Zen Fine Chinese Cuisine on No 1 Road and Moncton, Richmond

Updated 13th Nov 2014; This restaurant is closed.

I had put this post on the back burner for a long time already. I still remember the very day that we went to Zen Fine Chinese Cuisine. It was the day of the Mens Hockey semifinals. We were half expecting that this restaurant will be empty but it was not quite.

Zen had a storied past. Headed by Sam Lau today, Zen was the one restaurant which introduced the Chinese fine dining / tasting menu concept to Vancouver. This concept is a departure from the mainstream large-plate format of traditional Chinese restaurant. I had an insight of Sam’s culinary career from someone close to him and was quite impressed with his resume. I will not say who he/she was at this time because I want to write another separate post on this branch of Chinese cuisine.

Zen started in 2003. From the early years, Zen was struggling to introduce the new concept to a largely traditional customer base. Things changed dramatically overnight in 2005 when Jennifer 8 Lee of the NYT went to Zen to conduct research for her book The Fortune Cookie Chronicles. In her acclaimed book, Jennifer 8 Lee included these powerful words that made Zen an overnight sensation worldwide. She said that Zen is:

… the greatest Chinese restaurant in the world outside of China.

It was just a few words within a book in Jennifer 8 Lee reviewed of Chinese restaurants around the world. Those words gave Sam and Zen a second wind. Phones were ringing off the hook. We know because we were one of those who were trying to get a reservation when the news broke (here is our review of the old Zen in March 2008).

Unfortunately that did not last. Zen did close a few months later in September 2008. The official word has it that Zen closed then because Sam did not want to renew the lease of that location on Alexandra Road.

I think Vancouver was just not ready to accept this concept of small plate tasting menu.

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Sam is back.

Still carrying the same name, Zen.

And still carrying the very words that Jennifer 8 Lee said “the greatest Chinese restaurant in the world outside China”. Except that the words “outside China” was dropped off.

Zen is now located on the southern most reaches of No 1 Road on Richmond. I like that location. This is just perfect for a walk along the Steveston waterfront boardwalk before or after a dinner there.

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The decor is minimalistic and simple with clean lines. It is uncluttered as if to draw the focus of the customer to the food and nothing else. This is the type of ambiance that sort of make you slow down, even talk softer. You know how exuberant Chinese restaurants could get oft times.

The restaurant is spacious and seats about 35 people or maybe slightly more.

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Someone commented on chowtimes that she saw cheap plastic chairs in Zen just prior to the opening. Well, it was not cheap the way I imagined it to be. It was still plastic but really, I would not count them as cheap. At least it is cushioned.

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Service was excellent. That is understandable since we were there at 5PM and there were no one else in the restaurant at that hour. From the outset we can see that our server is very experienced. This is certainly more better than when we last dined in Zen.

The server came across as very confident. So instead of choosing drinks from the menu, we asked for his recommendation and that it is non-alcoholic. With just two questions, he said he will make something special for us. One of the questions was strange. He asked if we were hungry. We also told him we wanted something “light and refreshing”.

I was impressed with what Floyd came up with. On the left is a mix of crushed grapes, mint with white cranberry juice and soda. It tasted very minty and reminds me of Mojitos. What I like a lot is the load of shredded mint in it and also the grapes.

On the right is what Floyd called the strawberry belini. It is a mix of peach, passion fruit, mango, soda and syrup. This is fruity and another excellent drink that Suanne and I both enjoyed a lot.

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The above is the menu. Click on them to see them in full size.

The first four menus are simply called Menu A through Menu D. Their prices ranges from $33 to $160 per person. There is also a Special Tasting Menu (not shown above) which is the cheapest at $25. Floyd said that this menu is created for the budget minded customer.

Although Zen stated in the tasting menu that the participation of everyone on the table is mandatory (i.e. you cannot mix and match Menu A and Menu B for instance), they allowed us to do that simply because we were the only one there so early. This is a common practice in tasting menus because of timing issues.

