Let’s see — there’s Fuji-Ya, Saigon, moto-i and Tiger Sushi battling for Lyn-Lake lovers of sushi, sake and all things rice. So what the neighborhood needs is yet another Asian restaurant, right?
Actually, yes. Zen is the new kid on the dining block and, rather than saluting a single cuisine of the Far East, its menu reads like a Top Hits list of pan-Asian culinary icons. There’s pad Thai from (duh) Thailand, Chinese pot stickers, Indonesian satays, Japanese tempura, short ribs from Korea, Malaysian curry, Vietnamese pho — and, OK, a New York strip for xenophobes.
Owner Andy Kor comes from Hong Kong, the biggest melting kettle on that side of the globe, which might explain the range of recipes: Why let border patrols curtail your adventure and ambition? Add in a little fusion, which — in the right hands — can come off better than the sum of the parts.
Which is my cue to segue to the Wonton Napoleon, the stand-out on the appetizer list ($6.95) — a triple fusion stretching to include the French technique of stacking yummy stuff between thin sheets of pastry, here represented by crisp-fried wonton skins. One comely circlet beds thick, buttery slabs of avocado, so rich it’s probably a protégée of Warren Buffet. It’s topped with another wonton circle frosted (talk about overkill) with cream cheese, then topped with a flurry of crabmeat, sweet beyond belief.
To temper this indulgence while reawakening the palate between dreamy bites, stands a mound of perky greens on the far side of the long, white plate. They’re joined in the middle by a sweet-spicy ginger-peach sauce, which lends itself well to both. Granted, the composition is a little tricky to divide with your partner, which only means maybe you’d better order two.
We enjoyed it with a bottle of French bubbly, an extravagance made affordable by Andy’s half-price wine policy Sundays–Thursdays — a bonus for all who order two dishes.
No problem! We proceeded to try a few more items, all on the tame and traditional side, it turned out, overshadowed by the ahi tuna. The plate is picture-perfect and delivers on its promise. An inch-thick cut arrives slightly suntanned on its perimeter, encasing flesh so pink it’s almost throbbing. It’s presented on a bed of vermicelli noodles crisp-fried, a la matchstick potatoes, along with shiitake mushrooms, in a sauce of more shiitakes, soy, garlic and ginger — a welcome detour from the by-now prosaic soy-sesame dress code for tuna enforced in many a kitchen.
Speaking of dress code, the café sports a gorgeous one, with walls a aglow with eggplant-purple — a serene, near-unadorned space cosseting tables between billows of sheer white curtain dividers, almost like dining in a harem. Or, to follow through on the café’s name, a Zen-like haven of calm and quiet from the rush of Lyn-Lake just outside.
3016 Lyndale Ave.