Located at: 115 Rosmead Place, Colombo 07, Sri Lanka
Visited on: 16 Dec, 2017
Let me begin by saying that Zylan Boutique Hotel, at which Zen is located, is beautiful. Elegant, romantic and serenely decorated. Being the Christmas season, it had been adorned further with some tasteful décor. It was on the verge of less-is-more, but a closer look showed that it was the subtlety in the detail that made it sparkle at just the right level. The restaurant is located on the second floor, with indoor and outdoor dining options. Our usher suggested that we try the level above – the rooftop pool area which had a few chalet-style tables-for-two arranged on the terrace perimeter. The spot gives you a near-360-degree view of the city. Throw in some good weather and a spot of random fireworks in the distance, and it made for a fabulous ambiance.
On to the food now. We ordered a Philadelphia roll – with salmon, cream and avocado (LKR 950) to begin with. They weren’t excessively heavy, but I felt like three pieces each filled us up quite a bit before the don we ordered for the next round. Not exactly full of flavour, and I felt like they could have looked a little neater (what is it they say – you eat with your eyes first?) and been cut up into equally sized pieces. Trivial things, no doubt, but they do make a difference, and I think would have made the platter fit right in with the place.
Next, we had a portion each of Ten Don – tempura prawns pan-fried in teriyaki sauce, with rice, pickle and miso soup (LKR 1,250) and Ebi Jyu – crumb-fried prawns cooked in sweet sauce, half-boiled egg and onions, with rice, pickle and miso soup (LKR 1,250). The latter was what I ordered. It looked great as a whole. And even by itself, the don bowl looked quite appetising. It tasted pretty good too, with a subtle sweetness in the background that is characteristic of Japanese cuisine. I always like how the egg holds everything together at the top of the bowl, and this was no exception. The rice – especially in the upper half – had absorbed the flavour of the prawn and egg topping nicely. I would, however, have liked the batter of my prawns not to have been so thick. There’s something about Japanese food that leaves you feeling contently full but still comfortably light at the end of the meal. These prawns were quite heavy as a result of the thick batter, and didn’t exactly give the same sort of feeling. As for the accompaniments – the miso soup was quite good in terms of consistency and flavour. And I was quite intrigued by the flavour incorporated into the pickle. Daikon (radish) was the hero element in it, but – for me – it was undoubtedly the orange/mandarin jus which held the pickle that stood out. It was beautifully subtle but very much present, and felt like a breath of fresh air among all those savoury tones.
The teriyaki prawns in the Ten Don tasted great too – not overly sweet but having a good balance between sweet and savoury flavour. I’d say the rice tasted nicer with the sauces and stronger flavours in this bowl than with the Ebi Jyu. The sesame seeds coating the prawns gave it that extra bit of crunchy texture, which I thought was good too. Perhaps a little garnish on top – some chopped onion leaves and/or Japanese seaweed (as with the Ebi Jyu) might have enhanced the appearance of the dish since it looked a little plain as it was. But it was fine otherwise.
As much as the rooftop seating is lovely on a good day and you can easily (and gladly) spend a couple of hours dining there with the city lights twinkling around, getting the staff’s attention is a bit of a challenge up there. They don’t frequent the terrace as much as the lower level and the architecture is such that there isn’t much of a visual to them of the terrace when they’re working the lower floor. Just a heads-up in case you decide to give this place a go! Perhaps this also played a part in the steward forgetting our beverages – beverages that he himself recommended and offered to get us – fresh naarang (mandarin) juice with mint. Out of sight, out of mind, they say? Possibly. In fact, the order didn’t seem to have gone to the kitchen at all as the steward who cleared our table looked clueless when we inquire about the beverages. We’d lost our interest in it by the end of the long wait anyway, and so didn’t ask them to place the order again. Ah well, let’s hope it doesn’t happen again! And one more thing, Zen – serviettes. Paper or cloth or whatever the kind would be quite handy when we’re eating up there by ourselves. Hopefully we’ll see some around next time.
Yummy Rating: 3.5 / 5.0