The last two menu above is their a la carte selection which has 13 items. Some of the items require advance notice.

We decided to ordered the Special Tasting Menu ($25) and Menu C ($75). I’ll go through the courses for the Special Tasting Menu first and then loop back to describe the courses for Menu C.

The Special Tasting Menu ($25)

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The appetizer is Jelly fish and Baby Greens with Foam Kumquat and Lychee. The jelly is crunchy with a distinct sesame seed flavour and is fresh and refreshing. It was a small bowl.

That is the trouble, right? When you go to a Chinese restaurant, you wanted something more substantial. When you go to, say, a Tapas restaurant, you readily accept that this is an appetizer.

Taste-wise, it is really a good starter to the meal. Makes you want for more.

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The appetizer is followed by “soup”. This is a deceptively simple bowl called Foamy Seafood Cappucino.

It was excellent … savoury. We can’t really pinpoint what exactly it is. When we asked Floyd, he mentioned that it is made with jelly fish, lobstser, crab meat.

In the soup is some jello-like green stuff. That is the lobster tomalley. Tomalley is the liver and pancreas of the lobster. It looks like a green paste inside the abdominal cavity of a cooked lobster. It is considered a delicacy and many people consider it the best part of a lobster. It can be eaten scooped from the cooked lobster or can be used to flavor sauces.

Nice … but again we wished that it is a bigger bowl.

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First appetizer, then the soup. Next is called the Tofu & Fish.

It looked interesting but when we bite into this, it suddenly appeared to us that this is a very interesting take on the common fish paste in tofu puff … very much like the Malaysian Yong Tow Foo.

The tofu puff is deep fried to a crisp making its texture like cookies. Instead of having the fish paste enveloped by the tofu puff, on it is fish paste, chili and garlic. And topping this is garnishing of frisee (a bitter green) and thinly sliced chili.

I love the execution here. It is based on a very simple dish but made into an exquisite package. I was particularly impressed how the chili is so thinly sliced (picture right) with only the skin — really tiny but packs a punch.

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The final item in this $25 Tasting Menu is the Steamed Spareribs with Black Bean on Rice.

Zen uses the best of ingredients. So for this, Zen uses Sloping Hill pork spareribs and served this in a wooden container. The wooden container was something else … it gives the rice a woody scent to the steamy rice.

I love this … a lot. I like the subtleness of the flavour in the rice particularly the scent. However, Suanne thinks the rice is bland and need more of the black bean sauce.

That’s it for the $25 Tasting Menu — four courses. Personally, I think this is a great value. The food appears simple for the most part but if you take the time to savour each bite, I think you will find the subtle difference in them and the close attention to detail to each ingredient.

Menu C ($75)

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Menu C is the 2nd most expensive tasting menu at $75. Menu D is way too expensive for us ($160).

We started off with Pan Seared Fresh Foie Gras with Berry Compote, Himalayan Salt, Salad, Lychee, Kumquat and Orange with Citrus Foam. What a package … a busy package with a good balance of flavour and texture.

The hero of this starter (foie gras) however is very … small even though it was creamy and balance well with the salt and compote. The Himalayan salt is from Pakistan and recently came into prominence the past few years.

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We had Stuffed Whelk with Curried Seafood so many times already (both in Zen and Hakkasan). It is almost like a Sam Lau’s signature dish or something.

I am not sure if you could see that the picture on the left with the blue flame. Oh yeah, they presented the whelk in flame and then replate it on another plate for us.

It is too hot to hold the whelk. We were instructed to hold the whelk in a napkin and scoop the curried seafood with a spoon. It was quite chewy and of course, spicy.

This one no longer has that element of surprise to us because we had it several times already.

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Next up is the Double Boil Chicken Soup. We were informed that they uses Polderside chicken for this.

Polderside Chicken is like the Rolls Royce of chicken but frankly, to Suanne and I, we can’t tell the difference.

