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Bmore - Zen West

Anyone been to Cafe Zen's new sister restaurant - Zen West? Apparently opened earlier this week...would love to know what people think.

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  1. I am curious too, saw it a few weeks ago - it's Mex or southwestern?

    1. I had lunch today. I have to say, someone in there must have spent time in TX. The salsa had a nice smokey note to it and carried some serious heat, at least as far as most east coast gringoes are concerned. I had the steak tacos which I found to be quite tasty. The pico de gallo that came with them was very hot, right at my threshold. Which I loved, by the way; it's about time someone stood up to wimpy tex-mex. If you want it wimpy, then go to Chipotle. Hell, the pico is on the side, so don't use it if you don't like spice. But if you do, fire it up baby!

      1 Reply
      1. re: pleiades

        Someone there seems like they have NEVER even been to Texas!! There are never ever beans in Texas Chili. Zen West's "Authentic Texas Chili" was a bowl of refried beans with added chucks of cooked-elsewhere beef, not the slow simmered pot of beef and chilis it should be. They really should have done some research. Also, raw garlic in salsa is not only not authentic but a very bad idea. And find the limes and cilantro please! Place is cute, but they need help in the kitchen. Very disappointiing.

      2. mmmmmmmm, what else was on the menu??

        1. Had lunch there on Saturday. The chips and salsa were fresh but the salsa had zero heat to it, I ended up adding hot sauce to it to pep it up. I had the Mahi tacos which were decent but they were blackened and that was basically all you could taste. They came with vegetarian black beans and green rice which were both bland and the portion of each was about a tablespoon. My friend got the spinach and portbello enchiladas because she is a vegetarian but hers came with refried beans which had bacon in them, she had me taste them to confirm and sure enough but these beans were very tasty. The prices are reasonable but the portions I thought were a bit small. I will definately go back since I think they are still working the kinks out.

          1 Reply
          1. re: hon

            bummer, I was afraid of that. "Oh, it's toooo HOT! Waah!" and then the restaurant dumbs it down.

          2. I loved it, and If you like your food to burn a hole in the back of your neck,just ask. :) Happy eatin.

            1. Where is it? When you say "sister restaurant", do you mean just under the same ownership or is it also adjacent to Cafe Zen?


              1. This place looks nice, but is not worth the recent adulation. Food is really 'dumbed down', not either Mex or Tex Mex. The salsa is bland, IMO. Just like its sister restaurant, Cafe Zen, you go for the atmosphere or because you live locally, not for the food, which is forgettable.

                1. I was there on Saturday night with two friends- we sat at the bar. I have to say that our general impression upon leaving was we were under whelmed.

                  We order the smoked chicken nachos with the jalapenos on the side. The nachos arrived covered in jalapenos and this funky cheese sauce...maybe this is authentic but it looked like homemade cheese wiz. All in all a big let down.

                  The bartender was nice & the bar was not busy- but we couldn't get his attention to order a second round or request the check and then pay the bill. We had to yell to him twice.

                  I walked away thinking I would go back for a beer since they had a good selection on tap- forget any expectations about the food and the bar service.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Monti

                    I completely agree with this. The nachos were awful. "Cheese sauce" does not belong in or on quality food. The rest of the food is lackluster.

                    A great location and a fun design but a real missed opportunity. I hope the food improves.

                  2. Went again last night, this time the salsa did have a kick to it but the serving cup it was in was only half full. Had the chicken tomatillo tamales which were tasty but smallish and rather fussy. My friend and I sat at the bar and the bartender kept getting into our conversations. I dunno, I like the atmoshpere but I am not sold on the place yet.

                    1. Where is this place, please? I seem to be the only one that doesn't know already. I must have missed the memo.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Warthog

                        It's right next door the the Cafe Zen across from Belvedere Square, where Gators used to be on the corner.

                      2. sounds like it is pretty variable, still working out where they want to be.

                        1. We went on a Friday night and waited about ten minutes for a table (had been told twenty). We liked the room and were excited by the menu. The chips were fine and the salsa kicky and addictive. Then..... Two of our entrees, the fried chicken sandwich and -- oh gosh, sorry, so unmemorable I forgot -- were completely, totally bland. If I piled on the sauce they gave me with the sandwich, it was okay.

                          We had an hour and a half from sitting down at the table to when we had to leave for a movie. Even though it took an unusually long time for the food to be served, if it had been correct, that wouldn't have been a problem. But the vegetarian among us was brought chicken quesadillas instead of cheese. I had to get up and hunt a server (this happened EVERY time we needed something), who said it wouldn't take long to make the proper dish. It took ages. Her silverware had been bussed, and when the dish finally arrived, the server whooshed away before we could ask for more. After hunting our server and asking for a fork, she disappeared. When she reappeared, we saw her refill three tables' water AND take an order before she came back with a fork.

