Dinner @ Restaurant Zén

December 3, 2018 in European by thywhaleliciousfay

Compared to my siao-on instagram foodie friends, I am definitely the least informed in the clique when it comes to new restaurant openings. I didn’t even know Restaurant Zén was opening in Singapore until the ‘siao on’-sters brought it up during one of our meals. Oops.

So yes… Zén, a partnership between Björn Frantzén and Unlisted Collection, is an offshoot of 3 Michelin stars Frantzén (Stockholm, Sweden).

Scheduled to open in late November 2018 at Restaurant André’s former venue, we sent in our restaurant reservation request in early October for 6 people. However, we were informed they could accommodate 6 people if we were separated as tables of 2 and 4. Sob, sob. And to secure our reservation, credit card details were required. It’s also interesting we were given the option to start at 6.45pm or 7.45pm. It’s kinda odd. No?

And so… With the enthusiasm of my ‘siao on’-sters, we were to dine at the restaurant on its second day of operation.

  

I arrived at the restaurant 3 minutes past our reservation time. And I panicked slightly when I tried to open the door but couldn’t. It was obviously locked and I had to quickly get inside. Late mah. I even wondered if ‘being locked out’ was the punishment for being late. But apparently one had to press the door bell for the staff to open the door. Ahhh…

Upon entry, the staff directed me to ‘The Lounge’ located at ground floor where I joined my ‘siao on’-sters. I wasn’t the last to reach, by the way. Keke. I initially thought the lounge was the waiting area but I was mistaken. Apparently this was where we would have the canapés too, before being led to the dining area.

While waiting for the rest to arrive, the staff handed me the drinks menu where I ordered a glass of white wine. And once everyone in our group reached, the staff passed us the food menu with additional options of non-alcoholic ($100) or alcoholic ($285) pairing. The intention of the food menu was to let us know what’s going to be served later since there’s only one tasting menu.

After we made up our minds with the pairing, we started our dinner menu ($450) with:-

  

1) Pre-appetiser, Complimentary (above) – We were each given a wine glass containing a sorbet-ball of plum-tomato juice. The staff then came round and topped our glasses with plum-tomato juice.

  
  
  

2) Canapés assortment, Complimentary (above) – We were served i) beer-poached lobster tartlet with dill-scented sour cream, trout roe and fennel flower, ii) crispy potato roll with creme fraiche and Vendace roe, and red onion rings, iii) celeriac tartlet with whipped foie gras, celeriac and apple salad, topped with toasted Danish rye and preserved truffle disc, iv) king crab and spruce shoots with sea urchin hot sauce and chrysanthemum petals, and v) sweet onion veloute with liquorice and almond. My absolute favourite was the celeriac tartlet. So, so amazing. Eat wth care though. A very fragile piece.


  

After we finished our canapés, we were told to take our wine glasses (if not empty yet) and follow the staff to the back of ‘The Lounge’ where we were shown the ‘produce box’. We were given a detailed introduction of the ingredients for our dinner.

One could also steal a peak of the kitchen which was designed with no walls. Uh huh, open-concept kitchen.

After we were shown the ‘produce box’, we were brought to the main dining area at second floor (by stairs). It was good news that we were able to sit together as a group of 6. Yeah!

And I understood their initial dilemma of hosting big groups. They were wondering how to bring the kitchen theatre to us; As part of the entire dining experience, the chefs personally plated dishes in front of us on the side tables placed beside our dining table, before the (completed) dishes were put in front of us.

  

3) Dish #1 (above) – Crudo: Zén prestige caviar, red deer, argan oil & finger lime.

  

4) Dish #2 (above) – Blue lobster, crispy koshihikari rice, yuzu pepper, clarified butter emulsion, sansho leaf.


  

5) Dish #3 (above) – Chawanmushi, sea urchin, ikura, unagi & hot smoked pork broth.

  

6) Dish #4 (above) – Scallop, vin jaune, blond miso from Kyoto, sprouted walnut & white truffle.


