Zen Metro, Birmingham

Nothing if not practical, I’ll confess to hating restaurants on Valentines Day. Instead, Dave and I booked a deal for Zen Metro the day after. Sister restaurant to the already popular Asha’s, Zen Metro used to be Metro Bar and Grill, but after being bought out and getting a £250,000 makeover last year, Zen Metro now serves Thai food, one of my favourite cuisines.

Zen Metro

Restaurant Decor

Zen Metro is seriously stylish inside, and deceptively large. Right in the heart of the Colmore Business District, the frontage looks narrow, but you go inside to be greeted by a sweeping bar with cosy booths either side. Our server greeted us and took us up a dramatic mirrored walkway to the tables, which are cosily lit, grouped around a beautiful tree, lit with colour shifting spots.

Prosecco

I’d found a deal for three courses and a glass of Prosecco, which it appears they offer quite often. I couldn’t resist a flick through the drinks menu anyway, and was pleasantly surprised by how well priced the cocktails are. I didn’t try one this time, but I will be going back for drinks some time, for sure. Offer menus can often be a little sparse, but there was a good range of options to choose from here.

Thai Mussels

To start, Dave opted for Mussels in shell, which come steamed with thai herbs, and a coconut and chilli broth. The portion was enormous, and Dave was convinced the mussels were rope caught, which are usually more expensive but better quality. I can take or leave mussels as I often find them gritty, but these were tender and tasty. Dave was extremely happy working his way through the giant pile.

Tom Yum Soup

I chose the Tom Yum Goong soup. It was filled with fat, juicy prawns and the broth was perfectly flavoured, with that distinctive sour, spicy combination of thai dishes. It was quite hot, but I like spice, so this was spot on.

Teriyaka Salmon

For main, Dave chose roasted fillet of salmon with stir fry noodles in teriyaki sauce. The piece of salmon was enormous and cooked perfectly. I tried a tiny piece and the flavour was delicate, letting the fish taste come through the teriyaki flavouring. Dave made short work of this, so safe to say it was good.

Thai green curry

I chose a classic, the Thai Green Curry, which has chicken, coconut milk, bamboo shoots, green beans and fresh basil leaves. I was able to choose how spicy I wanted it, and selected medium. Again, the portion was massive, and I only managed about half of it. The heat level was exactly what I wanted. The first taste is creamy and the heat gently rolls across your tongue as you keep eating, making for a very pleasant experience, that is hot without being overwhelming.

Creme Brulee

For dessert, Dave tried the Lemongrass infused crème brulee. Not my sort of thing at all, but Dave’s review was very positive and it promptly disappeared despite the fact he’d been telling me how full he was just before.

Thai desserts

The dessert options were all a bit creamy for my taste, but I decided to try the Thai-style crème caramel. It wasn’t quite my thing, and I only ate about half of it, but it looked gorgeous on the plate, and the caramel was very tasty. If you do like cream heavy options, this would be great. The chocolate dipped strawberries were fantastic though.

I was very impressed in how much food we were given, considering we paid just under £20 a head for the offer menu. Offers can be a bad way to try a place, but the food was absolutely delicious and we will definitely be going back. Our waitress was incredibly friendly too, checking in on how we were handling the spice and making suggestions. We also chatted with another waiter, who found us some of the Valentines chocolate boxes they’d been giving out the night before, which was very sweet of him.

We had a truly excellent evening, and I can’t recommend Zen Metro enough.

I booked and paid for Zen Metro myself. They didn’t know I was a blogger. 

Rofuto, Birmingham

A couple of weeks back, a group of Birmingham Bloggers were invited along to test out the new menu at Rofuto, a modern japanese and pan-asian restaurant and cocktail bar. Located on the 16th floor, high above the Park Regis hotel, Rofuto certainly boasts some of the best views around, but would the food experience match up?

I went to Rofuto in it’s opening week last year, and I was impressed by the incredible views, and chic, stylish interior. The service was good and the sushi was excellent, although I wasn’t as convinced by the rest of the menu. With a new team in place, I was interested to see what the new menu had in store.

We started with a Tom Yum Soup, which contained shiitake mushrooms, galangal, chilli, tofu and thai basil. I’m a fan of Tom Yum, so was bound to enjoy this, and it was very good. The tofu was silky, and the veg still had plenty of bite. The spice level was about right too; warming without melting your sinuses.

Rofuto

Next was Sea Bass Tiradito, which is slices of raw sea bass with passion fruit and tiger’s milk. I’ve never tried sea bass raw, so I was very curious about this dish. Sea bass is quite a ‘meaty’ fish so I wasn’t sure how good this would be, but it was one of my favourite dishes of the night. The fish was rich in flavour, complimented beautifully with the sweet passion fruit. It looked beautiful on the plate too, which is always a bonus.

