The latest string to Le Royal Meridien’s stellar restaurant bow, Zengo is the contemporary collaboration between Richard Sandoval – the deft culinary hand behind popular Dubai based hotspots Toro Toro and the Meridien’s own Maya – and famed Singaporean chef, Akmal Anuar.
Perched above popular seafood haunt Geales and overlooking the hotel’s capacious gardens, the space Zengo occupies is vast, its stylish, circular form housing numerous dining pockets and alcoves before spreading outside toward the open-pan terrace.
Three bar areas – trendily branded Mist, Smoke and Fire respectively – offer a trio different experiences to their drinkers; an intimate cigar corner, an ice bar of sorts, (serving beverages -30c) and finally, a flammable bar counter – ideal fodder for patrons who seek an element of the theatrical when dining.
Zengo’s official party line regarding its cuisine is ‘flavours of the modern world’, with a concept revolved around the re-interpretation of old-fashioned dishes, executed in various inventive ways. And while there is the odd miss in the imaginative array of ceviche and hot and cold appetizers – overall the servings are strong.
Should you find any of the menu’s offerings tough to decipher or simply find yourself unsure what to plump for, Zengo’s staff are zealous in their desire to recommend both dishes and drinks. You’ll even get a backstory or two on a few of your selections, a rhetoric that usually can be a bit tedious in some restaurants but that was actually fairly insightful on this occasion.
Not content with simply providing a formidable menu in a great setting, the effort Zengo goes to spark an experience that transcends a conventional dining one is both refreshing and admirable. A facet that’s perhaps most noticeable in its drinks menu, where the peculiarly titled cocktail concoctions offer little information in the way of ingredients, instead you’ll find a mysterious phrase or idiom of some sort, eluding very little as to what you’re about to imbibe. Our advice? Tell the waiter what you like (or more importantly, dislike) in your drink of choice, and trust that they’ll deliver. It’s an approach that may not be embraced by everyone but for sheer variety alone, we enjoyed it.
For the Zengo team and newly formed kitchen partnership of Sandoval and Akmal, the devil is undoubtedly in the detail. An attention to the finer things that starts in the bar and filters right down to your dessert. And while there are arguably other restaurants in the city that offer marginally better value dish for dish, in terms of the all-round experience enjoyed – Le Royal Meridien’s latest dining venture is hard to top.
Patagonian Toothfish – Oven roasted Chilean seabass, marinated with zarandeado chilli. The best seafood option on the mains course, hands down.
Duck Maseca Pancake – A recommendation actually offered up with a knowing wink by the friendly American host upon entering. A great variation on the Chinese staple, a tenderly cooked duck leg served in chipotle barbeque sauce. Beautiful.
Tokyo Express – A hugely agreeable whisky based number from Zengo’s uniquely designed range of cocktails. Comes in a glass wrapped in newspaper, apparently a nod to the Japanese men who hid the drink when consuming it in public…presumably on the train.
The magic box – A cocktail cum dessert, that’s actually a magic trick as well. Served up in the manner of a David Blaine special by one of the waiters, and an amusingly novel way to end your evening’s dining experience.