Tag Archives: restaurants

Zen: Restaurant Review

Zen is a Chinese Restaurant located by the Bristol harbourside on Millennium Square. It has been the restaurant of choice for myself, my friends Graeme, Kristine and her husband Andy for the last year or so. Along the way we have discovered a selection of dishes which make up an amazing dinner. Occasionally we will try a new dish or two such as ‘Smacked Cucumber’ or ‘Bang Bang Chicken’ but invariably the core components stay the same.

¼ Crispy duck for a starter, kung po prawns primarily for myself and Kristine, BBQ ribs cooked in a stone pot and egg fried rice for all, and aromatic chilli chicken primarily for Andy and Graeme.

The crispy duck meat is brought to our table as the actual quarter of duck and the waiter then strips it off the bone with a fork before passing it over. Alongside is a dish of sliced cucumbers and spring onions. Only six pancakes are provided and usually the four of us have one each and then share the remaining two. However, on Sunday, we were brought eight after we mentioned we would all be sharing. The duck has so far been ample for all four of us and the quality of the meat is wonderful. I have not had better duck in Bristol yet, definitely not at Cosmo or at Mayflower.

The Kung Po Prawn dish is a fascinating mix of king prawns and vegetables, mostly carrots and crispy things like celery, cut into small pieces and served on a big triangular white dish. The BBQ spare ribs cooked in a stone pot are soft and so tender that the meat falls off the bone as soon as you start eating. The marinated meat is permeated with the flavour and the sticky sauce is also a great accompaniment.

The favourite dish for the guys is the aromatic chilli chicken which consists of cooked dry chillies and small southern fried chicken pieces. By the end of the meal the tears were nearly welling up and they were both slightly perspiring. The dish is spicy with a lemon tang, it is also offered with a warning but this dissuades no one.

The rice is well done and served in small white covered dishes. Two were enough for the four of us. I have yet to try dessert there but I have had a Zen mojito which included some lemongrass with the mint for that oriental twist. The house white wine has consistently been pleasant and the prawn crackers are brought to the table with a chilli dipping sauce.

All in all, Zen is an excellent restaurant with a delicious choice of dishes which are not always your typical Chinese restaurant selections. The Smacked Cucumber was not entirely a success as it was served cold as was the Bang Bang Chicken which left an unpleasant sensation since the fat was still left on the chicken. However, the mixed meats noodles which contains seafood such as squid and prawns is a tasty and fresh tasting selection and the crystal rivers prawn dish has a green tea tinged glaze which is fragrant and unusual enough to be quite tasty.

They currently have an offer through Toptable of 50% off until July 11.

Zen, Unit 4B, 1st Floor, Harbourside, Explore Lane, Bristol BS1 5TY. 0845 371 3888, 0117 920 9372, info@zenharbourside.co.uk

Toptable offers: Zen on Millennium Square

Zen, a Chinese restaurant on Millennium Square, provides slightly more unusual, some would say more authentic dishes, than other restaurants. The kitchen at Zen has sourced recipes from over 23 provinces in China to create an extensive traditional menu with a contemporary twist. Some favourite dishes include aromatic chilli chicken, where half the dish consists of cooked dried chillies, crystal river prawns which is a prawn dish with a sauce flavoured by green tea and lovely Peking duck with the usual pancake assortment.

This isn’t a review but more of an attention-grabbing post about an offer through Toptable:

If you book through the site you get 50% off food with the following conditions:

…based on each person having a starter and a main. Offer only applies to diners who book online and is only available at the times stated. Maximum of 12 diners per booking applies to this offer. Excludes shellfish. Includes Vat, excluded service charge.

Available

Mon – Wed: 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Sat: 12:00pm – 5:00pm
Sun: 12:00pm – 5:00pm, 5:00pm – 10:00pm
Max people: 12

Ends: 11 July

This is a great opportunity to try a not inexpensive and wonderful restaurant in a great location. Also try the Zen Mojito which is a favourite drink and I must say that even their house white wine has always been quite nice.

