Written by Hulda Lawrence
It is along way from Japan to Manhattan, but Sushi Zen at 108 West 44th Street, between Broadway and Sixth Avenue, 212 302-0707 is much closer. Under the direction of Executive Chef Tohio Suzuki the menu presents an exceptional array of sushi and sashimi as well as other delights of the Japanese cuisine. In an atmosphere of handsome traditional décor it is a quiet refuge from the hectic pace in midtown.
At a recent lunchtime, when my companion and I were seated in a private area, the main dining room was busy and active but we were happily ensconced and the service was exceptional. First we were brought a platter of several appetizers which were lovely to look at and interesting to taste. We sipped Saketinis and perused the lengthy menu. Under the direction of Kyoshi Nogowa, the Coordinator, we were brought a selection of sashimi consisting of fluke, red snapper, salmon tuna and other varieties along with fresh ginger. The a la carte sushi is listed by the piece with prices from $4 for salmon to $10 for live Pacific oyster or live Botan shrimp. Sushi rolls start at $8 for yellowtail, avocado and scallion (Hollywood) to $15.50 for Washington D.C.(cut roll only), eel, shrimp tempura, avocado, tempura flour, kaiware, cucumber and scallion with eel sauce on top. These original rolls can be hand or cut rolls. It is $1 more for cut rolls. These rolls have the rice outside. The traditional rolls have seaweed outside and contain fresh wasabi. Traditional rolls might be squid with natto, fermented soybeans at $6.
After our delicious sashimi we shared tempura shrimp and vegetables including eggplant. We enjoyed Chilean Sea Bass in a spicy sauce with vegetable and Steamed and Baked Salmon with Tokyo Negi and Mushrooms at $20.
Chardonnay was our wine choice, but there were also Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Grigio and Pinot Noir at $8 a glass. A selection of chilled Sake from $16 and several liqueurs as well as Japanese vodka are available. Of course there is beer and champagne for those who prefer them. Sake not chilled is $8.
Our desserts were sorbets or strawberry, peach and cactus pear and baked apple with a wonderful custard cream.
The menu is vast in the kinds of seafood and fish available. If one has the time and the money to order, Omakase, which is putting yourself in the chef's hands, (starting at $120) will result in a very special meal. The chef takes your health and desires in preparing the many courses.
There are many appetizers, salads and soups always ready. Entrees include Regular Sushi of Tuna Roll and Tuna, 2-white fish, Salmon, Shrimp, Mackerel and Egg Custard at $23. There are more elaborate platters at escalading prices and these are termed "entrees."
The prices are a la carte and the same menu is used at lunch, Monday through Friday and for dinner six days a week. The charming and knowledgeable servers can assist diners in selecting the best dishes.
Hours: Lunch Monday through Friday from Noon to 2:45 p.m. Dinner from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Saturday dinner 5 to 10 p.m.
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.