ZenQ Desserts – Chatswood
Last Wednesday night my friend F and I met up with Ebony from PPR to check out the new Asian dessert cafe in Chatswood! ZenQ comes from the same parent company as my true love, Chatime – and specialises in traditional Tawianese-style desserts. Their new store in Chatswood Westfield is the first ZenQ store outside of Asia – they also have stores in Taiwan, Taipei, Hong Kong and Macau.
The store is incredibly busy when I arrive – a huge line of people snakes out the door. Most people seem to be ordering takeaway desserts though, and once we walk through the door into the spacious cafe we have no problem finding seats.
Despite working in the North Shore, I don’t often get the chance to visit Chatswood! So I rely on my friend F for her insider knowledge, and it surprises me when F comments on the lack of Asian dessert options in the area! Sure enough, there’s a Bread Top, a 85˚C Cafe and a Ten Ren Tea place – but none serving these traditional sweets – which is probably why the ZenQ cafe seems so popular!
After spending a few minutes poring over the menu – we decide to get a few different desserts to share. The menu is split into: Grass Jelly, Barley Soup, Pudding, Red Bean Soup, Black Glutinous Rice Soup, Sago/Black Pearl Soup, Pudding, Honey Toast, Shaved Ice, Snow Ice…. PHEW! You can create your own dessert too from a selection of sweet bases. I like how there are lots of pictures to let me know what we’re ordering.
First up is the matcha shaved ice with red bean and icecream:
Matcha Shaved Ice with Red Bean, Condensed Milk and Icecream $8.80
I’m glad I’m here with 2 other people because it looks like these desserts are definitely meant to be shared!! The shaved ice has a good matcha (green tea) flavour, and comes drizzled with sweetened condensed milk. Despite the size, it’s a pretty light and refreshing dessert.
Grass Jelly with ZenQ Signature Q Ball and Pearl – $6.20
We order the signature dessert of grass jelly, sago and Q-ball (ZenQ’s name for those little glutinous dumplings). The portion is definitely not nearly as large as that at Meet Fresh, but that’s ok for me because I find the Meet Fresh portions to be overwhelmingly large!
Instead of plain ice which can dilute the dessert, it’s kept chilled by a scoop of grass jelly granita – smart and tasty too. I love grass jelly, and always order it in my Chatime drinks – but I’m surprised by how much I love the Q-balls! They’re smoother and have a bit more bite to them than those at Meet Fresh. I have to admit I couldn’t really tell the difference between the different flavours (they come in matcha, taro and sweet potato flavour) – but that could be because I’m eating it together with the stronger tasting grass jelly.
Next up is the Mango Danish honey toast – which I had seen iterations of when visiting Japan last year, but had never worked up the courage to try!!
Mango Danish Honey Toast – $16.80
Ker-azyyyy!! I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve never really considered bread to be a dessert – but I love being proved wrong!! Plus Asian reinterpretations of western foods just tickle my fancy.
Though it seems like the end of a bread loaf – the Danish honey toast does taste (surprisingly) like a danish. It’s crunchy and croissanty – sweet and buttery. The topping is a hodgepodge of whipped cream, custard, fresh blueberries and strawberries, marshmallows, sprinkles, mango (I saw one of the servers peeling fresh mangos in the window before I walked in, but it reminds me more of the mango you get inside mango pancakes at yumcha), mint leaves and finally – two crunchy chocolate cigars. It’s incredibly over the top but lots of fun.
Lastly is the crowning glory…. the Strawberry Honey Toast:
Strawberry Lover Honey Toast $16.80
Double crazy!!! The strawberry honey toast is made from a light rye bread. Our server opens the loaf to reveal…
LITTLE TOASTS!! The inside of the loaf has been cut into fingers and individually toasted before being restacked into the bread crust like Jenga!! You pull them out with a fork and dip them in the strawberry icecream/cream/custard on top.
A+ for novelty and dessert absurdity! And the taste? Surprisingly, the crunchy and subtly salty bread makes quite a nice contrast to the icecream. It reminds me a bit of dipping hot chips into soft serve (a favourite past-time of mine)
ZenQ is no doubt going to be compared to the ultra-popular Asian dessert store, Meet Fresh. Though I think Meet Fresh is probably still better value, the key difference between the two is in presentation and menu – plus the added novelty of the Honey Toast desserts.
I have to admit that even though I’m Asian and have been raised eating traditional Asian desserts, I still find Meet Fresh a bit intimidating at times… and it’s clear that ZenQ has taken Western tastes into account when adapting their menu for the Australian market. Though this probably makes them a bit less authentic than Meet Fresh – it’s kind of nice to see options like watermelon shaved ice, and mango danish toast on the menu for the less daring diner making their first foray into Asian desserts.
PS. If you hurry they’re doing a competition in store to win free desserts for a year! Just fill in a form at ZenQ Chatswood and tell them your favourite dessert, and why you love ZenQ in 25 words or less. Entries close Oct 15th. Good luck!!
crunchytiger dined as a guest of PPR and ZenQ
Shop 233, Chatswood Westfield (Entrance via Victoria Avenue)
ph: (02) 9411 6882