I’ve never done a separate “revisited” review for a restaurant I’ve already reviewed before (I mean, I wrote about multiple visits to Husk in the same article), but if any restaurant deserved a second review, it’s Zen. Not just for the fact that I’ve been there literally 6 times in the past month, but also for the fact that their menu just has so much to choose from, and I really love the way they make their food and the way they interact with their customers. I always feel welcomed whenever I walk through the door. I’m going to summarize a few of the trips I’ve made over the months since my original review. One of the big influences to my decision to go to Zen is that during the Lenten season, I couldn’t eat meat on Fridays, so I was always craving sushi, and when I crave sushi, I go to Zen.
One Friday, most of my friends were out of town and my boyfriend was otherwise engaged in extreme nerd activities, I decided I’d visit Zen myself and try out sitting at the sushi bar. I’m not sure that I’ve ever actually gone to a sit-down restaurant alone before, so I was both excited and terrified. I of course ordered my standard Tuna Tini, but instead of going with my usual King’s Speech order, I decided to try out the roll of the night, the Kracken roll, in addition to a few specialty cocktails, mango mojito and red sangria. I enjoyed the Kracken roll, although I wasn’t really blown away by it. I guess I’m just spoiled by how much I love the King’s Speech and the Paradise roll. But I really liked the cocktails. They definitely gave you your money’s worth of alcohol, and the flavors really complemented each other in each of the drinks. I also made friends with one of the sushi chefs, Andy, who explained to me what all the different rolls were I saw them creating that other people had ordered and all the different tools they used to create the rolls. It was a totally different experience than sitting at a table, and I highly recommend you trying it at least once.
It’s pretty much an unspoken rule that we go to Zen whenever my mother is in town, and we usually try something new (in addition to our usuals) every time we go. Right after Valentine’s day, we went and decided to try a roll on the menu called the Avatar roll that had no rice or seaweed and was basically tuna wrapped around goat cheese and lobster salad topped with different color caviars. I kicked myself after I was done eating for not taking a picture of it. It was one of the most interesting things I’ve eaten there. I didn’t even mind that it wasn’t crunchy, since it wasn’t really chewy without the seaweed. I love it.
Ben and I ordered take out the Friday before I left for Alabama, which is probably the first time I’ve ever ordered sushi to go. I was interested to see how they made it work, especially since I was still going to order that tuni-tini (til the day I die! And even then, I’ll probably make sure they’re served at my funeral) and was unsure of how they were going to package it, and if it would be the same even when it wasn’t fancily plated. The tuna-tini came in a Tupperware container, and although I was sad to see it out of its happy martini glass, it still tasted just as good. The sushi was served in the same basic containers as you’d find them in the supermarket, which was pretty standard. It still had all the flavor and freshness as when it comes to you at the restaurant, which I was pretty impressed by. They even put the sauces that they’d usually decorate the plate with in a little plastic cup so you can still dip your sushi in it to get the full flavor profile the God of Zen intended.
The most recent time we went was with both of my parents on Good Friday. I’d like to shout out to Cindy (I have no idea if I’m spelling that right, I’m so sorry), whose family owns Zen and who’s taken the time to come chat with me almost every time I’ve come in there since I posted my first review. She’s one of the few restaurant owners who’s actually taken the time to read my review (yay! I’m famous!) and talk to me about my comments. She’s always so courteous and personable and I really enjoy talking with her when I visit. She made a special visit over to our table to explain in-depth the different specials they had that night. It was pretty easy to talk us into ordering the specials, she painted a picture with words that I couldn’t resist. As appetizers (in addition to the tuna-tini), we got crab rangoons, and the special of the night, which was a twist on traditional Chinese egg rolls. The egg rolls were stuffed with the typical cabbage mix you’d find in egg rolls, only instead of pork, they used king crab and shrimp. It was served with this sweet and tangy sauce that was really, really great. The idea of shrimp and crab in an egg roll was kind of strange to me, but it worked really well. In fact, I think I might even like it more than the traditional pork. After being so pleasantly surprised by their egg rolls, I think I might give some of their Chinese food options (orange chicken, since it’s my favorite) a try next time I visit.
The crab rangoons were really good as well, and were also served with a sauce that looked like the one that came with the egg rolls, but was a touch spicier, which I kind of liked better. I really liked the stuffing of the rangoons, and would have liked them to be stuffed fuller than they were. I felt like they kind of skimped on the filling a bit, which is a shame, because it was actually really delicious, especially with the sauce.
For my entrée, I tried the special roll of the night, the sunburst roll, at Cindy’s recommendation. I was not disappointed. The roll was basically spicy, crunchy yellow tail and cucumber wrapped in soy paper, topped with salmon, crab, and tuna, and a spicy honey sriracha pepper sauce and little white Chinese rice balls to add a bit of crunch. The roll was served more chilled than warm (which is different than most of the other rolls I order there that have tempura ingredients in them) which I actually found quite refreshing, especially since the rolls itself had a bit of a kick to it. I loved it. It would be the roll I ordered every time I went there, if it was a regular staple on the menu. Apparently the chef only makes a limited batch of the sauce, and I was lucky enough to snag the last sunburst roll of the night. Thank God for small miracles.
My mother got our standard King’s Speech Roll, because she loves it and also for just in case I didn’t love mine (which I did). I was glad because I still wanted a bite of the King’s Speech because it’s so delicious. The King’s Speech is Shrimp Tempura with Fresh Green Apple inside, topped with Alaskan King Crab Salad & Red Tobiko in Honey Wasabi, Eel & Sweet Mango Sauce. It’s amazing.
I also tried their white sangria during this visit, which is made with Yellowtail cabernet sauvignon, St. Germaine elderflower liqueur, and mangoes. I really liked it, and my mom got kind of obsessed, even going so far as to buy all the ingredients to try and recreate it for our Easter dinner (it didn’t really turn out anything like it, but it was still delicious).
With the regularity that I visit Zen and their penchant for creating new and unique sushi dishes (and the sheer amount of non-sushi options I’ve yet to try on the menu) leads me to say with relative confidence that you should probably expect a third review in a few months. They’re just that good. Also, on a completely unrelated note, I’m in love with Instagram. I think it makes my cell phones pictures look 100% less ghetto. What do you think? (It actually doesn’t matter to me whether you like it or not… I like it, and I only just got it, so I’m going to keep using it, so there). Also, I love that when you google image search “Zen Asian Fusion,” the pictures from my first blog are on the 1st page of results. Ballin’
Bottom Bottom Line: Get the sushi. TUNA TINI. Drink lots of white Sangria.
Zen Asian Fusion
2037 Sam Rittenberg Boulevard
Charleston, SC 29407-4601