Sunday, November 05, 2006

Zen Palate

We visited the Zen Palate at 34 Union Sq E in Manhattan. Rather than order entrees we ordered some appetizers and smaller dishes and shared everything.

Taro Spring Rolls
I liked these because they had a deeper flavor than your average spring roll. Yes, there was the requisite cabbage inside, but the taro and other flavors made the rolls taste heartier and more substantial. These rolls often come on the side in entrees and I think I prefer them that way because somehow they are softer. These were still yummy though. -Ev

Steamed Vegetable Buns
These were the low point of the meal for me. Inside of each of these hot buns was a tiny amount of veggies and seasoning. It was almost like someone had taken a little spoonful of soup and poured it into the center of each large bun. The end result was something that mostly flavorless and underwhelming. I guess it’s a matter of expectations. When we ordered steamed Steamed Vegetable Buns I was expecting a bun chock full o’ vegetables. But it was 90% bun and that was a little bland for my taste. -Jim
I thought these were alright. There wasn’t a lot inside but I still thought they tasted good. -Ev

Stir-fried Spinach Linguine w/ Vegetables
This was not my favorite dish here. It was aiiight. The noodles had a nice subtle flavor and texture but the dish was too oily and the mushrooms were a little strong and not balanced by anything else in the dish. If these were in a soup or had some other element to it I'd like it better. I'd skip ordering this. -Ev
I liked this more than Ev. It was a bit oily but it was nice and salty and the bean sprouts and carrots gave it a satisfying texture. -Jim

Grilled Sesame Tofu Salad
I’m not generally a salad person, but this is actually one of my favorite dishes at ZP. They started with Watercress, which I’m a big fan of. They added strips of crispy, fresh napa cabbage and crunchy, fried rice noodles. Around the edges of the dish were cherry tomatoes and marinated tofu. The tofu was mild and salty and had an interesting layered texture with just a little crispiness around the edges. Some sesame vinaigrette dressing pulled it all together. This dish is deceptively simple, but the combinations of flavors and textures are just right. It probably wouldn’t be so good if you were expecting really strong, bold flavors (which is what I usually hope for when I order food), but if you want something simple and light, I’d recommend it. -Jim
This was really fresh and amazing. I especially liked the lightness and crunch of all the ingredients against the thick tofu. And the dressing was really tangy and interesting. -Ev

The Bottom Line
Most NYC vegans know about Zen Palate. It's a vegetarian staple in NYC. Up until recently, we were lead to believe that most of the things on the menu were vegan with the exception of one or two dishes. The HUGE bummer was that this time around we got an updated menu and discovered that some of our old faves were not vegan after all. That made ordering even harder because I find I already have to be selective when ordering here. That's not to say this is a bad place- they have yummy things. But I'd definitely recommend going with someone who can suggest their favorites and get the menu that denotes dairy and whatnot to be safe. You can't go wrong with the Curry Supreme. –Ev
If you look at other reviews of Zen Palate on the web, you will find that people tend to either love ZP or hate it, and rarely will you see a review in the middle. I think these mixed reviews accurately reflect Zen Palate. Some of their dishes are quite good, but some are just plain bad. It’s true of their service too, sometimes you can have a really good experience, sometimes not so good. I definitely agree with Ev that you should bring a friend who can make recommendations. Don’t just order at random or there will be decent chance of getting something crappy.-Jim


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i recently discovered your blog and being a vegan foodie myself, so far i agree with most of your reviews. i'd like to see your take on counter, one of my personal favorites.

10:30 AM, November 06, 2006

Blogger Linda said...

i love zen palate and your blog! so glad to have found you.. and meet you ;). i too am a veggie new york.. one of the many.

4:44 PM, January 30, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've only just stumbled across this blog and already I'm addicted... I had the same experience with the new dairy denotations on the menu--was a little taken aback that a lot of stuff I'd been ordering wasn't actually vegan (I too had been led to believe that pretty much everything on the menu was when I inquired about this in the past). Aside from that, Zen Palate is a good junk food veggie place--too me it's a little like a (pricy) vegetarian McDonald's. I never order the "healthy" items on the menu (I'd rather go to Angelica for that) but for fried food, esp. among the appetizers, I enjoy them.

5:48 PM, July 21, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

As part of restaurant watch I have a few comments about Zen Palate Management. We have been watching the company loose considerable customer counts over the past three years. At the same time prices have increased two to three times per year in the same period. Now I hear from conversations with the current store managers that the company is in serious debt to all the vendors, utilities and landlords??? What is going on?
A few days ago, on a follow up conversation with another manager in the restaurants I found out that they are closing the Union Square Restaurant. That they are building a restaurant called Zen Burger in Lexington Avenue by 46th Street. After several inquiries I found out that Zen Burger is a fast food vegetarian restaurant that the president James Tu is trying to launch at the expense of Zen Palate. Further investigations and conversations with high members of the management team for the parent company HOV Group Inc., tells of a down spiral trend in all aspects of the operations for the past two years. That the new president, has used all the resources of the company in the direction of his new vision and in the process, since he has no restaurant operational knowledge misspent a great deal of the companies funds to the point being in a tremendous debt. To further complicate matters there are rumors of lawsuits from some of the investors for mismanagement, this I could not confirm. We search the web and found that Mr. James Tu is a finance analyst and economist turned restaurant entrepreneur which may not be enough knowledge base to create and run a restaurant company.

The NYC Restaurant Watch

12:01 PM, October 19, 2007


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