Now Zen’s been around for a while, really it has. Not since T=0 but long. It’s decent enough to take a family, guests, maybe a snobbish girl, you catch my drift. Coin weilding students might want to give it a second thought as it might be out of your budget.
So when you walk into the place as I have under various circumstances you’ll notice different reactions from the staff there. I’ll cite a few different events that occured.
1. I walked in there with my family on a saturday night for dinner.
The reaction was average, the place was crowded-ish, the same old staff as usual and one lazily looked our way and I said ‘FOUR’ and he pointed at a table which we proceeded to and sat our asses down.
2. I walked in with a vagabond look, scruffy beard, even scruffier friend with an even bigger beard and lo and behold we both adorned backpacks. This is what we call the ‘poor sanskrit honors student’ look. I think my friend was in a kurta pyjama. Oh dear, the plot just became thicker.
Waiters turned away, the manager walked very courteously, in the other direction. We had to make quite an effort to get their attention to make orders, we even started counting our money before we ordered more just to make sure we could actually pay. The manager came to us with the bill after with a look that spoke “Should I get a sack for your 2 Ruppee coins or shall I take you to the kitchen to wash dishes?”
3. I walked in with a white German colleague in formal clothes.
The manager swooped in like a bald vulture who had just spotted a rotting carcass in the Sahara Desert before his other starving vulture comrades.
“Good afternoon sir, will that be just the two of you?”
My German Colleague smiled and said “Yes please, a table for two”
Chairs were pulled out for us, water was of the mineral kind, three waiters stood behind us incase one of us sneezed, needed a backrub, or even order some appetizers.
While we were eating, the manager swooped in again with a horrible grin pasted on his face. A grin which I believe he’d been trained to display. A manager’s grin. It hurt. He handed us the restaurants visiting card and started asking my colleague a host of questions which went as follows.
“How was the food sir? I hope it was upto your expectations?”
“Where are you from Sir? England?”
“No I’m from Germany”
“Ah Germany! Wonderful country! Simply beautiful place!”
Then came the ultra cliche sentences, It must be very cold there, is this your first trip to India, how do you find it, etc.
My colleague turned to his expresso which was getting cold so the manager turned his hawk like vision to me.
“What about you sir? Are you from Germany too?”
Yes. I’m from Germany, what a silly question my good man? Don’t I look German to you? Is what I’d have loved to say but what came out was
His painful grin faltered. He twitched a little bit but held his composure and went back to the German.
Now to the food. This is a restaurant review right? I’d say the food is very good, the portions are very generous and the range is adorable. Right from starters to desserts it’s good. The food’s always been good here, I can’t recount how many times I’ve eaten at Zen, but for every time, I’ve never had a complaint regarding the food or its taste or quantity or price for that matter. Sometimes I don’t like the service, sometimes I feel like punching the manager and sometimes I want to take their music cd and break it on the managers head and make him eat the pieces of the cd.
Before I rant further, let me finish the food commentary. I’d recommend one tries the Burnt Onion and Garlic fried rice. It’s brilliant. The little burnt bits add very classy flavour to the rice and you don’t get this dish at most other Chinese joints. Another good rice dish is the XO Sauce fried rice. Somehow, I don’t seem to expect rice on it’s own to be tasty unless it’s biryani or something but these two dishes are special that way. I’m a fan of their spicey squid and octopus soup (the little tentacles are right out of National Geographic!), its very pungent and so very tasty. They have a crispy spinach and mushroom appetizer which should be tried as well. I’ve pretty much eaten everything on the poultry menu. Nothing stands out, but they’re all delicious. Desserts are slightly cliche but well done on the whole. Desserts however in my opinion are expensive. Plus I usually fill up on the real food so I don’t really have room for dessert.
Now to the ambience, decor and the like. The decor of Zen is strange, it could be good, but it’s just strange. It’s something you don’t want to spend time thinking about. Stupid chinese horoscope’s talking about pigs and rats and snakes are your table mats, some eccentric art thrown around, the first floor isn’t like the ground floor, the toilet is a single one which is very cramped and irritating, kind of makes you want to hold it in a little longer. You have to trek to the toilet and in most cases there’s someone in there doing there thing. You can’t really wait outside either as its very small and right outside the womens door.
Now to the music. What. The. Fuck. Chinese restaurant right? Music? Hardcore/acid/or psy trance booming away. I simply don’t get it. No one seems to be bothered because no one really cares. But I do. The music adds to the experience and this simply blows. I’ve never heard good music there. Sure I’ve wanted to jump up on the table, pop a couple of ecstasy pills and dance all night till 5 in the morning, but thats about it. Another strange thing is the menu. Its got Italian food in it. And some indian food too. Zen focusses on being Chinese but it’s like some Indians and Italians immigrated and set up their little ghettos in the menu.
To wrap this painfully long review up, Zen is a great place to eat. I think two people can eat a lavish spread under 1200 ruppees, soups, starters and drinks (non-alcoholic though they serve decent booze too. Beer’s good and respectable price-wise). Give it a shot if you want nice Chinese food in central Delhi.