                          She was friendly, at least.

                          We won't go back for a long time, unless we want a beer and chips at the bar.

                          1. Tried it again yesterday, ordered the chicken tacos, something basic. The tacos consist of a few chunks of chicken and an awful lot of cheese in a small flour tortilla. The garnish for it was 5 small pieces of tomato, a small tangle of lettuce and a glob of sour cream. The tomato was barely enough for one of the 2 tacos. The chicken was dry and lukewarm, the beans and rice were small and ordinary. I am not sure I will ever go back, it's just not worth it!

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: hon

                              Silly me, actually went back 2 weeks ago and met my sister and her boyfriend there - for some reason I ordered the chicken tacos again. This time the chicken was raw, it had barely been seared. Um, Yuck. Of course sent it back but still...

                            2. I went once for an early dinner on a Friday. The chips and salsa were good, but I was underwhelmed by the tamale of the day. The bartender was really friendly, though. I would probably go back for happy hour but not dinner.

                              1. My neighbor is the owner of Zen West. I love Cafe Zen and was looking forward to maybe having a good, fresh Tex-Mex place. When Zen West first opened, my wife and I went and wanted to try out one of the Tex-Mex dishes. We were extremely disappointed. We've since been back to try other things and really like the hamburger which they usually cook right and the tangy sauce is tasty if used sparingly.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: scruff

                                  I was taken there for lunch the other day, and it is still awful. They might try using a couple of herbs, or even fresh jalapenos. Nothing tastes fresh. The guacamole was obviously frozen, didn't taste of avocados, AND had stale refrigerator taste. I wish they would let someone else run it.

                                  1. re: crowsonguy

                                    I had hoped it would get better - I see thats not the case...

                                2. Just "finished" my take out order from Zen West, hands down the WORST Mexican food I have ever had...I should have gone up the road and gotten Chipotle (which i normally hate) and saved myself some money. We ordered the chicken enchiladas and the fajitas steak burrito. Neither came with Guacamole as the menu had stated it would, which was extremely disappointing. The beans had this odd white mold looking cheese on top of them which made me afraid to even eat it. The chicken has NO TASTE and was really dry . Neither of our dishes came with the salsas we had requested. The Burrito had maybe 1 bean in it and was extremely small.

                                  Way overprices for the quality and portions of food...i would recommend Loco Hombre which is not too far away, 100 times over Zen West, it may be more expensive but its actually edible.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: lizbo

                                    Just so y'all know, it is still awful. We used to live across the street from Holy Frijoles, and moved closer to Zen West, so it's convenient.

                                    Then again, that depends on your definition of convenient. Every time we go there, I tell myself, "All I need is decent service OR decent food," and then find myself in a rage, every single time, when I get NEITHER.

                                    Last time we were there, the waiter took our drink order 3 times, and finally brought us our complicated drink order (1 margarita and 1 water) a short 25 minutes after we were seated. We ordered salads.....which took an hour to get. So obviously, they must have been great salads, if they took an hour to make, right? Well, the grilled meat was cold and the lettuce and dressing were warm. They looked like they had been thrown together in a McDonalds Salad Shaker - no presentation. The steak was overcooked, cold, and had no spices on it. Oh yeah - real tex-mix. I couldn't taste the spices on the chicken because it was burnt. The waiter asked how the food was, and we told him. Then he went and got the manager (which was appreciated).

                                    She accused us of lying about the cold food, and kept asking, "You're sure it was cold." When my wife raised up and said, "YES it was cold," the manager switched her tack to "Well, it's very busy for a tuesday night." I told her that both of us used to work in restaurants, so we "know busy," and it was not all that busy (empty tables during dinner rush).

                                    Her response was, "Well what am I supposed to do? What would you HAVE ME do?" My wife said, "Bring us the damn check and we'll leave. We've been here 90 minutes for a salad. We are ready to leave." I was walking out the door 15 minutes later (she never brought the bill), and she chased us down with the bill. I paid it and she just laughed at me and took the money out of my hand. Yeah. Enjoy that 30 cent tip.

                                    Now, this is the WORST experience I've had there, but we have been there at least 10 times, and we have never, ever had a "good" meal. We love Mexican and Tex-Mex and it's just hard to believe how BAD a restaurant can make it!

                                    1. re: swamp thing

                                      Why have you been there 10 times?

                                      1. re: kelarry

                                        It's a shame what a disaster this place is. The owner lof Cafe Zen also owns Zen West, and I hoped she would sublet it to a competent restaurateur, rather than doing it herself.