Zen palate was the first vegetarian restaurant I went to, when I was dating Jodi. I would characterize their food as Chinese inspired vegetarian cuisine: makes sense considering that if you are vegetarian, Asian restaurants has been for a long time the perfect place for you, although it is changing more and more. I still remember their location at Union Square, that closed few years after and then reopened close by and then closed again...They also have a location in Hell's Kitchen and if you recall, we walked out of the restaurant the last time we went because they completely forgot our order. We decided to give it another chance though.
We went on a Friday evening: the restaurant was busy and they sat us in the back, a room that looks less modern than the one in the front.
To accompany the dinner, I ordered a soy milk. I love soy milk: it is not milk so it does not taste like milk for sure if you never tried. It has this weird taste and can have a richer texture than cow milk; it is perfect for lacto vegetarian or vegan diets, or people who are either lactose intolerant or have a true milk allergy. Some people, like me, like it plain, others prefer it flavored with vanilla or chocolate (No, I have not been endorsed by the soy industry!!!).
They put inside some soy protein, so i is like a sandwich. It is one of my favorite appetizers at Zen Palate. The pancakes taste like the ones you would have in any Chinese restaurant, are a bit crispy and not greasy. The addition of the protein is nice, but not necessary.
Jodi ordered The Sweet and Sour sensation:
It is a soy protein that is fried and dipped in sweet and sour sauce. It reminds me in a certain way of sweet and sour chicken. It was served with blanched broccoli as well as brown rice and a spring roll. The spring roll was too doughy and the broccoli bland. However, the protein smothered with sweet and sour sauce was fantastic: extremely tasty, you would probably forget it was soy protein when eating it, even if the texture is softer than chicken. It is definitely a good dish to try if it is your first attempt at vegetarian food.
On my side, I got the Cantonese pan fried noodles:
The plate was big and the presentation very nice with the colors of the veggies (sweet peas, mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, bokchoy and carrots). The sauce was Kung Pao sauce.
First, they should have chosen a better plate, because when they brought it, I thought I would end up with some sauce on my pants! Then, I was disappointed by the amount of noodles that was not enough compared to the veggies. Last, the veggies were a bit bland. I only appreciated the mushrooms and sweet peas. Too bad!
I think Zen Palate is good, but a bit pricey compared to the food you could get in a good Chinese restaurant in NYC. If it is your first time trying vegetarian food, I suggest the Sweet and Sour Sensation as well as the scallion pancakes.
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And Remember: I Just Want To Eat!