The soup was good … clear and deep in flavour. What we especially like is that it is without the oiliness usually found in chicken soup.

Actually the soup mentioned in Menu is Whole Young Coconut Soup but it has to be ordered in advanced. So they substituted this soup for that.

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The same Steamed Spareribs with Black Bean on Rice is served with Menu C.

Like I earlier mentioned … I love it … Suanne thinks it is bland.

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This had got to me my favourite. The Satay Lobster Stone Po.

They serve live lobster from the tank at the back of the restaurant. 1.5lb … wok fried … cracked.

Lovely … meaty … slightly salty … with a smokey flavour.

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No complains. Serving was good because it was meant for one person.

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They also served us lemon water together with the lobster. I chose not to drink this because it looked plain and it has only a tiny thin slice of lemon. Anyway, I am not used to drinking this. I find that all high end restaurants serve this with seafood (crab, lobster, prawns) … not just in the local Chinese restaurants but also in an El Bulli Michelin three star restaurant in Seville. *shrug*

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All good things must come to an end. The final dish is the Home Specialty Shredded Chicken.

Again, this is Polderside chicken. Again, Suanne and I cannot tell the difference between this chicken with the normal chicken.

I guess this is well done. The skin is yellow as it should. The skin is also pimpled as it should. Under the skin is jelly like as it should. It is served cold as it should. But the chicken is so lean as it should not. I prefer plump chicken.

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The night ended with what is called the Home Special Sweet.

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It is basically mango pudding with “centoli” cream whatever “centoli” cream is.

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Did we enjoy this? Yes we did for the most part.

Yeah, the hand written bill does not exude class. There are teething problems since they had just reopened.

The $75 Menu C is admittedly pricey. I think I can read all of your minds. For $75, you could have a big feast in a traditional, even upscale, Chinese restaurant and you can be assured that you will be satisfied. That is perhaps the reason why Zen will need to continue to work on getting people to accept that what we call “Contemporary Chinese Cuisine” with small plates. It will be an uphill battle.

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Contemporary Chinese Cuisine had been successful in many cities. I can think of Susur Lee and Hakkasan in London who had reached world acclaim for this branch of Chinese Cuisine. Is Vancouver ready or is Vancouver still waiting for someone the stature of Susur Lee?

Zen Fine Chinese Cuisine on UrbanspoonBusiness Hour

Wed to Sun
Lunch: 11:30 am to 3:00 pm
Dinner: 5:30 pm to 10:30 pm

Closed: Mon & Tues

This Post Has 0 Comments

  1. Are you certain the lemon water is to drink? Is it not a finger bowl for rinsing after attacking/dismembering the lobster?

    1. Lemon water is for finger cleaning.
      Common in most restaurants that serve seafoods.

  2. As far as I know the lemon water is to rinse your fingers while eating seafood. It’s not for drinking.

  3. i know for sure that the water is for cleaning ur hands. TRUST ME!!!

  4. The water lemon soup looks the best compared to all other dishes!

    1. Hahaha, more people “fell” for your lemon water comments!

      1. I sure hope Ben was being sarcastic. Otherwise I dunno know how I’m gonna sleep at night knowing he’s been contemplating drinking the lemon water ……….

        1. He he he … what is wrong with lemon water? You know, every time I go to an upscale restaurant and when I ask for a glass of warm water, more often than not they ask me if I want a slice of lemon in it. There you go! 😉 Come on … why are you all so fixated with the lemon water. Any comments of the food in Zen?
          Ben

          1. Ugh! You got me!!!! I knew it… I was scratching my head thinking “I’m pretty sure he’s joking”. I shouldn’t have opened my mouth…err… I should have kept my fingers away from the keyboard! LOL.

            Oh, and the food looks good! This is going on my list. Not too eager about the steamed ribs with black beans though. I always make it at home 🙂 I agree with Suanne, def needs more black bean sauce! Heh.

