HanTing Cuisine was a favourite among fine dining lovers for many years and so we eagerly awaited the transformation to the new concept that chef Han Ji announced last year. Zheng – is the newly named restaurant. Serving contemporary Chinese cuisine in an innovative form.
Of course the question begs what Chinese cuisine really is. China’s many regions feature a great variety of cuisines that each hold their own, with specific flavours, cooking styles and use of ingredients. At restaurant Zheng, the chef honours the nation’s many treasures while serving dishes in a modern style.
The dining experience at restaurant Zheng is one where you’re fully submerged into the Chinese culture and artistry. A mix of culinary, history and art – so the hostess explains. Providing guests with a full-on exclusive experience is a new development that has taken over Asian countries in recent years. And it’s a trend that I’m sure is here to stay. In a time where online services can get you nearly everything in an instant, guests expect more than just food to go out the door for.
But the food is why you really come here. Beautiful historical artefacts are presented, accompanied by a short introduction of the region the chapter is inspired by. Each chapter has a theme and is served in 3 or 4 dishes, in traditional Chinese tableware. From golden cups to wine gourt plates and delicate Chinaware. It all makes perfect sense. A 6-chapter menu is recommended but you can always opt for more.
First off, I commend the chef for coming up with a new concept that is new to the Netherlands.
Second, it honours the Chinese culture in a way that I hope can broaden Dutch people’s knowledge about Chinese cuisine (which is mostly known for its fast food Chinatown side).
The dishes are what you can expect from the chef. Refined flavours, well balanced and elegantly presented. Chapters like the ‘Wine gourt’ chapter come with dishes featuring geoduck, razor scallops and seaweed. And ‘Zen life’, featuring yellowfin tuna belly, thousand year egg and jelly fish. Or ‘Emperor of China’, featuring abalone, monkey head mushroom and Chinese sea moss. Ingredients that will feel unknown to first-timers but particularly home-y to those Asian taste buds.
The tableware is stunning as well, adding to the whole experience of sending you to imperial times where you imagine this is how they feasted in the emperor’s court.
My table companion and I both eagerly await the sichuan chapter. When I visited my family in Beijing last year, the only restaurants they seemed to frequent were sichuan restaurants. It’s much of a trend in major Chinese cities and while the trend hasn’t taken on yet here, those in-the-know about the buzzing peppercorns know where to find their fix. And this chapter was a delightful satisfaction.
Dessert is served with chapters featuring hawthorn, white ear fungus, longan, coconut bubble tea and a lightly whipped mandarin mousse. Dishes that conclude the menus perfectly and leave you wanting more.
Zheng takes you on a journey through the mainland, to discover traditional dishes with a modern balance. It’s an updated take on Chinese cuisine in a sophisticated way. While some may find that the Chinese cuisine doesn’t need an update, it can be agreed upon that it’s especially in the Chinese gastronomy where new and contemporary flavours is still underdeveloped. There’s room for innovation in this part of Chinese cuisine and it is slowly finding its roots to our hearts – starting here in The Hague.
The next time I visit, I plan on taking my family with me. Chinese food is meant to be shared – especially when it’s enjoyable.