We’re no strangers to the culinary work of Chef Jordan Alexis Yap from ZEN By MEL

We were there for his first menu in 2022, when ZEN by MEL launched.

We’ve tried his dinner and lunch courses over the years.

But this time round, with the drop of the new menu, aptly called “Volume: Jordan”, things were… different.

Let’s just say, this new 11-course dinner is probably some of Chef Jordan’s best work yet at ZEN by MEL, a true representation of his flair for Japanese and Southeast Asian fusion cuisine.

Here’s what he served.

1. Akaebi, Wagyu/Scallop Tartare, Potage

These individual appetisers were served three at a go, presented beautifully on a single tray. Chef Jordan recommended we go for the Akaebi first, the tartare, then finishing with the potage.

It was love at first taste with the Akaebi. Citrusy fresh prawn with crunchy kerabu encased within a crisp pani puri shell, topped with a few fragrant drops of kaffir oil, what was not to love?

Between the wagyu and scallop tartare, we much preferred the latter. The scallop was fresh, but the flavourful fattiness of the wagyu was difficult to beat. 

These were dressed with Sicilian dressing, basil, and ume (Japanese plum) vinegar, topped with Iranian caviar (said to be the best in the world).

Where the previous two appetisers had a fresher mouthfeel, the potage was rich. The potato mille-feuille dipped in kelulut (stingless bee honey) chilli glaze and sesame seeds was buttery with just a hint of sweetened spice.

2. Maguro

This dish was smoked tuna served two ways. Finely chopped maguro was rolled up with sushi rice in nori, and we also enjoyed it nigiri style.

Both were served with a dash of Hainanese chilli crema. Combined, the flavours were homey and familiar.

3. Sweet corn soup

To Sarah’s surprise (our resident corn disliker), this hearty corn-based soup was one she happily drank up.

Local corn, baby corn, leek, and burnt onion had been combined and cooked down into a dark, rich broth that bloomed in sweetness once in the mouth.

Somehow, the complexity covered up the corn taste for Sarah which made it palatable for her, but as a corn lover, I swear you can actually still very much taste it.

Goji berries and Beijing dried scallops served to further add some saltiness and sweetness.  

4. Smoked chicken

This main consisted of spring chicken, malt, smoked jus, and beer. It was at this point in the meal when we pinpointed what was so different about this menu so far.

Gone was the high complexity of Chef Jordan’s past dishes, where it felt like too many techniques were fighting for dominance on one plate. 

In previous reviews, we had mentioned that there were too many elements on the plate, or commented on how a promising concept under-delivered.

This time, his dishes were much more balanced, and we might even go so far as to say humble. 

It was a pleasant change, and if you’re thinking that it’s not very fine dining of ZEN by MEL, well, you’re kind of right, but more on that later.

5. Halibut

Our next main was halibut, enjoyed for its mild and buttery flavour. Chef Jordan paired it with puttanesca, Kalamata olives, yuzu, young papaya (somtam), and elderflower.

According to him, this is a dish “six years in the making”, as it’s heavily inspired by a meal his mother used to make for him to lift his spirits.

Even with a slight kick, the overall dish felt very homey, and it easily cemented itself as our favourite savoury course of the night.

Other mains you can pick from include Steak Cut, Hokkaido Scallops, or Iberico Lamb, each one with different additional pricing.

6. Quack-nabe

Using Perak duck that was masterfully smoked and thinly sliced for a perfect balance of fat and meat, this dish was oh-so-delicious, we’d have licked the plates clean if we weren’t already so full. 

The duck tare, Japanese rice, shallots, and black bean vinegar came together to create an umami bomb in every spoonful. 

7. Ume sorbetto

We would’ve preferred it if the ume and raspberry flavours weren’t so overpowered by the sweetness, but otherwise, it acted well as a palate cleanser after all the savoury dishes.

The tartness also woke up our taste buds in preparation for what was one of the best ZEN by MEL desserts we’ve ever had, second only to Chef Liang’s chrysanthemum dessert.

8. Imperial matcha 2.0

The stars of this dessert were the ceremonial matcha, raspberry, and yoghurt, and boy, did they all shine on the stage together.

I’m normally not a matcha lover as I’m often put off by the vegetal taste, but I think this dessert made me realise that I’m just partial to really high-grade matcha.

On the left was the first iteration of the dessert we tried in 2022, where the filling got too thick and unbalanced the dessert. Version 2.0 was beautifully balanced throughout, creating harmonious flavours.

Ceremonial matcha is taken from the first harvest of the leaves, which means younger leaves and buds are used, resulting in a smoother and sweeter matcha.

Instead of a bitter or astringent flavour, it had a deliciously bold umami flavour that complemented the light and sweet cream inside. 

We were happy to see that the 2.0 version truly lived up to its name.

9. Forest gump

Served on an adorable forest-themed platter, this was another dessert that redeemed any of ZEN by MEL’s past lacklustre attempts.

On the left was an earlier attempt by ZEN by MEL to create chocolatey delights, but the outer shell of the chocolate was simply too thick. The ones in “Volume: Jordan” were much more well-executed.

We enjoyed the refined, thinner shells of these chocolate truffles much more. They cracked satisfyingly in our mouths, and the fillings were the right amount of sweetness.

Dark shroom was dark chocolate mixed with mushroom and truffle powder, while bandung lychee was sweet, familiar flavours, and the passionfruit one was nicely tart.

Change is on the horizon

Remember how we mentioned that this new menu of ZEN by MEL’s didn’t feel as fine dining as previous iterations?

It’s an intentional change, as the brand is shifting to be more welcoming to casual diners, with a goal of getting people to feel at home in its space.

In fact, Chef Jordan mentioned that they’re aiming to be more upscale izakaya style, where visiting ZEN by MEL doesn’t just have to be reserved for a special occasion.

Instead, it wants to be a place where walk-ins are welcomed. You can head on over for lunch with friends and family, and chat and laugh to your heart’s desire as you dine on good food, crafted by the chefs for you.

To witness ZEN by MEL’s metamorphosis in action, head over to try Volume: Jordan (RM288/pax for the 8-course dinner, or RM388/pax for 11-course dinner).


Address: F-10-01, Pusat Perdagangan Bandar, Persiaran Jalil 1, Bukit Jalil, 57000 Kuala Lumpur, Wilayah Persekutuan Kuala Lumpur

Contact: 011-5636 8875

Website: https://www.instagram.com/zenbymel/

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