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What to expect from Sandton’s hot new ‘it’ spot, Zen Restaurant and Bar

This new supper club features a tapas-style menu and prides itself on the cocktails which really get to shine once the DJ turns up the volume

04 August 2022 - 08:54
The restaurant side of things.
The restaurant side of things.
Image: Supplied

On weekends the corner of West Street and Rivonia Road in Joburg turns into a buzz of bodies looking for a good vibe and a place to clink their glasses.

The pull in this direction comes from Zen Restaurant and Bar, a new supper club in the heart of Sandton which opened at the end of May with plans to soon open a second restaurant in Umhlanga. 

Inspired by Asian flourishes and earthy tones, the space is sleek and intimate, offering a number of dinner tables between more informal, minimalist seating perfect for post-dinner drinks.

If you want to come for dinner, it’s advisable to make a booking ahead of time. Diners start dropping by from around 7pm and by 9pm the space starts filling up quickly with the party goers who flock to enjoy the drinks and music.

ON THE MENU

The menu offers four main meals — a tomahawk steak, kingklip, lamb chops or fillet on the bone — with the focus falling on their smaller tapas dishes driven by meat, fish and seafood options such as ostrich Carpaccio, oysters, crispy calamari, grilled peri-peri prawns, smoked BBQ pork ribs and tuna tataki.

Meatless options include fries (either served with garlic and herbs or truffle); mushroom kebabs; a shiitake and tofu bao bun; or a vegan salad with lettuce, marinated rosa tomatoes, zucchini, chickpeas, garlic roasted potatoes and a citrus emulsion.

Being drawn to the dreamy images posted on their Instagram page, we decided to try the smoked teriyaki salmon (R175) and Wagyu bao bun (R295).

Ostrich Carpaccio.
Ostrich Carpaccio.
Image: Supplied

Served on a bed of lettuce, corn and diced tomato, our smoked teriyaki salmon was presented with radish slices, a potent dose of diced onion, a creamy dressing, sesame seeds and thin, crispy pastry sheets. The final dish differed from the description on the menu and the onion left a lingering taste in my mouth but the quality of the salmon was top-notch and ate well with the other elements on the plate.

If you’re a lover of the bao bun, be warned: this version doesn’t resemble the soft, pillowy chew you might expect. Putting his own spin on it, chef Ken Phuduhudu finishes off the bun by frying it and presenting it as an open bao bun topped with slices of perfectly grilled Waguy rib-eye, a creamy sauce, a sesame and soy slaw and cucumber ribbons. It’s innovative but I felt it doesn’t really elevate the idea of a bao bun.

Given that the menu is presented in tapas-style plates, a third plate of well-prepared mussels served in a creamy garlic, shallot and lemon sauce (R125) was a welcome addition to our dinner table, finished off with a beautifully presented milktart dessert (R95). Both fine dishes.

FROM THE BAR

The drinks menu is far more expanded than the food menu. From the bar you can order a fair selection of local wines, most available either by the glass (which will cost you anything from R50 to R400) or by the bottle.

But because Zen is an establishment that prides itself on cocktails, you’ll want to try at least one of the 21 options on the menu.

On recommendation from our waiter we tried The Zen Garden (R145): a pairing of gin and lychee with a splash of lemonade for those who enjoy the sweeter side of things.

Prawn slider.
Prawn slider.
Image: Supplied
The Zen Garden cocktail.
The Zen Garden cocktail.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer
The Imperial Guard cockatail
The Imperial Guard cockatail
Image: Sanet Oberholzer

At R250 a pop we had to try The Imperial Guard. I expected more in terms of presentation but enjoyed the mix of cognac and champagne driven by apple notes splashed over a tall glass of ice.

If you’re looking for a quiet dinner — perhaps on the romantic side — this is not the stop I’d recommend for you. But if your pockets run deep, you’re wearing your party shoes and enjoy music circa the early 2000s, pop in for a dinner bite and a good time once the DJ hits the decks and the bodies the dance floor. It might be just the place to get the party started ahead of Women’s Day celebrations.

Zen is open Wednesday to Sunday from 12pm to late. Reservations are recommended and can be made via the website.

• Oberholzer was a guest of Zen. 

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