  

7) Dish #5 (above) – Chewy beet, ramson capers, chive scapes, preseved pine & mustard aioli. This was the replacement dish for the beef. Disappointing I have to say. I prefer to have a meat dish swapped with another meat dish. Like pork or lamb? Nonetheless, the beet texture was really interesting. And before this dish was served, we got to choose our knives from a box of custom-made steak knives from Morakniv (knife manufacturer in Sweden with more than 400 years of history) which shaft decorated with an intricate Sweidsh kurbitz motif by Swedish artist Pernilla Nordman.

  

8) Dish #6 (above) – French toast “grande tradition 2008″ & consomme a’la truffle.


9) Dish #7 (above) – Sea buckthorn sorbet, crystalized sea lettuce, blue & green tea.

  

10) Dish #8 (above) – Run-raisin smeifreddo, PX, frozen foie gras & oat muesli.

After finishing our main courses and two desserts, we were brought to level three where we continued the final leg of our Zén dining experience. The third storey was also known as ‘The Living Room’.

And having been fed with so much food at the lower floors, the cosy atmosphere of ‘The Living Room’ with the comfortable sofas certainly didn’t help; We were in food coma and were struggling to stay awake. Haha.

The staff rolled the tea trolley over where 5 types of tea leaves were presented. Unfortunately, none caught our attention. Sleepy already, I tell you.

  

11) Sweets #1 (above) – Grilled Malaysian pineapple tarte tatin brushed with 20 years-old mirin and black cardamom chantilly.

12) Sweets #2 – Assorted fruits comprising green muscat grape, mango, strawberry, persimmon and melon, and pistachio macaron. I personally didn’t like the fruits. The ingredients and/or seasonings used on the fruits were simply mismatched.

13) Coffee, $16 (above)

And finally… To answer the questions which I’ve been asked several times since dining at Zén. What’s the verdict? Worth it?

My dining experience at Zén definitely couldn’t be summed up with mere phrases of ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I certainly enjoyed myself with my ‘siao on’-sters. And if I was asked to select my few memorable dishes, the canapés were strangely the winners. For me lah. But in no way should that be misinterpreted as the other dishes were bad! They were good. But I preferred the former.

It was also through our meal that I realised Zén aim at setting itself apart from the other high-end restaurants by offering a holistic experience of food, service and ambience. One would notice much thought went into the planning of the kitchen theatre. Example, the restaurant made sure there were sufficient waiting staff so that the 6 of us were served dishes at the same time once the 2 chefs were done with the plating. Or at least that was how it was for the first few dishes. I didn’t pay much attention after that because I was busy chatting. Keke.

And I enjoyed the chemistry of the entire team. We had the privilege of having 2 chefs for every course since we were dining in a big group. It was fun watching the chefs plate at both ends of our long table, and them throwing friendly competition at each other of who’s more efficient/faster at plating. Keke.

In fact, I was very impressed that although we were dining on their second day of operation, it didn’t feel that way at all. To think we were worried about being guinea pigs. Ha.

So back to the questions… Was my dining experience at Zén worth it? Should one hurriedly head down to Zén? Well, I say give them just abit more time and I am pretty sure the dining experience will definitely impress. I am not intentionally comparing Zén to now-defunct André just because Zén took over the venue which used to house André but even with my dining experiences at André, my 3 meals at André got better with time. So I believe the same for Zén; With some tweaks (like to the fruit dishes), the already-brilliant dining experience would be perfect.

And having mentioned André, I like what Zén did with the exterior and interior. It was familiar, but not; I’ve been to André and knew how the space was like, and Zén did a fabulous job in leaving no trace of André. Instead, they successfully created a new space with its own character. And it’s read that the architect behind Zén’s interior is Joyn Studios Architects, which also designed Restaurant Frantzen in Stockholm as well as Frantzen’s Kitchen in Hong Kong.

It’s further shared by others who dined at Frantzén that the dining experience offered at Zén is pretty similar to Frantzén’s. So I say, give Zén some time for them to find their own identity too before spending a whopping $450. Since you know… $450 ain’t exactly a small amount.

Am definitely looking forward to return to Zén to see how my second experience would differ from the first. But that’s probably in 1.5 to 2 years’ time. And for reservation, do note tables for the coming month are opened for reservation on the first day of every month at 10am.

RESTAURANT ZÉN
41 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore
9236 6368, Website
Overall: 8.5
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sat : 18:45 – Late
Ambience: 9
Value: 8
Service: 9
* Closed on Mon, Sun