Published in Scoutmob
We’re giving the city’s most talented toques complete artistic freedom to experiment on someone who’s willing to try anything. And we mean anything. Meet food adventurer Mary Kong. We’re sending her, her camera and her taste buds out and putting her wholly into the chefs’ hands. They’ve promised to give her their most under-ordered, dramatic or just plain weird eats, and she says? Try me.
Susur Lee looks like one of the Three Storms in Big Trouble in Little China. With a long, flowing mane, facial features apparently chiseled out of flawless marble, and an imposing stature, you can tell he is no ordinary man, and neither is his cooking. Lee’s style of Asian fusion is a meticulous, eclectic sensory experience while maintaining authentic flavors. In other words, get your butt to Zentan right away.
Start with Lee’s signature Singapore Slaw ($16), which serves two and can be found on every table. Go ahead, take a look around. Everyone knows that each meal at Zentan should start this way. With nineteen ingredients including julienned jicama, carrots, pickled red onions, mint, peanuts, ginger, salted plum dressing and sashimi, it is cool, crunchy — plus sixteen more adjectives to describe blowing your mind.
An appetizer of shrimp and taro tart with spicy preserved bean sauce is Chinese food-turned-art-project. This elegant form of shrimp toast with the fried lychee is infinitely better than that stuff you get at the Chinese take-out counter in every way.
Tom yum soup is one of my favorite Thai comfort foods, and Lee’s coconut soup is such a beefed-up version with generous chunks of chicken, lush avocado and pineapple that I half-expected Donovan McNabb to jump out of its fragrant, milky lemongrass broth.
One dish that Lee wishes he could put on the menu is the Poor Man’s Treasure. “My father used to make this for me,” he says. This simple, homestyle stew with the dramatic appearance holds plump escargot, fatty chicken butts, and soft duck tongues. Golden brown rice balls dissolve in the soy sauce broth, along with lush pork belly and daikon. Close your eyes and take a spoonful of everything, and you’ll find that it is sweet, earthy and tastes like a hug.
You won’t mind that it’s tasting you back.