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Jan 6, 2007 04:47 AM

ZenChi Cafe - Studio City

After almost two years of driving by everyday on my way to work, ZenChi is open and really nice. We did not make a reservation but when we got there, about 6:15 Friday night, it was empty so not having a booking was not a problem. When we left about an hour or so later, it was pretty full. It's not a big place, maybe 25 tables, the interior is gorgeous, Asian feel with dark woods at a high gloss, with an open kitchen. We were greeted by a very nice host, a man in his probably 50's, which is so rare to see in a host. Most of the waitstaff was young, probably in their 20’s. Throughout the evening, the service was very attentive and warm.

The menus are heavy wood plaques, a little hard to deal with because they are tall and weighty. I took a copy of a paper menu so I could report back properly.

They do have a full bar, a little section of the menu is devoted to martinis and cocktails all made with Korean Soju according to the menu. They cost $8.50 and are things like mojitos, cosmos, margaritas etc. They have the martinis you'd expect like apple, lemon drop and a few interesting sounding ones like lychee, peach and pomegranate. We did not try any. They also have something on the menu called "ZenChi Signature Cocktail OK '06" for $10 which is a nod to the signage that was posted outside the restaurant during their almost two years of construction.

The starters range from $8 to $12 and are things like Thai pork ribs ($8), crunchy calamari ($10) and blue crab cakes ($12). The most interesting thing on the starters menu sounds like a sampler platter they are calling “Floating Market” Little Bites, which included “money basket,” shrimp spring roll and mini-crab cake. This was one of two things listed on the menu the waitress told us they were not offering that evening.

Salads range from $8 to $12 and you could add grilled chicken for $4 or shrimp for $6 if you wanted to make them meal salads. They had typical salads like a classic Caesar or warm spinach and Chinese salad with cabbage. An intriguing salad on offer is a soft-sell crab tempura salad with micro-greens and Thai chile coulis.

Entrees range from $16 for a tofu and veggie stir-fry to as high as $25 for Thai-glazed Lamb Chops with rosemary pesto and mashed potatoes. My husband and I each had the butterflied Cornish game hen with a honey-Dijon mustard. It came with curry sweet potato fries, which were delicious, thin, crispy and flavorful. There are a few fish dishes on the menu, an Asian Pesto crusted salmon, a seared ahi and a Chilean sea bass. All of the mains came with a starch (rice, potatoes) or you can add additional sides for $4 like veggies or fries or rice, The portion on the Cornish game hen was very large, neither of us could finish ours.

There are also panini, all served with fries in the $10 to $14 range including a ground Kobe, crab cake BLT and vegetable.

I am not a wine drinker, so I cannot speak with any knowledge about the wine list. There are about 10 whites by the glass, 10 reds by the glass, 12 whites by the bottle and 20 reds by the bottle. I see names like Coppola, Clos Du Val, Smoking Loon, Eschol, Stags’ Leap. The by the glass prices range from $8-$10 and the by the bottle prices range from $26-$65. No note on the menu about corkage and I didn’t ask. There are also four beers on the menu.

Not a huge selection of desserts (only four and the one we wanted, they didn’t have). There is a chocolate soufflé for $10, seasonal tart tatin for $8 and what we tried called Big Buddha Banana Dream, which was much like a bananas foster (3 liquor banana sauté, vanilla bean ice cream and some assorted nuts – quite tasty. The Macadamia Nougatine Ice Cream Sandwich with very dark chocolate and green tea ice creams was what we really wanted but they didn’t have.

The bill with two soft drinks came to $50 before tip. It’s not a cheap place but I think it is priced appropriately for the quality, which was very high. There is valet parking on the side street just east of Tujunga, but don’t get sucked into it as there is ample street parking that is safe.

There is no doubt that we will be back to try some other offerings as it is pretty close to where we live.

ZenChi Café
11334 Moorpark St\
Studio City, CA 91602
Just east of Tujunga

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  1. Haven't eaten there yet, but I peeped in the other night. Nice, warm atmosphere. I asked a couple who were leaving how they liked the food, and they both said it was "very good." I'll have to give it a try.

    1. Any idea on what the hours are and if they have any happy hour specials on the mixed drinks or appetizers? Thinking of stopping by with some friends at work after our looong week on Friday.

      1 Reply
      1. re: bassbiz

        Did not see mention of happy hour on menu or signage at the restaurant. You need to call them about hours, they have no website.

      2. Well, after the nearly 2 years it took to open this place, Larry Lipson gave it only 1 1/2 stars out of 4 in his review yesterday. Truly amazing as he is quite generous with 3 for decent food, so for a place to only get 1 1/2, oh my.
        May still try it, but...

        1. Been wanting to check out this place ever since we've seen the sign of "opening on such and such date". Finally went last night after a long work week and was looking forward to some drinks and appetizers. We showed up at 7:30pm with no reservation for a table of 4. When we first got in we were asked if we had a reservation and the host fumbled around to see if there were any tables available. A simple glance to the left and you will see 3-4 tables open. We were quickly seated.

          The first thing you notice is the ginormous Buddha statue and fountain. The second is the large wooden *schalacked* menus that take up the entire table space, lol.

          We start off by ordering some of the soju cocktails, which show up about 20 menus after ordering. We decide we're all going to stick with just starters so we order 2 plates of the little plates platter with the shrimp spring roll and mini crab cakes and the dumplings with spicy guacamole.

          The drinks are very good. They got that part right but it really shouldnt take 20 minutes to get 4 drinks!

          Once the platters arrive we are given our silverware, which is also just as ginormous as the menu and all given dishes. Unfortunately the platters are just as large as the table so we had to creatively find a way to stack up our platters.

          The dumplings tasted and looked overly fried and the gucamole was bland, runny and filled with cilantro. We ate up the mini spring rolls and crabcakes, to soak up the alcohol, those were probably the best item we had out of the entire night.

          When the host asked if we were ready to order our entrees we decided to order another round of the soju martini cocktails and a more sides. We shared the crispy fries, shoestring, nicely salted, no condiments, no creative dips, not even ketchup, but good enough on it's own. We individually got salads: Shiitake spinach salad with bacon, Chinese Chicken Salad and Cesar salad. We all thought our salads were OK and that we've all obviously had better salads elsewhere. Another companion had the Thai pork spareribs, which he said was good but wasnt served hot, by the time he had his second rib it was already cold!

          We didnt stop after that, although our stomachs were filled enough we all shared a dessert, which I believe was called a green tea ice cream sandwich , that is nothing like an ice cream sandwich---it has a trio of green tea, vanilla and cholcate ice cream surronded by two large wafer crisps and included sliced strawberries. We all agreed that that green tea ice cream seemed off, the chocolate was good but rich and the vanilla was just OK.

          The total tab after 9 drinks, 4 starters, 3 salads, 1 side (fries) and 1 dessert for 4 people came to: $150.00 (not including tip.

          Would we go back? Probably not. Its close to work and were excited to try a new nearby establishment but the service is at Zenchi is slow and akward, I know they still need to work out their kinks the food was just OK and for that amount of money you could get a VERY GOOD meal at Opus.

          So I guess Im just gonna have to drag the kids over to K-town next time ;)