… each with its own distinctive natural flavor… However, the combination of the three within a single bite just did not hit the right notes for me…

Mango Sashimi

Mango Sashimi

Next was a fat futomaki with an interesting name: Volcano… Its a compacted roll with shrimp tempura, smoked salmon, avocado, crabstick and masago… presented deep fried in a light tempura batter… I found it to be rather unique… Initially, solely based on the name Volcano, I thought it may be hot and spicy (I think that impression came from a Volcano Ramen I had elsewhere)… But it was more like an explosion of a bold mix of ingredients… that was a little too complex for me. However, I liked the idea of a deep-fried futomaki… Maybe I’ll be able to enjoy a simpler version…

Volcano Roll

Volcano Roll

Served standing on a roasted sweet potato was the Combo Kushiyaki… with 7 different items… Sadly, there wasn’t much to go around, but I liked whatever I got to try… Beef, Chicken, Bacon, Mushroom… Another great starter to share… then again, BBQ skewers are my favourites… I even dug into the roasted potato… Alas, it was desert dry…

Combo Kushiyaki

Combo Kushiyaki

Presentation of the next Green River Roll… Perfect!! The exterior of the roll was lightly coated with seaweed powder and sesame seeds… tightly compacted rice held the toro, eel and avocado combination… After taking a bite, I came to a realisation… I was not able to appreciate the taste and texture of toro…

Green River Roll

Green River Roll

Hand-rolls are generally seaweed-wrapped… but not the hand-rolls at Zento… These Crunchy Spicy Tuna Hand-rolls were wrapped uniquely in a soy paper… and it was Exceptional… Now, the general texture of the soy paper wrapped hand-roll was totally different… The subtle-ness of the soy paper enabled the sharp flavours of the spicy tuna to come through… We were later told that the crunchiness within came from specially fried tempura batter made just for the  hand-rolls… I thought this was a great example of a perfect combination of different ingredients thats not generally used together!

Crunchy Spicy Tuna

Crunchy Spicy Tuna

Moving on to the 6 entrées, I shall start with the greatly anticipated Wagyu Stripped Loin… Grilled and served with a garlic soy-based gravy, it came with some sautéed asparagus and truffle mashed potato… Now, presentation wise could be alot better… especially with its mashed potato… The wagyu itself was rather disappointing too… the consistency of the wagyu was definitely not there… Specifically, I found one side of the wagyu to be much tougher than the middle portion… For the premium price listed on the menu, this was certainly underwhelming, and definitely much room for improvement.

Wagyu Stripped Loin

Wagyu Stripped Loin

The miso marinated Chilean Seabass was served with some sautéed mushroom and mashed green peas… It was nice, but not really that great… at least not at the levels of the delightful starters we experienced earlier… The miso marination was perhaps just a little too sweet for my likings…

Chilean Seabass

Chilean Seabass

Now, there were some mention that Zento’s Roasted Marinated Duck Breast actually looked like Char Siew rice… however, it was anything but!! Served with Foie Gras on rice and  baby Bok Choy lightly stir fried with garlic, it was another dish I enjoyed. The duck breast was well marinated… Though the outer layer was slightly tougher, the inner layer below the fatty parts were quite the opposite… rather succulent and absolutely enjoyable!

Roasted Marinated Duck

Roasted Marinated Duck

Another roasted meat we tasted was the Roasted Spring Chicken… which was served with a garlic Foie Gras fried rice and sautéed asparagus… The roasted chicken not only looked normal, it tasted quite regular too… The garlic fried rice with Foie Gras and the asparagus actually surpassed the roasted chicken…

Roasted Spring Chicken

Roasted Spring Chicken

Next, the Rack of Lamb was served with a miso dijon, mango salsa and almond raisin rice… Surprising, no one else was quite as interested as I was in this excellent entrée… Didn’t quite get any taste of the miso dijon… perhaps it was meant to blend with the mango salsa to add a level of complexity to the lamb cutlets… Nevertheless, I fully enjoyed a whole lamb cutlet I had to myself… Though I did not take much of the almond raisin rice, I found it to be very appealing… Wifey actually liked the rice more than the Lamb cutlets!

Rack of Lamb

Rack of Lamb

The final entrée was the Jumbo Shrimp Tempura… served with a sweet-tasting pineapple sauce, and wasabi fried rice… The shrimps were indeed jumbo… and were superb together with the excellent sauce.

Jumbo Shrimp Tempura

Jumbo Shrimp Tempura

Overall, I prefer the appetizers at Zento over their less impressive entrée… However, the different variants of fried rice that came with some of the entrée were really quite unique to me!

With that, we move on to some of the desserts available in Zento… Amongst us, we had a share of the Chocolate Lava Cake, Green Tea Crème BruleeTri Color Fuzzes Bomb, and a Coffee Parfait

Desserts of Zento... (Selection)

Desserts of Zento... (Selection)

The overall presentation of the Chocolate Lava Cake was excellent… especially the form of the cake itself… generous and sturdy… However, the molten chocolate within could and should be better… Together with the fresh berries, honeydew and great-tasting in-house made vanilla beans ice cream, this comes together as a pretty decent dessert…

Chocolate Lava Cake

Chocolate Lava Cake

The Tri Color Fuzzes Bomb looked interesting enough, but I am not really a fan of deep fried ice-cream, and we only ordered 1 portion for the table… So I gave it a miss… Instead, I ordered the Coffee Parfait (see below)…

Tri Color Fuzzes Bomb

Tri Color Fuzzes Bomb

Zento’s Green Tea Crème Brulee looked extremely enticing… Absolutely great form… I took a scoop to find that the crème brulee was rather disappointing and quite lacking in the taste department…

Green Tea Creme Brulee

Green Tea Creme Brulee

For me, I ordered the Coffee Parfait and though the hint of coffee was not really there, I quite enjoyed the parfait as it was… Perfect in sweetness and absolutely divine with the fresh berries… 

Coffee Parfait

Coffee Parfait

To sum this food tasting session up, it was really quite an eye opening experience for me, and I am sure for Wifey too… The novelty experienced in some of the items tasted, especially most of the appetizers/starters were quite exceptional and indeed satisfied my high expectations in all aspects…  To me, the form and structure of most of the entrée and dessert we tried is definitely there… However, being a new kid on the block, I am sure some fine tuning is essential in order to progress forward, and to ensure both substance and standard is brought on par with the rest of the marvelous appetizers…

Hmmm…. I might be back to try out their set lunches which are available starting from just under $20.00, I think it is definitely a must-try at that price specially if it involves most of their fine starters! Finally, thanks again to HGW for the invite, as well as the graceful host Dyana Sulistyawati and the attentive staffs for their fine hospitality.

 

Final Rating: 7.25/10

Address:
18B Dempsey Road, Singapore

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