G Zen Up, HunGer Down...
Myth: All vegan restaurants have grilled tofu that taste like...well...grilled tofu, save the whale signs on the walls and 'COEXISTS' stickers shaped with the worlds religious symbols on the door. The waitress greet you with an Americanized accented NAMASTE and wear hand knitted aprons. They have no style, elegance or class.
The reality is the myth was often the reality 25 years ago; not that there's anything wrong with grilled tofu or namaste. Enter from stage left- G Zen (not to be mistaken for Go Zen). Located at 2 East Main Street, in the small rural-urban town of Branford, CT. This place has style, character, REAL food, wine, and class; not to mention a really interesting menu.
We entered what look liked a place that belonged in the Georgetown section of Washington DC or maybe a block or two off of Michigan Ave in Chitown. I wanted to order a glass of chardonay, of which I don't drink, and crack open a novel, of which I never read (I'm more of fact finder). But this place was comfortable, warmly lit, and could inspire you to engage in posh behaviors you don't typically partake in.
The greeter was pleasant, as was the waitress. They were down to Earth and not stuffy or full of themselves. We had a great time at G Zen-great food, great conversation, great drinks, great atmosphere. Check the critique
Sublime Vegan Nachos- house-made corn tortilla chips with spicy black bean chili,
fresh made salsa, guacamole, Kalamata olives, scallions, tofu sour crème and melted vegan mozzarella cheese. I know what you're thinking, but these are the best nachos I ever tasted even from my pre-vegan life. What stands out was the freshness of all of the ingredients and the amazingly rich flavors in the chilli. The olives tasted jarred, not canned. The cheese is of my preferred brand, Daiya. My only criticism is that a mexican style cheese could be used; i.e. Cheddar or house made queso. Report - The best nachos. The best. A.
G-Fries- hand cut sweet potatoe fries served with house made hickory smoked ketchup. If you've read my previous reviews you know I'm a rich sauce condiment guy. This ketchup would make a rice cake taste like a flame broiled angus burger. The fries didn't eat like a simple fast food. The sweet potato wasn't excesively sweet, had a great crunch, and great texture. Done well. Report - Excellent. A.
New Orleans Creole Tempeh - Organic seasoned tempeh with caramelized onions, re-roasted pepper Creole sauce, mashed potatoes, sautéed local organic greens & house-made corn bread. Good Tempeh is hard find. This dish was well done. The tempeh was reminiscent of a southern style catfish flavor. The crusted seasoning made it fun to eat and the roasted pepper sauce was 'that work!' The mash was smooth and done well, but not something I'd write home about. I typically avoid cornbread unless its pan seared...guess what? Indeed, it had the crisp I prefer and had a good balance of salt and sugar. The greens were fresh and the chef allowed the natural flavor of the leaf to speak for itself. Report - Not the most elegant looking plate, but the chef knows what he's doing. Some elements tasted good and some tasted great. That averages out to a B in my book.
Kama Sutra - Sweet potato, broccoli & vegetables simmered in a creamy coconut curry with local “Bridge tofu”, diced tomatoes, fresh lemongrass & cashews served over organic brown rice. Rich, hearty, well cooked vegetables. Strong plate. The lemongrass puts a nice spin on the curry and cream sauce. I would've preferred a batsmati rice over the brown, but the medley of flavor more than made up for it. Report - B
Coconut Love Cake
Vanilla & coconut infused white cake with coconut creme frosting and shredded coconut. Garnished with a raspberry coulis. The cake was very dense so we ordered a scoop of organic vanilla 'nice' cream made from cashews, which helped. The coulis gave the dessert an added layer of complexity. The 'nice' cream was smooth and you could taste the organic vanilla bean. It reminded me of a time when vanilla ice cream was ice cream and only had 3 or 4 ingredients; milk, vanilla bean, sugar, and cream. Report - The coulis and the scoop of vanilla boost this grade to a B. All the flavors were on point. If the pastry chef adds a little vinegar to her/his batter to lighten the cake, my next grade will be an A.
Organic Zen-gria - Pomegranate and mixed berry sangria with organic wines, infused with fresh fruits and fruit juices. Served in a classic mason jar, garnished with fresh mint and organic fruit slices. Refreshing and fruit filled with a decent kick. I enjoyed this chilled red during the meal. Not very sweet as far as sangria goes, but worth a try, Report - B-
|Place||Location||B||Remote in a way, but I like that.|
|Parking||C-||Residential area with no true dedicated parking of it's own|
|Restaurant Atmosphere||B+||Cool, flexible atmosphere. You can go casual or more formal and enjoy yourself just the same|
|People||Service (Hostess, wait time, correct order, etc)||B||Quality. The wait time isn't exactly short, but they're very accommodating|
|Fellow Customers||B+||Sound seems to be absorb pretty good, so conversations still feel personable and private|
|Food||Presentation||C+||They something to be desred. Plating could be better|
|Originality||B+||The thought and effort put into the dishes is clear!|
|Taste||A-||Very very good stuff|
|Nutrition/Ingredients||A||Organic, little soy and soy alternatives are available. The same is true for wheat gluten.|
|Price||Appetizer/Starters Price Range||B-||Pricey, but with the care put into the food and flavors you shouldn't complain|
|Entrees Price Range||B+||Not bad considering the fact you're getting the best possible ingredients and its all right and exact (meaning healthy)|
|Drink Prices||A||crafts are $6, original sake-tinis and wines are priced as I would expect $7.50 to $14,00; still cheaper than a glass of Glenlivet!|
If you want outstanding vegan food and more than just 'mock meats', then visit this small town spot with the big city flavor and metropolitan menu. Sustainable, organic, plant based cuisine that's worth the trip and the pocket change.