Sunday, November 15, 2009

Zenses - A taste of molecular gastronomy

Anton started the idea of having a Wednesday foodie group. It is technically eating out with the other foodies here in Manila. It was pretty interesting and I signed up for last Wednesday's food adventure. The venue was held in Zenses and I didn't know that I was in for a big surprise.

From what I have read before, Zenses is famous for its usage of liquid nitrogen with their ice cream. This way, the freezing of the cream is so fast that it will stop the formation of ice crystals. During the meal though, there were more ways of using liquid nitrogen than just instantly freezing an ice cream. It was actually a good eye opener in the world of molecular gastronomy.

We started with a cocktail like food. It was popcorn that has been cooled with liquid nitrogen. It was actually cool eating a cold popcorn with the proper texture of the popcorn. The cold popcorn was actually appropriate to start an evening of knowing other foodies in Manila.

It was also served with gingered beer. I don't drink that much and I do not have an innate appreciation or affinity to alcohol so I cannot comment about it.

The real meal started with an asian like amuse-bouche . It was oyster tempura with ginger gelee, bear foam and ebiko. I think it is more of an appetizer than an amuse-bouche since it had two of those.

I liked the sweetness of the ginger gelee but I thought that the tempura was soggy. I think they could have made it crisper. I like the color and flavor profile but the texture was a little off because of the soggy tempura.

Next, we had curried lychee crab tempura with a choice of mango cream aioli or vinegar.

Again, their tempura was really soggy for my bite and with the lychee and crab meat inside, it was like eating a soft fishball but, then again, flavor profile was good.

Next, we had a dinosaur egg gazpacho. Gazpacho is technically a cold tomato soup. I was amazed with the presentation of it. He made the gazpacho looked like a real tomato.

Nice sense of humor eh? He technically placed the soup inside a balloon bag and dipped the balloon bag in liquid nitrogen thus freezing it and taking its shape. Then, you can crack it and start eating it.

Flavor had too much garlic that time. I liked the toasted japanese breadcrumbs though. It gave a good texture to the dish. But the texture of the outer layer of soup itself wasn't properly executed for my palate. It was like eating some sort of a tomato sorbet when you take a bite to it. If possible, I think the protective outer layer of the soup be thin though I think that is hard to execute.

They then served us an inverted wine glass. The glass had some smoked vanilla in it so when we turned it up, there was a strong vanilla smell that crawled throughout the room. It smelled really great! Good execution of the idea.

I just didn't appreciate it that much since I don't know how to appreciate wine. Oh well, maybe I can drink it again next time. Men... and it was a French wine :(

Now, one of the most interesting dish has arrived! It's shrimp cotton candy! The flavor reminded those of shrimp crackers only sweeter and in the form of cotton candy! Interesting eh?

The chef explained this dish. He said that he used real shrimp and added isomalt with it and let it cure. It will pulverized it self through time and thus crystalizing itself like sugar!

Now, onto the main course! It was pork ribs in coriander strawberry sauce. Good combination. I liked the flavor of coriander here. It made me feel I was eating at Pho Hoa. Nice colors too!

We had fish next. It's pan-roasted grouper with blue cheese and grilled pineapple. I liked the way they cooked the the fish. It wasn't overdone. It was actually a good dish especially with the addition of the sweetness of the pineapple. The other guys were just unfortunate to have bones in their fish.

We now go to dessert! By this time, we were all full already but no worries, it was still interesting. The first that came was a blue cheese chocolate cake. It was really nothing special to me. The only thing I liked about this dish was that the flavor wasn't too rich or too strong.

This is the most interesting part, ice cream on the spot! Table side presentation of making ice cream with liquid nitrogen!

They first put liquid nitrogen in the blow. You will see that the liquid nitrogen evaporated fast giving a lot of 'smoke' when it was poured.

They added the ice cream mixture next.

Whisk it and add some more liquid nitrogen until everything is smooth and frozen!

They scooped out the ice cream on the martini glasses and added more liquid nitrogen to it. They also added some rice crispies for added texture. Talk about generosity! It made me feel that liquid nitrogen wasn't that expensive lolz!

There were two flavors of ice cream that were presented. First was gorgonzola ice cream. It was delicously! I liked the strong creamy cheese taste of the ice cream! The other one was bacon and egg! It was both astounding and delicious! The taste was really clean which I wasn't expecting. It had a strong bacon flavor in there but there were no bacon bits present nor bacon color present. Everything was clean. This is fine food, strong flavors but clean to the palate. Lastly, I liked the creamy texture they had in their. The mouth feel was pretty different than that of normal ice cream.

Lastly, we had coffee, not just any coffee, it was a coffee meringue! He froze the espresso with some liquid nitrogen again and placed it into small cups.

The way to eat this was to crack it and eat it. Texture was really that of a meringue. It was a pretty interesting way to have coffee here.

All in all, the experience here was great. Thanks to Chef Johann Santos, I get to have a glimpse of molecular gastronomy. My bad comment about the place is that some flavor profiles were a little off and the serving of plates were not in unison, meaning, some of us were already done with a particular course, some were not even served yet.

Zenses needs better execution and better ambience and am pretty sure it will be part of Miele Guide. It just needs better execution. It needs polishing in its internal operation and am pretty sure, it was be a big hit in Manila.


sebiesy said...

wow! interesting blog.. where is this place? is it expensive?

Hershey said...

It is located in A. Venue Makati, it is not that expensive :D

andre said...

there's a place like this in manila pala! hehe