  5. Ben you are not kidding about drinking it RIGHT O_O!?!?!?

    Everytime I read your review about Zen I find it very interesting, since I have never experienced this kind of take on Chinese cuisine. I am also curious if this is popular or common in China. As far as I am concern, everytime I go back for holidays, my relatives always take me to amazing restaurants. There are lower-end ones and super expensive ones, but I have never seen tapas style before…

      1. I really don’t think you can compare Zen to Bo Innovation. It’s completely different level of cuisine.

        1. Fair enough: I was only using those as examples of contemporary Chinese cuisine, which Elaine had asked about.

  6. If the lemon water is yellow…don’t drink it.

    1. errrr fmed…pretty sure that was for snow not water…. . 🙂

      Ben, in your opinion which restaurant has the best lemon water? 😛
      is the el bulli one better than the one at zen’s? 😀 😀

      1. Hi timetochow: The lemon water all tastes the same. So, yeah … that’s why I no longer drink them. Ben

        1. Restaurants are so unimaginative, serving you simple water w/ lemon.

          Jeez!

  7. I too Ben am not a fan of lemon water – that lemon water did not look very thirst quenching. Also, the vessel they serve it in in most places does not lend itself well to drinking. Oh well.

    Great review as always. I’d definitely be up to visiting Zen, it’s just too hard to get to for us Vancouverites without cars! I wish Sam well.

  8. I’m sorry I have to bash Zen. IMHO, fine dining includes ambiance and food and food presentation. It is seriously lacking in ambiance. Plastic chairs remind me of cafeteria chairs. It doesnt matter if its an expensive plastic chair, its still a plastic chair.

    Foodwise, there is really nothing special in their 75 dollar menu. It is surprising that they include steamed spareribs with black bean sauce on rice. Thats too pedestrian for a 75 dollar menu and so is the steamed chicken. As for the food presentation, it is also seriously lacking in that aspect. The lobster looks like it was just dumped into the plate. No garnish at all.

    Unfortunately, the only find dining characteristic that this restaurant has is their prices.

    But u can dine at Lumiere or West price fixed for less than 75 dollars.

    1. I’ve got no comment on the food choice, but the comment on the plastic chairs is a bit harsh. Ambience, for sure, is important, but if you look back on famous chair designs of the past fifty years, you’ll find that a good chunk of them are plastic, fibreglass, etc. (see the classic Eames shell chair, the Eero Tulip chair, the Starck ghost chair, etc.)

      1. The chairs are “modernist” in style. They aren’t “contemporary”, nor are they “art and crafts” or some other comfy plush style of chair. Similar chairs would probably be available in wood (moulded plywood), but then you’d probably have too much wood in the restaurant and sacrifice the “clean and fresh” look they seem to have in the restaurant.
        It’s just a preference as to interior design. Not everyone likes the same styles – nothing wrong with that (mind you, I don’t walk into Bacchus at the Wedgewood and complain that it’s dark and not bright enough to read the menu).

        1. not an expert on chairs. but have been and visited most of if not all the good furniture stores in town. for personal and professional purposes.

          i think there are different kinds/grade of plastic composites.

          from the picture this does not look like the stack-able white plastic chairs. the fact it has cushion is nice, 😀

          but yea there are some higher end models that look plactic-y but are really high grade designer chairs. they designer ones dont come cheap.

          some European designer ‘plastic’ chairs cost upwards to $2k per chair. i think it’s a style, maybe a trend that i’ve noticed in the last couple of years.

          sorry for my vague-ness.

          all i am saying is it may look plastic, but it doesn’t have to look cheap. and certainly some are not cheap …

        2. Also fair. This ain’t no industrial design blog. I really just wanted to point out that plastics are used friggin everywhere, so its use should not be indicative of something low-end.

          I do appreciate that, when paying such a premium, one expects all the comforts of a high end restaurant. The chair in itself might be a factor of that. For that matter, so is the art on the wall, the music playing over the system, the service, etc etc etc.

          But, as you’ve said, much of it is up to personal preference.

