My pal T Mc, saw an online group buy for Zen a few months ago. She emailed me and asked if I would go with her. She said it's her one of her best friend's absolute favourite place. I too have heard a lot of North Van and West Van folks RAVE about this place. Zen has a great reputation with locals and on their website, they list many Vancouver restaurant awards they have won. I'm always up for a food adventure, especially one that's made more affordable with a discount of some kind ;)
Zen is quite west in West Vancouver, way past Lonsdale, closer to the massive West Van rec centre. Zen is tucked away from the street, and surprisingly large once you walk down the narrow glassed entry. The room is clean, modern, with a nice view. Service was friendly. None of the bussers and servers were Japanese, but the chefs behind the sushi bar were.
The menu is MASSIVE. We took a long time to decide on our meals...but we were also having a pretty in depth catch up chat. This menu is chock full of delicious-sounding, creative, and inventive dishes. But reviewing the menu, I couldn't help but feel sticker shock at the high price tags. Their "Zen Original Rolls" range from $9.95-16.95. Their Zen Chirashi Sashimi Bowl rings in at $29.95. Even a basic California Roll is $6.95.
Kimchi Yaki Udon ($10.95) Stir fried udon with pork and kimchi. This was the last thing I expected to order when planning to visit Zen but, man, it was a good choice. The flavours were well balanced and the dish was well sauced. The acidity and bite from the kimchi kept the dish bright and worked well with the thick, heavy noodles and pork. There were plenty of veggies in the mix too with onions and mushrooms. This was a large portion, I took some home. Warning: Kimchi Yaki Udon is delicious but smelly. It smelled up my car and then my fridge at home. But it was delicious so it was worth it.
Although I don't think my boyfriend would agree!
We also split a roll from the Zen Original Roll section, a Lighthouse Roll ($9.95) assorted vegetables rolled in soya wrap topped with sweet sesame garlic ponzu. This was light, fresh, tasty with a nice pop of acidity from the bright ponzu sauce. It was definitely different from the standard sushi roll. No fish, no rice, no seaweed wrap. T Mc didn't love this roll.
Shiso Salmon ($8.95) tempura style japanese shiso stuffed with seasoned sockeye salmon. Shiso is an asian herb from the mint family. T Mc let me try this and it was really good. The heavy crispy crunch and slight oily-ness from the tempura was brightened by with bite from the refreshing shiso.
Smoked Salmon Sashimi ($3.00 each)
From the Maki Roll Selection, Chicken Teriyaki Roll ($8.95) I didn't try this roll and apparantly it was good but not amazing.
I feel like that sums up Zen....for the prices, you expect amazing food. Yes, everything tasted great and you can tell they use quality ingredients, but other than my udon dish which I felt was priced in line with other Japanese restaurants in Vancouver, everything else was pricey for what it delivered. In this case, it definitely feels like you are paying more, just being in West Vancouver.