Curious, adventurous, and solemnly swearing that he is up to no good.
Published July 16th 2013
For some Vietnamese Zen
Though the name reads Zen Kitchen, it is a slight misnomer, as it prides itself on traditional Vietnamese cuisine. Nestled deep within Renaissance Arcade, it is another one of those places that is in the heart of the city, yet invisible to those who are unaware.
In terms of ambience, my hunch is that the people behind Zen Kitchen are not relying heavily on interior design to draw customers, and that showed in the modest setup. Despite that, patrons can also dine alfresco at the small sitting area right beside the shoplot.
Reading the menu was like getting a crash-course in Vietnamese cuisine. Zen Kitchen has their Vietnamese meat bread rolls (Banh Mi Thit), beef noodle soup (Pho), clear rice noodle soup (Hu Tieu), egg noodle soup (Mi), rice vermicelli noodle soup (Bun; Sup for soup and Kho for dry) and rice dishes (Com) to offer.
For something that is light in taste and really warms us up inside, I recommend going for the soupy options, one of which is the Pho Tai Nam. Originating from North Vietnam, Zen Kitchen's pho comes in a bowl of seasoned beef broth with rice noodles. With that comes a plate of fresh basil, bean sprouts and lemon for the customer to add into the pho as they wish. The Tai Nam variety meant I would get to sample thinly sliced beef fillet steak and tender beef brisket with the pho.
Having failed to restrain my curiosity, I also went for the meat bread roll (Banh Mi Thit), with Heo Quay (crackling roast pork) as my choice of meat. You can opt for garlic bread or sesame bread as well.
For the light eater, the banh mi thit might be a more suitable option for $4.50-$6.00, depending on your choice of meat. Those who love their food crispy and crunchy will not be disappointed either, as what I got was exactly that. A small range of salads add some flavour, as well as adding some degree of anti-oxidising to a very heaty offering.
Another option you can enjoy with your Vietnamese meat bread roll is chilli. If you love a sense of adventure or something spicy, by all means, have a go. If not, I would highly advise not having chilli, the chilli pieces may be small but they pack a really mean punch. Be prepared with something cooling to wash the spice down, I barely made it myself. (Zen Kitchen offer Nuoc Dua, a young coconut juice for $3.50).
With the various dishes to offer, whether it is warm and soupy, or crunchy and spicy, I recommend giving Zen Kitchen a shot. You might just find some sense of Zen in there too.