Zensho is located along Tomas Morato Avenue, unoffcially the city's food row, smack in the intersection where Roces Avenue ends. It is situated in a mini-pocket that includes McDonald's and Lord Stow's Bakery. As we passed by Tomas Morato, it dawned on us how many establishments have sprouted up, signaling the demise of some places that we knew from way back when. The fact that Zensho is still standing gives me a kick of nostalgia, and is a testament to them doing something right.
A Japanese restaurant that offers ala carte, it also has an option called order-all-you-can. The latter combines the convenience of having food served at your table but with a plethora of choices at a set price. The price differs depending on whether you are there for lunch (PhP 595 plus charges) or dinner (PhP 695 plus charges). They will give you a "paper menu" for you to tick off the items you may wish to order.
We started with a staple that we order in Japanese restaurants, tuna and salmon sashimi.
It tasted fresh, and it may be an odd preference since we did order fish, but we prefer it not to have a fishy smell even without the citrus provided (and Zensho's version tasted clean and not fishy). They provided each of us with our own serving.
I also ordered the California temaki (hand roll). The seaweed cover gave a slight resistance, but the filling had everything that I associated with any Japanese dish with the modifier "California": Some greens, crabstick, Japanese mayo and mango.
We also had the kani (crab) salad, again in petite individual servings. It was fresh and punctuated with just a feather touch of sweetness.
As an additional appetizer, we ordered Agedashi Tofu. Traditionally topped with bonito flakes, this version didn't have it, and I did not enjoy this dish too much, since the tofu seemed to be devoid of any seasonings, and the sauce didn't help bumping up the flavor.
We began our main dishes with Ebi Tempura.
The term I would characterize Zensho's version of this Japanese staple is sprightly: they were light, none of the heaviness of the batter that other restaurants have, and the meat inside was lightly firm. These are some of the best ones I have ever had.
We had ordered the U.S. Beef teppanyaki, Japanese beef teppanyaki and mixed vegetables separately, but they managed to combine them in one plate and I thought they arranged it well. Note that all these dishes have a strong garlic taste, but we enjoyed the U.S. Beef the most: quite silky, it did not offer too much resistance when we began chewing it, and since we have not had steak in quite some rime, this was a most welcome respite. The Japanese version was reminiscent of the cut used in sukiyaki, but its taste was overshadowed by the U.S. version.
We also ordered cuttlefish and tofu teppanyaki, and while I prefer the spicy cuttlefish version that I had when I was in Xin Tian Di, this version was more garlicky and savory, which we both lapped up with no questions and all smiles.
I wanted to try their chicken and beef teriyaki, and while these were my favorites as a child, I did not have the same level of appreciation now, but I will say that I am glad they did not fall into the trap of making this a "Pinoy" version, the way this country enjoys its spaghetti, in an overly sweet sauce.
We thought there was something too strong in their marinade for the pork ribs, which Art described as nakakaumay (once is good enough). But since they have a no leftover policy, we had to finish this dish as well.
I cannot possibly leave a Japanese restaurant without tasting another staple, sukiyaki. Their version lacked the egg that I was used to having, which would explain why it wasn't the consistency I'm used to, but the soup was quite delicious.
We also had the Pacific Special and Oyster Motoyaki, which, as the picture shows, are (fish and oysters) drenched in cheese. Lots of cheese. Don't bother us, we're busy now.
The piece de resistance proved to be the U.S. Beef Teppanyaki, so we had a second serving. (I won't confirm or deny if you asked if we had a third serving.)
We paired all of these dishes with our choice of starch: I had the seafood fried rice, while Art had the mixed fried rice. Both were excellent, and could actually be eaten on their own.
The price includes your choice of drink, iced tea (zzzz) or pandan gulaman, which is what we both had. I would advise also ordering the house tea, it was lightly flavored with a grain-y taste, and it served to cleanse the palate somewhat.
The dessert choices seemed to be an afterthought, and between a strawberry gelatin and mango graham, it was no contest which one we both ended up with, as well. Dessert afficionados had best take their appetites elsewhere.
After a long hiatus, I am happy to say that Zensho still retains the same quality and charm that I remembered, with food that will satisfy both the palate and pocket. This was a reunion that was well worth the travel and wait.
168 Tomas Morato, Quezon City 1101