Zento Asian Global cuisine & sushi bar: My love-hate relationship with Dempsey

It’s a love-hate relationship with Dempsey; you either rave about the place, or you hate it being overcrowded, over hyped, and over priced. I used to be the latter, but that was before I paid a visit to Dempsey, and you ought to admit, despite the crowds there, there’s still plenty of places to check out, and who could resist the lush atmosphere?

The first dish is always of utmost importance; how the meal will eventually turn out – depends on this humble appetiser. You may think its not a big deal, but according to scientific researches done by Dr. Bradley, the first dish will usually dictates the mood for the upcoming dishes; humans are emotional creatures. Almost everybody else felt that the Rock shrimp tempura ($15) was ordinary, but I on the other hand, totally love it! It was a shrimp rendition of my favourite sweet & sour pork, and I wiped the whole plate clean since everybody was saving their stomach for the rest of the food.

Without further ado, let me introduce to the one-that-you-have-been-waiting-for, Sashimi of course, Mango sashimi ($29) to be precise. There was mango, avocado wrapped together with three kinds of fish in thin rice paper.

The Carpaccio ($25) was delicious. Thinly sliced, laid in the pool of savoury yuzu sauce; it was squeaky-fresh – it seemed to be swimming in the plate.

When we dine out, people usually want to try out some of the restaurant’s signature dishes. And the Tuna pizza ($22) was one of them at Zento. If skinny pizzas are your kind of thing, then this would be it. Raw fresh tuna on top of the oh-so-thin dough, crunch, crunch, the pizzas were gone!

I always have a thing for prawns, especially deep-fried ones. Naturally, I like the Volcano ($25) pretty much, with the focus in the middle of the futomaki. But some didn’t take quite well to it as they felt that the freshness was gone after the deep-frying process. Alongside the shrimp tempura, there was smoked salmon, avocado and crabstick too.

The combination of seven skewers ($48) was the perfect showcase of the different ingredients, and of course, it’s for sharing! Most of them were pretty decent, but if I were to choose one, I’ll go for the separate tasty foie gras ($15) instead.

The sushi rolls had fascinating names like fantasy, rainbow, and even monkey roll. But we had the Green river ($30) instead. Toro, eel, avocado and plum paste, with seaweed powder on the outside.

After the rounds of appetisers, yes, all the food you saw were just starters to warm us up. The first main course was the Roasted marinated duck breast ($48), and it was indisputably the best. The first impression of the duck was from a conversation when we saw the photo of it in the menu.

“Ah! they served char siew rice here too!”

The photo of the duck in the menu looked exactly like char siew rice! Anyway not many places serve duck, and do it well; the duck meat was done just nice, retaining the tinge of pink beneath the charred skin.

I love prawns, baby! Big, big prawny prawns. The Jumbo shrimp tempura ($42) was dazzled with the sweet and slightly sour pineapple sauce, and there was wasabi fried rice alongside too. Jumbo in size, great in taste, and a huge hole in the pocket too!

We weren’t expecting any surprises from the chicken since it’s a done-to-death item. And the Roasted spring chicken ($38) turned out to be what we expected, just chicken.

Besides the duck breast, I also enjoyed the Chilean seabass ($45). The miso-infused flavour was subtle, bordering on bland, but it actually enabled us to taste the sweetness of the fish.

I could almost hear the cat say, “purrfect!”

Every main course at Zento is paired with different types of rice, the same goes for the Rack of lamb ($45) which comes with almond raisin rice. Lets just put it this way, for the price, we’ve had better elsewhere.

We pointed to “the most expensive main course” on the menu, the Wagyu stripped loin ($75). We had it done medium, but it came slightly more at medium rare.

Do you have stomach for more?

It was towards the end that this simple question was posed to us,  Well we were glad that we did, otherwise we would have miss out on the amazing Crunchy spicy tuna handroll ($12). It was O-M-G. Instead of the typical seaweed roll, they used soy paper as a substitute, maybe we shouldn’t call it a substitute because it’s definitely a better option than seaweed. The soy paper simply dissolved when it touched our mouth; every bite was so good!

Most of the folks were stuffed by now, but how can we say no to desserts? So another dessert-holic and me tried most of the ones available; we started with the Coffee parfait ($12). It was frozen custard made with cream, with ice-cream texture minus the melting part.

We lamented about the quality of the chocolate within the Chocolate lava cake ($16). It could/should have been better. Nonetheless, you can’t go wrong when there’s icy cold vanilla ice cream together with the warm chocolate lava.

Dyana, the co-owner of Zento advised us against ordering the Green tea creme brulee ($12) but we decided to try it anyway. The taste was, forgettable, which explained why I couldn’t recall how it tasted like.

There was a period of time long long ago where the fried ice cream at the old Tiong Bahru food centre was in the rage. They called it the Tri colour fuzzes bomb ($14) here. and rightfully so. Underneath the crispy fried skin was cold ice cream. I was fascinated by the fact that the ice cream didn’t melt during the frying process.

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Zento was quite unlike any other Japanese restaurants that I went to before, stepping inside you probably won’t know it’s a Japanese restaurant until you see the menu. Contemporary and chic design, with bold and innovative creations in their menu. My appreciation to Hungrygowhere.com for the invitation to the food tasting session, and Dyana for her warm hospitality.

Zento Asian Global cuisine & Sushi Bar
18B Dempsey road
Tel: 6474 0378