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“Polarising: love it or hate. I hated it. Disappointing.”
Review of Zen Restaurant - CLOSED

Zen Restaurant
Certificate of Excellence
Cuisines: Chinese
More restaurant details
Restaurant details
Dining options: Lunch, Dinner, Reservations
Description: One of only two Chinese eateries in Ireland to be recommended by The Michelin Guide, Zen Restaurant, is thrilled to be celebrating over 22 years in business. Situated in the unique setting of a 150 year old church hall in Rathmines, Dublin 6, Zen is known for expertly serving up authentic Sichuan food.
Reviewed January 13, 2013

We ate here last night for dinner with our 2 children, age 7 and 13.

The decor is amazing: high ceiling, giant lampshades. It's a quiet place, which means you can have a conversation with someone across the table, which we liked. But it's not a hopping atmosphere, so probably not the first choice for young adults. My hunch is there are a lot of locals who return here. We went because it is managed by our neighbour's son.

Now, I'm a tricky customer, as I cook well, so when I eat out, I like to eat food that's better than I can cook at home. I also have an allergy to peppers, including chili. (I know, why eat in a Szechuan restaurant if you cannot eat chili. The family outruled me!) I made this known to our Brazilian waitress, who was very friendly and had terrific English, but seemed to not be enjoying her job. She asked the chef, who recommended Beef in Hot Sauce. Now, I don't know about you, but "hot sauce" suggests chili, so I ordered Duck in Ginger and Scallions. Sounded safer. When the dish came, I could clearly see the red chili flakes. I told the waitres who went to the chef, who insisted he had not put chili in the dish. In that case, I suggested that the pre-prepared sauce must have chili in it. I didn't fancy an argument, so I let the others eat this dish. They all agreed it was spicy. Had I eaten it, I would have been unwell.

If a restaurant cannot accurately tell an allergic customer what is in the dish, that's a big problem. That is what accounts for my 2 star review. Also, I feel this restaurant needs a kick up the proverbial. It could be fantastic. It's trying to be upmarket Chinese. And it's close. However, it needs to train its waiters and chefs better.

Some positives:
Beef in Black Bean Sauce: very good.
Excellent wine list.
Brown rice on the menu, very tasty.
Egg fried rice was great.
Good Wanton Soup.

Negatives:
These aren't professional waiters. Their timing isn't great e.g. too attentive before we'd even sat down, and then a long wait to order, that sort of thing. Arguing with a customer about ingredients. A little training would go a long way.
Limited dessert menu, only 4 items, 2 of which are icecream.
No decaf espresso or latte.
Very expensive: E19 for a main dish, which is steep.
Wanton Soup: excellent wantons. But the broth, which was a tasty clear broth, had WAY too much white pepper added.
Chinese Greens: too much oil, too much salt, and a strange taste (was that fish sauce or oyster sauce? It doesn't belong in this dish).

I found the evening disappointing.
It wouldn't take a lot to make this a very upscale restaurant. They have the decor. Now work on the food, please. Give your waiters a bit more training. Then you're all set!

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2  Thank Ms_T_Bops
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviews (58)
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46 - 50 of 58 reviews

Reviewed January 3, 2013

My last visit to Zen was a few years ago when I dined with my wife-to-be and her parents the evening before our wedding. And a wonderful meal it was! Unfortunately our most recent visit did not echo that previous visit. The restaurant itself is a pleasant environment with its high ceiling and well spaced tables. When we visited early in the new year we were the first to occupy the restaurant at 6pm. Our orders were taken by a pleasant waitress, chao shou dumplings for me and hors d'oevures for her as starters followed by scallops Kung po for her and fillet beef with chilli and garlic sauce for me. Her starter consisted of a spring roll, prawn toast and spare rib, OK, but not particularly exciting. My own hot and spicy pork dumpling soup was hot (temperature wise) but was not spicy. Unfortunately the overriding taste was salty, far too salty. While the dumplings were ok in terms of taste, if a little bland, the broth was unbelievably salty. Surely the kitchen is not tasting the soup before it goes to table. The dumplings were eaten but the broth was left. Feedback was given to the waitress who said she would communicate my comments to chef. No feedback was received from chef and no adjustment to the bill was applied. Mains arrived and I was presented with a chicken dish instead of the ordered beef dish. The waitress brought the dish back to the kitchen and we could hear a loud exchange in the kitchen in relation to this, which a customer should never hear. The correct beef dish did arrive within 10 minutes and it was excellent if, again, a little too salty. A dessert of banana with tofffee glaze was finished at the table by the waitress by mixing the portions of banana in hot toffee and dipping them in iced water using chopsticks. The waitress struggled with this process and admitted that she was not used to using chopsticks - the person who normally did this was not working on the night. Management should not put waiting staff who are not properly trained in a serving process in front of paying customers. The waitress was very uncomfotable serving us our dessert. This is not a criticism of the waitress, but of the management process. Overall, a mixed bag. Some food that was too salty to eat, some that was very tasty. Service, can do better. Management, well there was no sign of management the night we were there - if they were present they never came to check if we were happy with the experience. Unfortunately the experience did not live up to previous visits.

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2  Thank Tablepourdeux
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed December 18, 2012

We visit this Chinese quite a bit when we are in Dublin. I am not a huge fan of Chinese food but my wife is and she absolutely loves it here. The staff are very pleasant and the food is reliable and pretty good value. The dining room is nice and the tables are decently spaced out so you are not sitting on top of other diners. Overall as a Chinese it is easy to recommed it.

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Thank swellsix
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed October 31, 2012 via mobile

Nice menu; put a little fancier than normal Chinese food and seems better quality but everything was laced with garlic which makes me worry. Only four veggie options for mains but they were a nice change from the usual 'mixed veg with sauce X'. A nice bottle of Italian wine was pricey (€35) but at least there was a decent wine on the list to choose. All set in a clean open-plan space with nice staff. Go for the sake of a night out; not a birthday dinner.

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1  Thank DrizzDT
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed August 11, 2012

we found the food good and different to the usual gloopy alternative you can find in some chinese restaurants.If your looking for something a little special its the place. the service was excellent. no atmosphere the night we were there as the place was empty apart from one other couple but it was a tuesday night. beautiful decor. will be back

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Thank fgrum
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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