Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Zen Asian Fusion, Charleston, SC
I am particular about take-out. A bad experience locally scared me away from Asian take-out for a good while until I discovered Zen Asian Fusion while in Charleston, South Carolina. Chas* and I did not feel like cooking, but did not feel like going out to eat either. We had done Greek and then pizza recently and needed something new. He had seen a new Asian fusion restaurant not far from his neighborhood and despite my fears, I was ready for a culinary adventure.
Walking into Zen Asian Fusion was like entering a chic restaurant in New York. The decor is ultra modern with an Asian flare. The bar is exquisite with a constant low yellow glow. It catches your eye the moment you enter the restaurant. Sean*, who I assumed was the owner, might be one of the nicest people I have met. He was so pleasant, but not in a sickeningly sweet way. Rather, he was nice, but with a good, slightly sassy, sense of humor and very personable. I would imagine he is a social kind of guy.
I love vegeteable Pad Thai and knew right away that was what I wanted as my entree and Chas decided on his favorite, chicken and broccoli. Crab rangoons and the Thai calamari sounded like good starters and away our order went. We ran an errand and in 10-15 minutes, we were back at Zen and picking up our meal. At home, we excitedly pull out all of the containers and started sampling. Chas loved the calamari, which came with a mango salsa sauce and sweet Thai chili sauce. It was fried, but not overdone and the sauces were very unique. I used them on a few of the rangoons, which were also quite good. The chicken and broccoli was a hit and the Pad Thai was good, but just a tad dry. I like Pad Thai that has more moisture in the sauce. Zen does not scrimp on portions. We had enough food for the next day, which is nice. One less meal to have to plan.
A few months later, Chas and I decided we should venture over to Zen again and see our friend, Sean. I wanted to try something from the vegetarian sushi selection and the peanut avocado roll mixed two of my favorite foods. The avocado salad seemed like a winner and instead of the Pad Thai, I ordered the vegetable fried rice. Chas sought the crab calamari again and this time chose the shrimp and broccoli for his entree. We placed our order and ran to the movie store to kill a few minutes. Sean had the order ready when we returned and was as cheerful as ever. Once home and settled, we enjoyed our meal. The salad must have had an entire avocado topping lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes. The fruit was as fresh and perfect as it could be. To continue my avocado theme, I enjoyed part of the peanut avocado roll. That is probably one of my top two favorite sushi variations to date. The salt of the peanuts meshes particularly well with the fruit and rice. I like Zen’s fried rice over their Pad Thai. The rice had a lot of flavor and was not dry, which fried rice can often become. Chas enjoyed the shrimp and broccoli and his now favorite calamari. Again, we had enough food for another meal.
I would like to eat at Zen my next visit. The restaurant has an allure and I would imagine service is up to par with the owner’s customer-centric personality. Prices are reasonable. Our bill both visits was somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 and we walked away with a large amount of food.
On our second visit, we asked Sean how business was. He said slightly down for the weekend, but with other things going on in town, he was not dismayed. A few larger business groups were in that week and he was glad word was spreading. I do hope he makes it. The restaurant business is never easy and if anyone makes it, someone like Sean should be that person.
Zen is open daily and serves lunch Monday through Saturday, dinner daily and Sunday brunch. In Charleston, Zen is located at 2037 Sam Rittenberg Boulevard. There are also locations in Connecticut and New York.