Monday, October 19, 2009


In a complete contrast to Gusttimo, I didn't expect to like this but I totally did! The lunch choices for today were either Zento or Rakuichi, but since my lunch at Santaro last week had been more "traditional" Japanese, some experimentation and testing of boundaries seemed the order of the day. Zento is not your usual run-of-the mill Japanese restaurant. Think contemporary, fusion or Japanese with strong American influences, and that may still not give you a good idea of what the fuss over this place is all about (check out Wong Ah Yoke's and Jaime Ee's reviews).

From left to right: Otoro, snapper, salmon, swordfish, yellowtail.

I had already decided WAAAY in advance on the sushi lunch set ($35 for 8 rolls and 5 nigiri, accompanied by miso soup, salad and dessert). Chef Gunawan kindly made me an oh-so-delicious wagyu beef roll, with chunks of creamy avocado, mixed with spicy Japanese mayonnaise. It sounds quite "Californian" and avant-garde but all those different tastes and texture unexpectedly melded together fantastically and tasted amazingly good.

But what I really couldn't believe was the nigiri sushi spread! Indeed sitting so prettily on the plate, it was that divine nirvana of raw fish, a superbly marbled otoro. The other sushi were swimmingly fresh too but I only had eyes for the beloved tuna belly, which was stunningly oily that it melted in the mouth almost instantly....ooiishi!!

Y had the seared scallops set (with tempura, garlic fried rice, seared scallops with enoki mushrooms, and salad. She liked it, but probably not as much as I did my sushi set(I strongly recommend that one should go for the unique sushi offerings since it's what this place is known for). We ended the meal with a blueberry cheesecake dessert which although I couldn't taste much cheese in it, was really light and smooth and refreshing to the palate, and best of all, topped with an absolutely scrumptious teensy macaroon dusted with fleur-de-sel.

What excited me was Zento's refreshingly bold approach to reinventing and reinterpreting a classic cuisine, its emphasis on top-quality, premium ingredients, and quirky but delicious and creative offerings. The service aspects however, could do with some improvement - wait staff were somewhat confused and raw (albeit well-meaning, no pun intended), certainly not what one would expect at this price point, since the restaurant has already been operating for a few months.

18B Dempsey Road

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