If there's one cuisine that I can confidently say that I am most familiar with, it would definitely be the Chinese cuisine. Growing up with a family who loves to cook just as much as we love to eat, my taste buds have grown accustomed to the popular and quite exotic Chinese dishes known to man. There's the crunchy, tasty jellyfish, the salty and expensive bird's nest soup and of course, the fried and sarap-to-the-bones frog legs.
Don't get me wrong though, we also have a lot (and I really mean A LOT) of wonderful dishes that we are proud of. Among my favorites are the kiampung(salty glutinous rice with pork and peanuts), the hakao (crystal shrimp wrapped in rice wrapper) and the kapsong (minced pigeon wrapped in lettuce and topped with fried bihon noodles with a bit of hoisin sauce drizzled on top).
Too familiar with the Chinese cuisine that I tend to be very picky when dining in a Chinese restaurant. Therefore, I guess it's just normal to have my own doubts when my colleagues and I first tried Zong at the Fort Strip, this restaurant has a very modern feel which is very much different from a typical chinese restaurant in town. Long tables and bench-like chairs fill up the restaurant as opposed to the traditional big round tables with red table clothes. The menu is a big laminated board with food items in English. No need for a translator here!
Erasing all my doubts
Ok, the interior's different, now what about the food?
My colleagues and I got my favorite dimsum as starters. The hakao (P108 est), though looks very easy to make, entails a special skill to perfect. The shrimp should remain to be crispy and fresh while the wrapper should not tear when being picked by the chopsticks nor should it be too hard to bite on. Believe it or not, only a handful of Chinese restaurants here in the Philippines can be proud of their hakao. Zong's version is pleasant, nothing spectacular and not a disappointed either. I love the perfect texture of the wrapper but still find the shrimp to be lacking in crunch.
When the menus were handed out to us, colleague#1 left the ordering to me and to colleague #2 but with one request which is to order the salt and pepper squid. Sharing the excitement and curiosity, we immediately placed his order in. I wonder how good Zong's version is that it was obviously my friend's favorite dish here? Good thing, service was really fast that I didn't have to wonder for long. One bite of the squid and I immediately understand why this was my colleague's favorite. Bite after bite, I savored the salty, sweet and spicy flavor of the batter that coats the squid. The squid has just the right amount of softness. No rubbery texture present. If only I wasn't nursing a bad cough, that day, I would have probably dipped my squid in vinegar to get that perfect sourness that would complement the yummy deep-fried flavor.
Just when I can proudly say that I have succesfully went rice-less for a month, then we ordered Zong's Yang Chow Fried Rice (P198 est). One thing I love about the rice is that it actually tastes like rice. Believe it or not, we've been to a number of Chinese restaurants where we highly doubt that the rice used in their fried rice is indeed (at most!) a day old but instead it feels or rather tastes like a week old! *ugh*
The second thing I love about Zong's fried rice is the non-existence of green peas! Hooray!Ok, here's a confession. I do not like green peas *gag* In fact, I've acquired a skill to successfully remove every single green pea, even the tiniest one, from a huge bowl of fried rice and carefully line them all up side by side on my plate. How's that for show and tell? :)
Lastly, I love it because its simple and uncomplicated. Their fried rice took a back seat in the flavor section to be the perfect partner for their dishes. This made taking a break from my no-rice diet definitely worth it!
Needless to say, Zong has successfully erased all my doubts and has won me over being a trendy restaurant that serves really good traditional Chinese dishes. I can't wait to go back and try their other best-selling dishes but definitely, the squid will be part of the list!
Zong is located at the Fort Strip, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig and at the TriNoMa Mall, Quezon City.