CityZen: Innovative cuisine, arresting décor

CityZen is the perfect special-occasion restaurant — a must-dine for all of your spring needs, whether it’s a graduation in the family or your own wedding engagement.

Tucked into a quiet corner of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, the restaurant serves classic American food with a modern twist. As it offers a tempting array of savory dishes to please any taste, be prepared to arrive hungry and ready for artistic preparations of your dinner.

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Chef Eric Ziebold’s best creations are the dinner rolls served with the main course. These pint-sized bites of heaven are served warm and buttery and are so addictive, you can’t eat just one. Do not fear, though; each table gets at least a dozen.

CityZen is a restaurant based on tasting menus or prix fixe menus. Guests have a choice of a six-course chef’s tasting menu for $110 (if you’re interested in wine pairings add an additional $75), a vegetarian menu for  $95 or a three-course menu for $80.

For those who wish to save on cash, three courses are perfect. Come early and have a cocktail before you begin your meal, as CityZen offers what they call “concoctions,” like the Sex and the CityZen, made with vodka, raspberry puree, triple sec and house-made sour; or the Basil Maiden — vodka, basil water, Lemoncello, simple syrup and fresh lemon, topped with soda water.

There’s also seven “classics,” including the sazerac and a proper martini.

After making your way past the bar decorated with flames dancing across the bottles of liquor, you enter the main dining room, which includes an open kitchen to watch the chefs work their magic. The cream of globe artichoke soup served over crispy rock shrimp with pequillo peppers was spectacular. Shrimp is brought out lined up neatly in a bowl and the soup is poured over the shrimp, soaking them in the artichoke’s rich flavor.

The confit of North Atlantic octopus is also a must. The sophisticated version of the calamari you’re used to, it’s served with fingerling potato confit, preserved Meyer lemon, Italian parsley and bottarga del mullet, which is the dried egg sac from a mullet fish (viewed as a delicacy in Italy for years, it’s incredibly tasty).

Entrees for the three-course tasting menu sampled included the crepinette of Florida red snapper, roasted Elysian Fields Farm lamb ribeye and Midwestern beef. The snapper was served with caramelized savoy cabbage, applewood smoked bacon pearl onions and grain mustard sauce and had just enough bacon sprinkled into the dish. Don’t be wary of the dish if you aren’t a cabbage fan, as it is sweetened just enough that the strong cabbage flavor is diminished.

The lamb ribeye is served crispy with baby turnips and toasted farro. The mille feuille of prime Midwestern beef is served with some of the most delicious béarnaise sauce one could imagine. It’s quite reminiscent of your mother’s or grandmother’s beef-and-béarnaise sauce Sunday dinners as a child.

Be sure to save room for dessert, as CityZen’s are creative, fun and sweetly sinful. Biting into the banana fritters with crème brulee ice cream and mocha coulis, your mouth is met with the tantalizing combination of warm bananas with hot mocha coulis melting the ice cream.

The honey-crisp apple tartin is a great choice for those not as interested in chocolatey dishes. Served with Banyuls ice cream and apple cider reduction, it’s a sophisticated take on traditional American apple pie.

After your meal, wander out to the hotel lobby for free music and an after dinner drink to close out your evening.

For more information on CityZen, visit mandarinoriental.com.