To show her appreciation of me and us, my queen treated me to a show and a meal. Actually, it was a meal and a show, but the order of the events isn’t important. We were set to see a concert that we knew would extend to the later hours, so we planned to grab a quick bite near the venue. After making great time weaving through the New York traffic, we had a change of plans and decided to, instead, have a quick sit down at one of our more coveted vegetarian spots. We rushed in from the cold night into a tight bustling corner of the veggie world only to find it stacked with cool veggie seekers and backed up with soon-to-be patrons in the waiting section.
"It'll be a 20-minute wait, ok?" the hostess informs.
"No problem" I respond. "We're just gonna step outside for a sec."
We squeezed out of the joint to never return again that night. We knew of another vegetarian restaurant not far from our original choice. It was a good place. Good food. Good Price. Vegetarian. We walked to the spot and before we got there, we took notice of the obvious changes. What we knew as Vegetarian Paradise II was no more. Well at least not in the location we were accustomed to it being in. I hear it will be back in full effect by the end of February. Anyway, the location at 144 W 4th Street is now occupied by the restaurant Go Zen. So, we went Zennin'.
The atmosphere in Go Zen was similar to what we were accustomed to. It's tight, quaint space. Perfect for quick meetups before taking in a show or a fast lunch with a friend you hardly get the opportunity to see. While there was nothing in the air that deterred us from having our meal, it wasn't exactly the most pleasant fragrance. There was a combination of the smell of Asian cuisine and cleaning materials. I much prefer that as opposed to the smell I encountered in other places in my day; so, we sat. The lights were dim, but hardly a romantic scene, more of a casual look. The waitress that served us that evening was upbeat...maybe even hyper. Ok, borderline annoying, but she was far from rude.
The menu has some interesting dishes, if we're judging by name. We tried to sample all we could in the time we allotted. Here's my report on the dishes I experienced:
Crispy Soul Nuggets - a crispy breaded soy protein. a mock chicken nugget of sorts. The flavor will remind you of the nuggets from Vegetarian Paradise (both One and Two). The only real difference is Go Zen's nuggets were smaller and thinner for the same price, which left me only slightly disappointed since the thought of such a huge hunk of shredded soy never had an overwhelming appeal to me; regardless of how tasty it is. Report: Tasty, but not an original recipe all the way down to the dipping sauce and lesser for your buck than their predecessor. B-
Yam and Yucca Fries - Just as it sounds, French fries from yams and yucca. They had a decent crisp to them, and the oil seemed pretty fresh. Unfortunately, we received one (1) yam fry and the rest of the order were yucca fries, which were dense and needed a lighter oil to really give it a fresher taste. Report: A interesting fry alternative, but not the success it should've been. C+.
Ginger Sauteed Vegetable Plate - This seems like a dish that's tasty in every Asian cuisine style. I never met an Asian style broccoli that I found inedible and that hasn't changed; however, this dish, which was mostly broccoli left much to be desired. The ginger was missing and the flavored just wasn't there like I would've preferred. The vegetables were fresh at least. C+
Sauteed Udon - Udon noodles, mixed vegetables in a teriyaki sauce. The noodles were of the very thick variety. I'm not a fan. The noodles seemed boiled and then stir fried with the vegetables which gave them an extra chewy texture. The vegetables were fresh, but the teriyaki was weak. I took the leftovers home and took a defibrillator to the dish to bring it back to life. They should sell my version instead. C-
See Go Zen's RDR Report Card below.
|Place||Location||B||The bustle of Midtown can be good or bad.|
|Parking||C-||No lot and its Manhattan. Need I say more?|
|Restaurant Atmosphere||C||Some tables are better than others,|
|People||Service (Hostess, wait time, correct order, etc)||C-||Average wait time. I received the wrong order|
|Fellow Customers||B||It was at full capacity, but didn't cause claustrophobia|
|Food||Presentation||C-||The expectations aren't high, but still lack luster by my expectations|
|Originality||C+||Malaysian Roti, chicken nuggets, and Pesto Linguini all under one roof, that's original|
|Nutrition/Ingredients||B-||It's vegetarian. Lots of soy items, but almost as many vegetable only options as well|
|Price||Appetizer/Starters Price Range||A-||Great for the price and quality of food, it's far from your local Panda Wok on the corner|
|Entrees Price Range||B+||If the taste ranked higher, this would be an A|
Despite the hard review, I'll try the spot out again. They had a lengthy enough menu. There are a number of other plates I want give a chance to before I can make a judgement on the establishment on a whole. Give this place a shot if you are a fan of Asian cuisine and tell me what you think. You may fair better than I did.