Just a hairsbreadth away from Union Square lies an elegantly warm and tastefully decorated restaurant called Zen Palate. Unlike it’s neighboring competition, PF&W, this locale actually makes food that is tolerable to eat, though the service may be a bit lacking.
The decor is very earth-tone, with mahogany browns and clean white slate flooring. There is a full bar replete with cocktail choices of your choosing. A frosted creme-colored glass panel separates the kitchen from the dining area, so you can see the shadows of the chefs toiling away (once during the meal I even espied someone talking and motioning frantically on the phone, which was quite amusing). The bathroom is impeccably well-kept, though the toilet was a bit temperamental (don’t ask). The upstairs leads to a fully-furnished intimate dining area suitable for private parties of 10+ people. 4.5 out of 5 carrots for overall appearance.
The service did leave something to be desired, however. The waitstaff, though eager to please, seem a bit disconnected and are not very attentive in noticing a patron’s needs. I had to flag down my waiter a few times and once had to resort to asking the hostess a question about my dessert. Also, they brought over the check preemptively, which is the ultimate no-no in my book. Although the hostess was very kind, ultimately, it wasn’t her job to assist the customers, so service here gets a 2 out of 5.
A side note: Zen Palate does NOT list whether a dish is vegan or not, which caused a bit of confusion as I sampled the Cantonese Pan-fried Noodle which was actually made with egg. In addition, I found out later online that the entree I ordered also had egg in it, even though they assured me there wasn’t any. Please remedy this, Zen!! I doubt I will be going back because of this.
For my entree, I ordered the (has eggs) Crepe De Fleur: soy protein, pine nuts, waterchestnuts and vermicelli noodles with oyster mushrooms, new potatoes, fresh basil and red onion in light curry sauce, garnished with a spicy yuba beggar’s purse and tender asparagus spears. Though it was quite a sight to behold, eating it was another story. The soy protein was mushy and overly sauced, and the vegetables were pretty blah. Since I realized after the fact that it wasn’t vegan, I will have to deduct points based on the fact that they stated it was anyway. So, .5 out of 5. Not cool.
Cantonese Pan-Fried Noodle (made with egg noodles)
Molten hot chocolate cake (contains eggs)
Tofu Cheesecake: though I was told this was vegan as well, since I was not able to verify it online and since I found out my entree as well was not vegan, I really don’t know what to believe. I can say that it was mildly enjoyable but certainly nothing special. Very straightforward as per texture and overall consistency. The crust was pleasant and overall I was satisfied with the pairing of the raspberry sauce. 3.5 out of 5 carrots.
This trip was disappointing in that I was not aware of the nature of the ingredients utilized in many of the dishes. If a restaurant deigns to be vegetarian, then they should let their customers know clearly on the menu what animal products are in every dish. Otherwise, please don’t even bother, we can easily go someplace else.