    2. I am pretty sure these plastic chairs are not designer plastic chairs. They are certainly not going to win industry design award. They still look cheap to me.

      1. Hi Mimi, I don’t mean to embarise you but you definitely need to do some research before you put your commend here; I noticed that this is an Italian Design Chair which cost $600-700 each cos fiend of mine has the same one in his dining room. Gee! You gotta understand designer plastic chair is entirely difference with Food Court Stuff………….LOL!

  9. from your blog as well as others, Zen doesn’t appeal to me yet. I’ve tried a few find dining restaurants that include trotters in chicago, tru in chicago when it was popular, as well as the french laundry. i believe that sam is really trying, but he needs some menu consulting help. the food should ‘wow’ you in texture, smell and taste. i think sam tries to hard with the special salt and chicken. i’m sure that we’ll see more attempts at molecular gastronomy, but some of the dishes appear to be just a fancy look at a home made dish. something like the sparerib rice, using the wood vessel is nice, but if you take a step back, anyone can do it at home, it’s just a nice smelling wood bowl here, food like sursur lee, blumenthal, ferrera, etc. make dishes that you can’t even attempt at home.

    i’m not trying to rip sam, to me, he’s really trying, but i think he needs to wow the taste buds, not just make it look nice or fancy up a simple dish.

    if he attempts to sous vide a soy chicken or sous vide roast pork, that would be very interesting.

    1. all the great ingredients and techniques are there for a chef to utilize and master. to us consumer, most of what matters is what is taste like.

      i use the term, ‘food-gasm’. but I agree great food should ‘wow’ you. you know when it is great, if the food starts the effect you physically. kinda hard to explain. but I am sure some of you know what i mean.

      i believe Pino @ Cioppino – has sous vide then roast his pork for many years now. first i heard of sous vide soy sauce chicken.

      $75 and $160 is a bit of my price range for this sort of meal for me. Unless someone else is paying. I have to agree that you get better value and can feast at other restaurants at those prices(per person).

  10. For $75.00 that meal was not worth it. The Steam spareribs is not fine dining, they could of use many different technique but instead they just did dim sum style… The lobster is nothing special, any Chinese can make that same style, and finally the free ranch chicken that not even a 1/4 of a piece of leg! Mango pudding no comment… They could of made creme brulee mango pudding with whatever cream and that would of been more fine dining!

    1. I agree with Doug. I would personally not pay $75/person for this meal due to these and other reasons. But I’m glad Ben and Suanne enjoyed the food for the most part. Vancouver is much too competitive in the *entry-* and *mid-* fine dining scene for this Zen package to stand out on the merit of food and overall value.

  11. It doesn’t look like fine dining at all. The ingredients are nothing special, you can find these ingredients at other Chinese restaurants. The cooking method is nothing special. Just like someone mentioned, steamed spareribs with black bean sauce on rice and steamed chicken are too pedestrian for a 75 dollar menu. Just because you put smaller portion of steamed spareribs or steamed chicken in a smaller tableware doesn’t make it fine dining. You put smaller bites on a white canvas (white plate) still doesn’t make it fine dining. It’s so superficial about Zen. They just mimic the look, no substance.

    Even if you want to talk about the presentation or plating which is one of the selling point of fine dining, I really don’t see Zen’s plating takes a lot of work. It looks like they just do a quick assembly. I don’t see the crafts and skills here. It’s certainly not labor intensive enough to make you pay more for their time. You can tell it’s a quick job.

    1. By the way, I am the Joe at 10:22pm. Not the same Joe posted previously. I just found out there’s another Joe. I should have changed my name to Another Joe or something else. Just want to make it clear I am not an impostor. I only posted this one and 10:22pm.

      Sorry I didn’t pay attention to the previous names.

    2. Reading your comment makes me laugh:

      Ingredients are ingredients, how much can you make them different???