Zen, Unit 4B, 1st Floor, Harbourside, Explore Lane, Bristol BS1 5TY. 0845 371 3888, 0117 920 9372, info@zenharbourside.co.uk

Eating: yes. Blogging: sporadically. Critiquing: ?

Everyone Eats is a feature article, by Robert Sietsema, in the Jan / Feb 2010, Columbia Journalism Review. Its title continues with the pointedly honest appraisal: ‘but that doesn’t make you a restaurant critic’. Too true. The article provides a history of restaurant critics and the evolution of food reviews. Most importantly, Sietsema notes the process used by a prominent restaurant critic, and it is this latter part that I want to share with you.

Craig Claiborne, food Editor for the New York Times from 1975 and for three decades after, is generally credited with being the inventor of the modern restaurant review.

Claiborne added structure and ethics to restaurant reviewing: reviews would be done by a single individual who would be named in the piece. At least three visits would be made to the restaurant and a party of three or four would eat and try to cover as much of the menu as possible. Some dishes would be eaten more than once to check for consistency. There would be no free meals and the publication would pay for the dining experience.

Most important of all the reviewer would remain anonymous and not allow the restaurant to realise that a review was in progress. Any reservation would made under a false name and no suspicious behaviour would take place during the meal.

These were his rules and the very structure of them provided a thoroughness that almost makes this critiquing business into a science.
I admire the notion that food reviewing is a serious business and should be addressed as such. In my reviews I want to be as truthful as possible while also noting that my opinion is as subjective as anyone else’s.

I would love to be thorough about all the food but I often get distracted by one item and then lose interest in the rest. As an unpaid blogger I also don’t have the funds to visit a restaurant at least three times over a short period, let alone take along three friends, so we can sample all the items on the menu.

Sometimes it’s not the food but the atmosphere or the company that will be the highlight of the evening. The service may stand out or the dessert might be the only thing I remember with any clarity. I take photos of the food before I eat and occasionally may take notes as well. That’s sure to arouse some attention although I can’t remember anyone offering any free dishes.

I have doubts about my own consistency and there are few professional food reviewers I go out of my way to read. I adore the work of Mark Taylor who writes in the Bristol Evening Post on a Thursday and edits the magazine Fork. However there are other reviews, such as ones I’ve read in the Metro, where from the first sentence I failed to believe a single judgement. A particular review was about a place I had visited recently and the effusive proclamations about the food had probably more to do with the two bottles of wine drunk by the reviewer, and partner, than the actual quality of the restaurant.

I raise these points as an exercise in self-awareness and with the intention to introduce more consistency into my critiques. If you also write reviews, professionally or not (i.e. paid or unpaid), then do mention any rules you may have, or procedures you may follow. I would love to hear them. (Don’t forget to mention the bribes.)

The image is from the tapas style lunch I ate at the Clifton Lido in Bristol.

Myristica, King St

Last Tuesday I was involved in a friend’s graduation celebration and the plan was to follow the champagne and hugs with an amazing meal somewhere close. A few days previously we had booked one of the finest Indian restaurants in Bristol. On the day itself, however, the reservation was cancelled with an email and a phone call from the owner.

As mentioned on their website, Myristica are relocating from the spacious ground-floor building opposite the Old Vic to a fantastic new venue which is top secret – for now. However, if you send them a message via the website contact form they will keep you updated, invite you to the launch party and send you some discount vouchers for when they re-open.

We changed our dinner plans and went to the Market Place in the end. The food was special enough to follow the champagne and since we booked through Top Table the bill was discounted by 25%. The group of us who met up on Tuesday had already sampled the distinct and unique style of the Indian cuisine so while disappointed we were still happy enough to try something new.

The assorted kebab platter with its selection of prawn, fish, chicken and lamb chop chargrilled to perfection, served with mint chutney was swapped for a main of Jacob’s Ladder, mash and cabbage. The rings of squid deep fried and tossed with bell peppers, chilli flakes and honey were replaced with herring roes on toast with garlic butter. All was delicious at the Market Place but I still look forward to going back to Myristica.