Alameda a la carte: Zen Asian Fusion

Alameda a la carte: Zen Asian Fusion

Denise Shelton
Zen Asian Fusion

Photo by Denise Shelton.

Review: Zen Asian Fusion Tapas and Lounge, 2315 Santa Clara Avenue

My visit to Zen Asian Fusion on a recent Monday night was spontaneous. We almost didn't go because it was Monday and, well, when you get your heart set on going somewhere, and then realize it's Monday and it's closed (as so many are) it's upsetting. Better to just decide not to go and avoid the grief. But my husband, genius that he is, thought to call and check and they were indeed open, so we slipped in an hour short of end of day.

The décor is chic: low light, comfortable, zen-like surroundings. There's even a statue of Buddah to contemplate. New age-y jazz plays in the background. A warm and attentive staff serves with competence and style. There is an array of sake cocktails and other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, soda, beer, and wine. The chef is skilled and inventive. There's always something new on the specials board. The prices are reasonable for a restaurant that's a step up on the fancy scale from your average Asian food place. Good value for what you get.

And yet, the place was empty.

In that last hour on Monday night, and possibly longer than that, my husband and I were the only customers in the place, and that really is a shame, because this place is fantastic. Now for all I know, they more than make up for that lull at other times, and I certainly don't mean to imply that this is a problem. I just think it's important to remember to support our local businesses. Not all of them can afford to advertise on a big scale. Even people who love them can forget about them. Feed your pet restaurants so they can continue to feed you.

So, back to business. We had a wonderful meal.

We started with what for us has become a must-have when dining at Zen, the sweet potato fries and dipping sauce, cooked to perfection. I also ordered one of the specials: ribs with a spicy mint sauce. The sauce that coated the ribs was tasty enough to forgo dipping altogether, but I'm glad I didn't. The additional seasoning kicked this dish up a notch. The gyoza, potstickers with a sesame soy sauce, were also very good.

There was an interesting array of sake cocktails and other Asian-themed drinks on the menu. My husband chose the Lost Hound, a refreshing mixture of soju (a Korean distilled beverage similar to sake), grapefruit and lime juice which he pronounced excellent, while I indulged in a glass of very nice Sauvignon Blanc from Robert Hall Winery.

For dinner, my husband ordered the chicken katsu – panko-crusted, dark meat chicken with katsu sauce, served with futokaki rice. It was so good, I kept sneaking spoonfuls away from him. So tasty!

Taking advantage what for me is a rare opportunity, I ordered the Manila clams and Prince Edward mussels in a creamy garlic sauce. It was served with wedges of toast to soak up all the garlicky deliciousness. The shellfish was fresh and there was a satisfying amount offered.

We did not order dessert, but we were tempted, especially by the Japanese toast, sweet toast topped with condensed milk, assorted fruits and vanilla ice cream and the tempura green tea ice cream. If those are too adventurous for you, I know from past experience that you can't go wrong with the crème brulee trio or the chocolate molten cake.

I'd also like to give a big thumbs up to the staff at Zen Asian Fusion who did not skimp on the quality or service, even though it was a slow night. If you haven't been there, you should check it out. If you have and enjoyed it, don't forget to go back!

New and Notable

Capone's Gets 5-Star Yelp Review Prior to Opening

An enthusiastic fan of the “idea” of the new nightspot Capone's Speakeasy has posted a five-star review on Yelp (http://www.yelp.com/biz/capones-speakeasy-alameda), but don't rush over there just yet. When I walked by today, things were still, shall we say, completely unfinished inside. If the outside is any indication however, this addition to the Park Street scene is certainly cause for excitement. How do you feel about a romantic dinner inside a bank safe? Better check to see if your date is claustrophobic before making this the big surprise.

Mama Papa Lithuania Opens Beer Garden

You can now sip some Svyturys in the great outdoors at Mama Papa Lithuania Restaurant. The entrance to the beer garden is outside to the right of the restaurant and down the alley. Currently, they are featuring “Happy Lithuanian Hour” from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. every Thursday. Svyturys “Extra” lager is specially priced at $3 and orders of fried Lithuanian rye bread can be had for $3 as well (regularly $5).

Who's Open on Mondays?

Here are just some of the Alameda restaurants that are open on Mondays:

Asena Restaurant
2508 Santa Clara Avenue
521-4100

Burma Superstar
1345 Park Street
522-6200

East Ocean Seafood Restaurant
1713 Webster Street
865-3381

Gold Coast Grill
1901 Park Street
522-5388

Habanas
1518 Park Street
521-0130

India Palace
737 Buena Vista Avenue
814-8778

Kamakura
2549 Santa Clara Avenue

Linguini's
1508 Park Street
Pizza: 521-2141 ext. 1
Pasta: 865-5101 ext. 1

Mama Papa Lithuania Restaurant and Tea House
1241 Park Street
522-4100

Otaez Mexican Restaurant
1619 Webster Street
(510) 521-9090

Pier 29
1148 Ballena Boulevard
865-5088

Scolari's (Park Street location only)
1303 Park Street
521-2400

Trabocco
2213 South Shore Center
521-1152

Yojimbo
1221 Park St
523-4120

Zen Asian Fusion Tapas and Lounge
2315 Santa Clara Avenue
521-7070