Friday, April 6, 2012

Celebrating a Milestone at Zong

After a glorious three-month hiatus in the States, the New Yorker and I came back from our vacation, refreshed and ready to take over the world! With a core team of talented and dedicated friends-cum-partners, we put up Schmuzter, a social media one-stop shop, whose goal is to un-market your brand (this is a good thing!) and start the social schmuvolution in the Philippines!

If you have, or work for, a company whose online presence needs a push in the right direction, don't know what the hell social media is, didn't realize you had a Twitter account. or hate your Facebook fan page, we're here to hold your hand, help you through it, and make sure your brand is all people talk about on the social webosphere!

So in celebration of our first quarter milestone, most of the team met up at Zong (the New Yorker is in, well, New York), at the Fort Strip, for a celebratory lunch after our Monday Skype meeting.

The restaurant itself is a bit of a conundrum - it's your typical Chinese restaurant, but not quite. First off, although the restaurant is huge (which apparently,by Chinese standards, is normal), with tables and chairs arranged to accommodate whole families, the auxiliary familym and their clan members (also totally normal), with the way everything is spaced out, you don't feel like you're being crammed in a corner (not normal - but in a good way!). You know what I mean if you've been to Chinese restaurants like the Peking or Emerald Gardens.

Interior designer, N. Jardenil, did a really good job of decorating the place, keeping a few traditional Chinese accents, yet making sure the space was chic and casual.

Second, is that their food is MSG-free - they don't skimp on the quality of the dishes or load it up with artificial crap that make you hungry again after two hours. Zong has definitely upped the bar for the local Chinese restaurants around the Metro. Why else do you think they have so many awards? Because they're pure awesome.

We were all supposed to meet at 1pm, so being that I lived 10 minutes away, I was there on time. The rest of the guys were coming from Mandaluyong, and because they were all waiting for one another, were late.

So there I was, sitting at the table - all by lonesome, in the middle of the lunch rush - for a good 30 minutes. I got hungry.

Looking through the dimsum list for something I liked, I settled for the Prawn Hakao (P178) and a Mango Shake in a cold, tall glass (obviously not part of the dimsum list) while I waited for the rest of the team. The shake, was noticeably thick and rich (read: you get what you pay for at this joint), and the hakao was surprisingly, well... big!

Plucking a piece off the steamy bamboo basket with my chopsticks, the delicate homemade rice flour dumpling case fell apart from my clumsy poking and prodding. There were two pieces of good-sized fresh shrimp in each delicate dumpling, along with bits of scallions and other veggies that disappeared into my spicy dipping sauce of chili, calamansi juice and soy.

The rest of the guys finally trooped in a couple of minutes later, while I was in the middle of my indecent affair with the hakao dumpling. After they had settled in, we set out the almost impossible task of ordering lunch.

Nah, we all kind of knew what we wanted - the almost impossible part of the task was knowing when to stop ordering. We were on a company budget, after all.

I ordered the Jellyfish Salad with Century Duck Eggs (P188), but with just the jellyfish and ixnaying the century duck eggs. The waitstaff was pretty cool about it. I'm not a huge fan of the taste of dirt, which is what century egg tastes like in my opinion (a black, gelatinous, earthy-tasting oddity), but I do like the chewy bite of jellyfish, and the sauce it usually comes in. It's a typical Chinese dish that was served with a light sesame based dressing, also called "Sea Blubber" over at Peking Garden (I just had to share, them Peking Garden folks make it sound so damn weird).

The Schmuze Operator, wanting a bit more dimsum for his tum, got the Pork Siu Mai (P168) - special ground pork wrapped in a flour dumpling topped off with fish roe. It looked fantastic! I didn't get to taste this (it disappeared as soon as it hit the table), but then again, it wouldn't disappear as fast as it did if it wasn't any good, and no one seemed to be complaining of sub-par tasting siu mai.

Their Hot Prawn Salad (P448) is a hands down favorite and one of Zong's best sellers - battered prawns served with a sweet mayo sauce, cucumbers, carrots, and candied cashews. I can't put my finger on why this dish is so addicting. The first time I saw this on the menu, alarms went off off in my head, "It's warm mayonnaise with cucumbers and carrots... that's très bizarre!" But the prawns were just so inviting, I couldn't help but close my eyes and take a bite. I have never looked back since.

The Schmuze Operator and the others celebrated with a big bottle of Tsing Tao Beer. Nix forced me to take a sip and try it, but it just made me wrench. Personally, I find beer to be an acquired taste, which (un)fortunately, I never acquired. I was pretty happy with my bad ass mango shake, anyway.

As we were at a Chinese restaurant, it would be almost sacrilegious if we did not order rice. Yang Chow Fried Rice (P288) is the default, go-to rice, when one is looking for fried rice that is "safe". It has shrimp, therefore, it will taste good. On the actual menu it says fried rice with pork asado,shrimp, egg, onion rings and asparagus. All I cared for was the bits of shrimp.

I'm not a fan of dark meat, but the Chicken in Salted Egg Yolk (P438) was pretty good. A bit too salty for my taste (or maybe because I have little to no salt in my diet anymore), but the pan fried leg quarters were crispy, and there wasnt much bone to eat around. I would've gone for the Lemon Chicken myself, but only because there was no Kung Pao Chicken on the menu. Why is there no Kung Pao Chicken on the menu?!

Wanting something else other than pork or beef, preferably with vegetables, we got an order of XO Stir-Fried Cuttlefish (P428). The cuttlefish sat atop steamed broccoli florets, and were sliced into thin layers, covered with the not-at-all-spicy XO sauce. It didn't really stand out in terms of flavor, but it was still pretty good, fresh, and surprisingly filling. Nix and I ate most of this, I think - the guys were mostly about the fried chicken.

We're working really hard on our little baby, and are seeing great progress! We've met a lot of really cool people along the way, and have become good friends with our clients whose brands we manage.

Cheers to hard work as well as the teamwork, and for more success to come!

The Fort Strip, Bonifacio Global City
Taguig City
+63 2 889 0472, +63 2 889 0479
Monday - Sunday: 11am - 3pm and 6pm - 11pm