      Its the way how you cook it…You weren’t in the kitchen, how can you comment on Sam’s cooking. If you can’t tell the different, then you have a problem. Have you tried the db burger?? You must think it taste the same as MacDonald…

      If you don’t know what you’re talking, then don’t say it, it only shows how much you really know…

      By the way, do you think Lumiere is the same as any other restaurant??? They are using the same ingredients as any other restaurants…How else can they be different. Its the chef who makes the difference!!!

      Understand????

      To be honest, have you been to Zen yet???? I mean actually eating there, not just passing by!!!!

  12. Haha Ben, I was nearly taken in by your lemon water comments thinking to myself “What?? Doesn’t he know what that’s for??” Anyways, to set the record straight, he was owing rents on the Alexandra location and was kicked out. As for the decor of this present location, they have made many changes to the original plans to cut cost, therefore the minimalistic interior and oh! the plastic chairs are from China. Hope they will survive their resurrection!

    1. Duud! Lemon Water is to cleanse the stingky smell from your hand, don’t tell me you’re expecting to get some sugar or honey with it………ha ha haaaaaaaaaa!
      Don’t know where you got the information of owing rents with the Alexandra location, I know the person who take over the place with entirely difference story! It is just very common by moving out with a completed Lease…..Don’t tell me you are living in the same condo for 50 years and never move to somewhere else!
      You are just too mean to express a nice contemporary design as minimalistic interior………those Italian Chair cost over $600-700 each. You’d better check out what’s on the market before giving such kind of stupid commend. Thanks God I have seen this chair selling in Gas Town’s Furniture Store.

      Please look around the Electronics in your home, I can tell Ya more that 90% are made in China; TV, surround sound system, DVD Player, remote control, microwave, water kettle…… even like the toilet bowl in your bathroom; small as the USB thumb drive you are using are made in China. USD President Barrick Obama arrange his first visit Country is “CHINA” WHY? Don’t hide in your small world……….Come On Buddy, wake up!

      1. I’ve red your comment 20 times now and I’m still confused by what you just wrote? HM theory of why the restaurant was gone make more sense because if the restaurant lease contract has expired, it can be renew.

        Zen chair reminds me of school, and sitting at school wasn’t comfortable… if those chairs cost over $600 then the owners of the Zen got ripped off! I could of bought 3 leather comfy chairs.

        What kind of a point are you making for the last comments about products of China and Obama? I’m sooo confuzzled writing this comment! =P

        Anyways, back to the food. ummhmm mmhmm I don’t know what to say about the food. Still not worth it….

        1. By using your common sense; a completed Lease can be either renew or terminate, are you Canadian. Am not gonna discuss about this as it seems like you guys has been over whelmed with some rediculous personal issue about Zen. A chair could be $30 – $8000, please look around the world.
          Well, we are living in a multi-cultural country while you guys are insulting product of China. I believe everyone of this country should respect each other and this is why we are proud of our country “Canada”
          Don’t tell me the computer you are using is made in France…..ha ha haaaaaa
          You guys should also respect Ben and Suzanne, your topics is totally out of this Blog.

          1. I’m just confuse if you are saying good or bad things about Zen. Roc? So your saying you like Zen chairs and decorations and you also like China products?

            I don’t think I’m flaming, I just like information about anything from dumb to smart things.

