Pikelet’s first encounter with tako (Japanese octopus sushi) was at the opening of Zen Sushi in the Bishop Arts District, in 2007. He was nearly 2 at the time. Although, Oak Cliff is famous for their taco joints, as far as my little foodie child, Pikelet’s concerned, this is the only tako that matters. So when Zen Sushi celebrated their 3rd birthday recently, we paid a visit to this neighborhood spot in the Bishop Arts District.
Unlike it’s name, the ambience is actually quite lively even for an early Sunday dinner. The crowd, mainly locals from the O.C. (Oak Cliff) were an eclectic bunch. A fun group of tattooed cyclists with hair that matched their brightly colored bicycles parked outside provided endless curious amusement for Pikelet and Lollo.
The boys start off with the Agedashi Tofu appetizer, a mild tasting fried tofu accompanied by a ponzu dipping sauce. The Zen Sushi version comes with a little smidgeon of siracha sauce which can be easily averted if your child (like ours) do not have a taste for something that spicy. For a healthy source of protein that’s also fun to eat, it’s boiled edamame (Japanese soybeans) for them. Most Japanese restaurants salt them heavily but we ask for them lightly salted or unsalted. To eat, just squeeze the pod and out pops the little soybeans. I want to mention here that Zen Sushi provides children with chopstick helpers to help them use chopsticks. It’s a fun diversion for Pikelet and Lollo while biding time for the next course.
For Pikelet, a Japanese meal usually means sushi. Tako is first on his list and Zen Sushi’s is firm and yet tender with a hint of sweetness. Scallop, albacore, salmon, yellowfin, unagi (eel), tuna and shrimp follows. Our Pikelet is not a cheap date! The pieces of raw fish are so fresh and delicious that he gobbles each one down with glee.
Lollo has his heart set on the grilled chicken breast served with a teriyaki dipping sauce and rice. Zen Sushi has a kids meal version for just $8.50. If you aren’t a purist, try a few fusion dishes crafted with a twist like Japanese scallops with mango and jalapeno pico or the tangy ceviche martini done with Japanese snapper, tobiko, cucumber, grape tomatoes, rice wine vinegar and wonton crisps.
For dessert, we ordered the tempura fried banana and mango with ice cream but felt the cooked mango didn’t work well as a hot dessert. The Callebaut chocolate souffle with an oozy chocolate center (although not Japanese at all!) turned out to be the family favorite. Just order 20 minutes beforehand as we all know, time is of the essence when you have little ones.
Till our next happy meal!
Itty Bitty Info:
- Food: Well executed and fresh.
- Ambience: Eclectic, casual and lively neighborhood joint.
- Service: Attentive and yet laid back.
- Kid Friendliness: :) :) If parents like Japanese food, this is a great option to take kids. They provide high chairs, boosters, not your average kids menu, plus the noise levels are not as zen as most Japanese restaurants.
- Cost: $3 for a miso soup to $49 for surf & turf (8 oz steak and 4 oz lobster). Most dishes are under $20. The cost is middle of the road for Japanese food and it’s hard to pin point a dollar amount as so much is for sharing.
Itty Bitty Foodies Tip: If you have dietary requirements or the young ones don’t take to Japanese cuisine, chef/owner Michelle Carpenter will customize dishes for them. There’s a small children’s menu which includes a terriyaki chicken with rice served with sweet potato fries for $8.50.
Parent Foodies Tip: Mondays – half priced rolls. Tuesdays – BOGO bentos (buy one and get one of equal or lesser value free).
For more information on hours, location and all that good stuff : go to Zen Sushi