Dim Sum

The Dim Sum platter comes with Scallop Shumai, Beef and Foie Gras Gyoza and Wild Mushroom Spring Rolls. This was another real stand out for me. The scallop was tender and delicious, clearly cooked perfectly. Foie gras is a controversial ingredient at best, but the gyoza were rich in flavour and crammed full with the beef filling. The mushroom spring rolls, which didn’t sound very exciting, were gorgeous too, with plenty of flavour.

Japanese Woods

Bringing some drama was Japaense Woods. Served gently smoking (steaming? I wasn’t sure if it was dry ice or something else causing this, but it looked very cool), Japanese Woods is textures of salsify, charcoal grilled eel and black garlic. I didn’t really get this dish. It certainly looked impressive and the eel was very tasty, but the ‘bark’ type piece the toppings were laid on was an odd texture and mostly just tasted like burnt toast to me. It was the only misstep with the food though. Others around the table really enjoyed it though, so worth a try anyway.

Next, we were given dishes of some of the main menu to try. The Chilean Sea Bass is served with mandarin and ginger flower, in an enormous rice crisp. The wow factor of the look of this dish is fantastic and I loved how colourful they’d made a dish of white fish. Sea bass is a great fish, and this was very tasty. Well cooked, the strong flavour of the fish was allowed to speak for itself, which is always the best way I think.

The Sesame Otoro Tuna Tataki has a sesame and pine nut crust and is served with textures of apple and yuba. I love tuna like this, just barely seared. It was tender and delicious, with a nice added texture from the crust. The fish at Rofuto remains their strongest point, as I found before. The fish is treated with respect for it’s natural flavour and it makes for incredibly good dishes.

The Red Roast Baby Chicken, with water chestnuts, kumquat and master stock was very good too. The chicken was very juicy and was a generous portion, which I like to see. The rich colour of the sauce invited you to dive in, and the flavours lived up to that visual. There were also Korean Spiced Red Pepper Lamb Chops, which I didn’t get to try, as there weren’t quite enough to go around. Judging by how fast they were devoured though, they were clearly very good!

Finally, very nearly full to the brim, we were presented with a slightly unusual dessert. Miracle Berry is Yuzu Parfait with Togarashi Popcorn and Shiso Sorbet. I love sour flavours and this sharp dish was very refreshing after a big meal. The miracle berry itself has a surprise in store though. After a few minutes, the berry begins to trick your tastebuds into thinking that sour tastes sweet. It did make a little difference, and it was a fun touch that got us all talking.

Rofuto also has an excellent alcohol offering, with an extensive wine and cocktail list. The staff are very knowledgeable; several of them were happy to make suggestions for what we might enjoy from the cocktail menu (including making off menu mocktails for one blogger who was driving) and or came to talk us through each dish. The service at our table was very friendly, and I left very impressed by Rofuto. As when I went a year ago, the stylish atmosphere impressed me, and the sushi was just as good. I was very pleased to find the main menu now matches the sushi in it’s high quality.

Rofuto is not cheap, I admit, but you are getting one hell of an experience for your money, so I think worth it for a special occasion.

 

I was a guest of Rofuto, but all opinions are honest and my own and I paid for some of my own drinks. I also took lots of photos but my memory card ate them. Thank God for Richard Kiely and his beautiful photographs of the food! 

 

A Moment of Calm with Henny and Joe’s

Henny and Joe's

There’s an old saying that if you want something done, you should ask a busy person. I don’t know how true that is, but I think it’s probably true of bloggers. All the bloggers I know are always doing a million things at once. This week, I took a break from all the busy, and it’s been amazing. A few days off work is sometimes exactly what the doctor ordered, with a book, a hot drink and some sofa time.

Henny and Joe’s sent me a bottle of their award-winning Chocolate Chai to try out and it ended up being the perfect accompaniment to my chill-out days. I drink coffee by the gallon, but I’m careful about keeping my caffeine habit sensible; I don’t touch caffeine in the evenings and try to have some caffeine free days if I’m being feeling stressed out. Hand-made in Bath, the chocolate chai is totally caffeine free, and made a gorgeous, comforting latte.

Chocolate Chai

The chai is flavoured with cardomom, ginger, star anise, nutmeg, cloves, all spice, mixed spice, fennel seed and cinnamon. The first sip is lightly spiced and warming, with a sweet chocolate note after taste. The flavour is subtle and somehow soothing. The soft flavours definitely encourage you to sit back and focus on enjoying the drink rather than gulping it down while doing something else. I’ve been drinking it as a latte, but you can just mix the chai with hot or iced water to make regular or iced tea.

Give yourself a break (from life and from caffeine…). Trust me, you probably need it.

 

Henny and Joe’s sent me a bottle of their chai to review. All opinions are entirely honest and my own.