  13. Please out of respect to Ben and Suanne, please avoid personal flames in your comments. Thank you.

  14. Hey Doug & HM,
    Since you guys are so excited about those plastic chairs in Zen……..me too, I’m not only nosey but also want to find out the truth! I went to Zen and had my dinner tonight. After dinner I was trying to flip over the chair and the Server ran over to me; she must be guessing what the hack this person is going to do. At the same time, Sam came out from the kitchen with his Labtop. Well, I told him why I was there because I read you guys blogs……and would like to find out whether those plastic chair is made in China or not. He was laughing hard……….
    Sam look very young, he is so nice and friendly, he’s not upset about you guys comment and said he’s just too busy to read those blogs, he is busy to set up the menu for Mother’s Day Dinner. Actually, those chairs purchased from Living Space @Kingsway/9th Ave; each of them cost around$600 with discount, the Brand Name “ARPER” print clearly with “Made in Italy” at the bottom of the chair. I took some photos as evidence. Owner Sam said he can show me the purchase receipt if I needed. Anyone who’s interesting to have a copy of the photo, please give me your email and I can forward it to you. No Kidding…………
    In here, I would like you both to APPOLOGY to Sam Lau about your comment; have you ever been to the restaurant and check it out or just B.S. by your imagination. I feel so sorry about him; their food and service has exceeded my expectation. The chair is so comfortable, perfectly support my back, we enjoy very much with our dinner. We chat with a guy who was sitting next to us, I noticed that he made another reservation with his family on coming Wed. He said he read Jennifer 8 Lee’s article and come to try. ……I have never try such a Great Chinese Food before………….
    I don’t know the Owner but just really hate people criticize everything out of the truth; that is not fair to the other Party. Guys! You are trying to mis-lead Ben & Suzanne’s readers…….

  15. I am really confused…

    Are we talking about food or furnitures???

    Why are you all so “stuck up” with the chair???? Grow up kids…Zen is a restaurant and not a furniture store. Do you think an expansive chair in a “bad” restaurant is more important than good food????

    By the way, do you think China can’t produce nice furniture and Italy won’t produce terrible/cheap furniture??? Be real and open up your eyes…If you think stuff from China is not good enough for you, themn most of the time you will be naked, your home will be empty…Look around I bet you 80% of things around you is made in China…What do you have to say???

    Going back to “Food”, I don’t see any problem with Zen’s production. I have been there a few times and each time we (along with a bunch of friends all the time) are more than satified with the food served and the service is more than good. One thing I have to say is that it is consistence, which is very important for a restaurant. That means Sam is quite serious about his food, making sure that his customers are able to enjoy good food all the time.

    Please grow up and think before opening your mouth and forget about where the furniture comes from…Its a restaurant.

    Dreamer

  16. I hope this is some elaborate joke.

  17. I think Roc or Rochette is Sam’s wife. 🙂

    1. Agreed. And “Dreamer” might be his mother 🙂

      1. Wrong again,

        I don’t know who Roc or Rochette are but definitely not Sam’s wife, her name is Candy…You should know if you ever visited that restauranr.

        I am not his mom either. I am a professional and a guy…I join this convesation because I find it quite annoying that people can be so navie/bias about a restaurant for no reason!!!

        Just because someone speaks out and spread the truth doesn’t mean she/he is a relative…Grow up …

        Just because you can’t speak the truth do that mean you are Sam’s competitor??? I can’t believe anyone can be so childish and can’t accept truth & facts…

        I travel the world about 3 times a year and HK, Japan, Korea and China are a must in my trip…Eating & drinking are my major hobbies and thus I tend to be a bit choosy but I honestly find Zen not a bad place to dine at all…

        I remember someone comment on the fact that you can dine at lumiere (I think its Jonnak) for less than $75.00…That is only a 3-course dinner and compare to Zen’s 8 course dinner. You gotta be kidding???

        I can understand what Charles was saying: If the customer think the food seems average without wow factor, you can’t spin that its a feast for the king. The problem can be the customer…Different people have different taste, some like fine dinning and some just like “food fair” food and find lots of “wow’s” there. What can you do. But at this present moment I have not heard from Sam yet “to defend himself and spin until the cow some home”…

        I think as a good chef he is taking in all kinds of comments (good & bad) and he is more than qulaified to distinguish between “true” and “bad mouth” and that’s why he is not saying anything. He is smart enough to let the wise customers make the decision. These bis comments” are just like what Charles had said: “that’s like propaganda and trying to confuse them”… The truth will come out and if you listen to these guys and don’t come out and at least try Zen yourself, the loser will be you…

        That’s why I never read or believe in food critics, I believe in myself…especially I eat out about 75% of the time.

