Named after the Japanese word for “peace,” this restaurant is a go-to. Intense flavors, courageous combinations, and a suave atmosphere make Zen the place to go when you are looking for zen.
Zen stands tall with its head high on State Street next to very popular restaurants like Aperitivo and Johnny’s.
Upon entering the restaurant, my party and I were greeted by an accommodating hostess allowing us to choose where we sat.
It’s a chill, dim environment, spiced up with an Asian flair by a Buddha statue hanging in the corner and Japanese paper balloons plastered on the walls. Scenic candles and other ornaments further enhance the Asian vibe. The menu was very extensive, and we ordered a lot of food; good food.
As an appetizer we ordered the edamame, lettuce wraps, the spring rolls, miso soup, and the ginger salad. We popped the addicting edamame like candy. It was just as salty and tasty as edamame should be. Lettuce spears carried crunchy rice noodles and sweet and savory chopped chicken. The neutral flavor of the rice noodles and gentle flavor of the lettuce showcased the delectable, perfect-consistency chicken. The rice noodles also added a great textural component.
The finger-sized spring rolls were lightly fried, golden on the outside and had crunchy vegetables on the inside, just the way I like it. It came with refreshing duck sauce that added the perfect level of sweetness, with a whisper of spice. The miso soup was basic miso soup, nothing special. The ginger salad was a basic garden salad with a hypnotizing ginger sauce. The sweet and tangy dressing was creamy, somewhat resembling French dressing. Ultimately, when at Zen, go crazy on the appetizers.
For the main course, I had shared the hibachi chicken and shrimp and the sesame chicken. It came in a beautiful rectangular bento box. In one larger corner there were small cubes of perfectly cooked and seasoned chicken and shrimp. In another corner was half a sphere of sticky rice. The rice was very average, nothing special. In another corner were grilled vegetables, zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, and onions. All of the veggies were sprinkled with sesame seed and salt and a light hibachi sauce that brought the veggies to life. The meal came with two sauces: ginger hibachi and seafood hibachi. The seafood hibachi sauce is deliciously sweet and salty, while the ginger hibachi sauce had a very overpowering soy flavor.
The sesame chicken was golden brown goodness. Crunchy and wholesome white meat chicken dowsed in classic sesame sauce. Green light for the sesame chicken.
I rarely get dessert, but when I do it better be damn good. This dessert was damn good. We got several orders of their famous Mochi ice cream. Mochi is soft ice cream with an elegant rice skin. I tried the vanilla and the green tea flavors. The vanilla came with a chocolate sauce and the green tea came with caramel sauce. It tasted like really good ice cream with marshmallow glued on. The trick is to wait two minutes before diving in so the ice cream can melt a little bit. Then and only then, the bite is instantaneous euphoria.
The service was excellent. The waitress brought out drinks immediately, the appetizers came in five minutes, and the main course came ten minutes after that.
Overall, when you’re debating whether to go to Zen, the answer is hell ya!