Monday, June 10, 2013

Restaurant Week Day 4 -- Zen

This week I'll be visiting area restaurants for Northampton Restaurant Week and blogging about the experience. Restaurant Week runs until Sunday, June 9, and is a great way to get a 3 course meal at any of the many amazing restaurants in downtown Northampton for only $20-25!*

How lovely to finish off such a food-filled week with my absolute favorite sushi spot downtown--Zen. I have mentioned them before, but they remain my favorite place to go for special occasions, or when a new friend comes to visit, or when I'm having a sushi craving (it happens often, and it hits hard). Their sushi is the freshest I've tasted and the rolls are so unique and fun. I know many friends tell me they prefer other sushi restaurants downtown, and while I've tried most of them and they are decent and offer some interesting rolls, something about Zen just tastes the best to me. I sing its praises to anyone who will listen and have made sushi-haters into sushi-lovers just by taking them here--still working on my boyfriend, though! I appreciated the Restaurant Week menu, because it gave me a chance to try an appetizer  and dessert--usually I save my money to just get another roll or two.

Having an appetizer for lunch felt silly, but I am pretty sure the Zen Nachos are my new favorite thing. It's a mound of spicy tuna and spicy salmon, topped with tobiko, eel sauce, and spicy mayo. Fried wontons provide the chips for scooping up all the deliciousness. It was perfect, like a deconstructed version of my favorite sushi roll. The spicy mayo and eel sauce made a spicy-sweet dressing for the fish that I wanted to douse everything in. I would have appreciated another chip or two though, because they ran out quickly and while I wanted to enjoy the fish by the spoonful. the texture was just too soft for me without the chip. I ended up with maybe 1/4 of the fish left on the plate before I decided to just wait until my entree arrived. I'll be ordering these again, but probably asking for extra wontons if that's an option.

I was tempted to choose something else, since I've had this roll before, but I ultimately couldn't resist. This is the Pyramid Roll, my absolute favorite roll. Occasionally they'll make it for me upon request, even though it's technically only a seasonal roll. Spicy tuna, crab, spicy salmon, asparagus, avocado, and spicy scallop are all wrapped up with rice and nori and shaped into a pyramid. The bites are HUGE and there is no way to eat them gracefully, but you'll be rewarded with the most excellent, flavorful roll you've ever had. I use spicy tuna as the barometer for how good a sushi restaurant is (since it's a common roll that each place does a little differently) and Zen always hits it out of the park. Since this roll features spicy tuna pretty heavily, it's obvious why it's my favorite.

Finally, dessert. Something I definitely rarely am able to afford after gorging myself with appetizer and main course. I'd had the fried banana spring rolls before, but this time they seemed a little different--there was some sort of red berry in there too, though I cannot remember if it was raspberry or strawberry. Either way, this was a great dessert with the warm, sweet spring rolls and the creamy vanilla ice cream.

Quick lunch with Cory at Zen before work.
How awesome is my necklace??

So my plan for Restaurant Week was to visit as many new restaurants as possible. Day 4 was slated to be Pizza Paradisio, but thanks to some scheduling issues my last restaurant had to be done as a Saturday lunch, and sadly Paradisio doesn't open until 4 on Saturdays. So instead, I decided to return to an old favorite yet again. This brings my "new" restaurants to 1 (Ibiza) and "old favorites" to 3. However, I'll be taking part in the Pioneer Valley Dishcrawl on the 25th, and hopefully at least one of the mystery spots will be somewhere I've never tried before!

Overall, Restaurant Week was an excellent success in my book, and well worth the $100 I'd budgeted for the occasion (plus a little for tips and drinks) and I got to at least try one new restaurant. Great food, great times with great friends. Too bad it only comes once a year!

For the rest of my Restaurant Week Adventures:
Day 3: Ibiza Tapas
Day 4: Zen

*FYI: these are NOT sponsored posts! I have received nothing for free, I just LOVE Restaurant Week and wanted to give my favorite foodie spots in Western Mass a little love :)


  1. Sounds like a really nice restaurant. I love their roll is triangle shape instead of round!

  2. I love good sushi. Japanese is quickly becoming my favourite eat out. Looks like you had a great dinner!