  18. Restaurant business is in service industry. You have to win the majority of the people over so customers’ opinions do matter.

    If the customers are not feeling the ambiance, they are not feeling the ambiance. You can’t spin that it is so romantic and cool. If the customers think the food seems average without wow factor, you can’t spin that it’s a feast for the king. That’s like propaganda and trying to confuse them.

    If the restaurateurs feel the need to defend themselves and spin until the cows come home, they are in the wrong business. Maybe they should be in politics or become lawyers. As for service industry, you are supposed to give customers the products they would desire. Otherwise, they go somewhere else.

    You just can’t sit on your high horse because you think your stuff is upscale (maybe only in restaurateurs’ heads) so you don’t need to listen. If you want to be above criticism and do only what you feel like it, then you need to change your career path and establish some serious connection in art industry, so the art industry people will hype you and make you a star. Then you can tell people a toilet is art.

    PR can only get you this far. A lot of restaurants with big investors have great PR to start but they are loosing business in the end because they simply can’t give people products customers are happy with. In the end of the day, it’s the products that matter not PR and spin.

    1. Totally agreed people can have your own choice of food…….this is a food blog, right! But these bunch of people (maybe only one person) are talking about what…..plastic chair and product from China……these type of topics should not apply to a “food blog” We are talking about food, Man! Seems like you’re focusing how to bid this restaurant. Yeah! Dreamer, you might be right, these people might be Sam’s Competitor!

      I don’t know Sam, I guess the Asian Lady in the restaurant should be his wife. BTW, those “Barbarian” who mentioned I’m like what – wife and “Dreamer” as mother of Sam. SORRY but I would suggest you to re-educate yourself before coming back to this Blog. You’re just making yourself looks ugly in front of the Viewers.

      1. Hi All:
        I had been reading everyone’s comments on this thread. I think we should just leave it as it is before this gets any deeper. I can see where Roc and Dreamer is coming from and at the same time I can also see what Jonnek is trying to say too. Really … what I like to do is to unite people on the love of good food. Do me a favour? Let’s move on? He he he … I was expecting you all to talk about Pork Belly Beer House. They have really bad chairs.
        Ben

  19. This review reminds me of the happy days when I put into my mouth those delicious morsels sprinkled with 24k gold dust. And those Nomura guys in my MBA class. What happened to them soon after was more obscure, the “lost decade” translates to 2 decades and still tickling on.

  20. Hey Jonnek & Janice:
    I’m not sure what you guys’ purpose of insulting this restaurant. Thanks God that I’m checking Ben & Susanne’s web quite often. To be honest with you, I might not going to try right the way while some crazy people’s criticizing comment has drawn my attention to this restaurant. Thanks to you guys that I’m so impressed with Sam’s passion on cooking, creative/excellent quality of food; and I agreed with “Dreamer”. Service is way better than I do expected. As a customer, I’m just more than happy to recommend this restaurant to all of my friends.
    My friends, please try to be a smart customer but not a “Gossip Monger” I would highly recommend you to try first…..then come back with your real comment, thanks.
    I do really respect Ben & Susanne’s review, they are just telling us what their experience at Zen.

  21. The lemon water is for cleaning your fingers, NOT for drinking – that’s why it is common practice in most Chinese seafood restaurants to serve the bowl … some restaurants only give you two or three bowls for a table of 8 – 10 people; if you think it is for drinking, do you expect each person to take a sip!?

  22. I guess I missed this when you posted it, Ben.

    I was up for trying out Zen when they re-opened since I had heard the comments about its previous incarnation. Some friends asked if I had been and we were going to give it a try soon but after seeing the food you got at the price you paid…well, I’m not interested anymore. Seriously, that doesn’t look like anything revolutionary. I’ll probably direct them here and let them form their own opinion but it seems like it was just a lot of hype.

    I mean, it’s not even the price. I could care less about the price but you don’t seem to get what you’re paying for with this menu.

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