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New Chinese Restaurant in the Conejo Valley: Zen Garden

Zen Garden, Oak Park, opened a week ago. It is solid.

I do not know if it is a-m-a-z-i-n-g, but it is very good. The hot and sour soup was a standout; it was hot both in temperature and in Szechuan pepper...delicious! We also enjoyed mu shu pork and sauteed shrimp with veggies.

My usual complaints in a Chinese restaurant concern overly-salty food or too much oil. We were four for dinner tonight and we all enjoyed everything we ordered.

The space is open and airy and the service was gracious, friendly and attentive.

We will return to try more of the menu.

Zen Garden
668 Lindero Canyon Road (at the far North end of Lindero in the same shopping center as Breakfast Cafe and Cleo's Hair Salon)
Oak Park
Open 7 days
#818.879-9888

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  1. We tried Zen Garden again last night. The owner and servers recognized us as "repeat" customers and warmly welcomed us...nice!

    This time, we were handed the Chinese Beijing menu, as well as their regular menu. The Chinese menu had some very enticing items...I wanted to try so many.

    We ordered the Beijing moo shu pork. This item had no pancakes, but delicious egg, large black mushrooms, thinly-sliced pork and veggies...delicious! We didn't miss the pancake.

    The other item that we ordered was pickled cabbage with rice noodles. Both the server and the owner tried to steer us to another item because they thought this might be too "strange" for our palates, but we held firm. We were glad we ordered this item; it was such a nice find in a Chinese restaurant in the Conejo Valley! The owner told us that it was this chef's personal recipe; he was reluctant to serve it, but was so happy (surprised!) that we liked it.

    I am so happy to find a Chinese restaurant in the neighborhood that is so different from all the others around. How great that they are cooking something besides beef and broccoli!

    2 Replies
    1. re: liu

      Thanks for the additional information liu. I tried some take out from the Beijing menu during the soft opening a couple of weeks ago and thought there was some potential. I talked to the owners and from what I understood, one of the servers used to work at Sesame Inn and they are friends with Dani from the Szechuan Place.

      Looking forward to dining there some time soon.

      1. re: puppychao

        Thanks for your response, puppychao.

        I do look forward to "your take" when you go.

    2. We went there for lunch yesterday and I can confirm that the people are very nice. The owner, Lyn remembered us from the Sesame Inn in Newburry Park and was genuinely happy to see us.

      Since we only had lunch, we only ordered two dishes, Mixed Steamed Vegetebles and Kung Pao Chicken. First, let me tell you the portions were huge. My wife didn't eat 1/2 of her vegetibles, and I'm having leftover Kung Pao today. There easily was enough for three porions per dish.

      The vegetables were very fresh and my wife enjoyed them. I liked the KPC too. Not the best I ever had but for $10 and enough for 3 portions, who's complaing. The two dishes, two cokes and some extra brown rice came to $26 (before tip).

      They've applied for a liquor permit so hopefully soon they'll have wine. Lyn said until then we could bring our owe wine (YEA!!!).

      We will try it again but for dinner when we usually have 3 dishes, and we'll try different ones, so I can give a more detailed report.

      But for now, it looks like our driving days to Newburry Park may be over!!!

      1 Reply
      1. re: LesThePress

        Thanks for the report, Les-. I am glad that you liked it.

        We ate at Mandarin Bistro, Newbury Park, a few nights ago. It, too, was delicious and I might give it the edge to any other Chinese around. We had a lotus root dish that was outstanding.

        However, Zen Garden is much closer for us, so we will continue to explore their Chinese menu.

      2. Liu - I'm a couple months late to the party, obviously! Finally got in here tonight (missed your original post). Saw they had a special Beijing menu and was excited obviously.

        This place is great, what a perfect addition and I hope they stick around. We ordered "dried tofu with pork" which was that ubiquitous shredded pork with strips of brown-edged tofu, served here w/ sliced celery. Also had shredded potatoes (served warm, not quite as snappy as the cold app version from Sichuan places in SGV), and cumin beef. Would have preferred more heat in the latter, and more cilantro, but it was fine. Prepared with two green peppers (bell and jalapeno) and not as dry/"crusty" as I like it but hey, it's in Oak Park for God's sake.

        Talked w/ the owner a bit - the chef's apparently from Tianjin (hence the Beijing menu?) and formerly cooked at what she translated as "Little Chong Qing" in "Chinatown" (= New Chong Qing in San Gabriel??), as well as Newbury Park as mentioned. Anyway, looking forward to ordering more pickled offerings. By the way, that menu is up here:
        http://zen-garden-oakpark.tumblr.com/...

        1 Reply
        1. re: cant talk...eating

          "...as I like it but hey, it's in Oak Park..."
          Exactly!

          cant talk...eating, I am so glad to hear your take. No, it's not worth miles of travel, but it's in my backyard, so we are happy to have it nearby for a week-night fix. Then, on the weekends, we head to the San Gabriel Valley!

          I particularly like their Beijing mu shu pork -- no pancakes. This dish is hearty and each ingredient is distinct. The mushrooms are wonderful and the flavor says "mu shu."

          Please post if you visit again.

        2. ugh, I hate the name Zen Garden because "zen" is Japanese, not Chinese....

          2 Replies
          1. re: TripleAxel

            Yeah, the owners must have had some real Conejos to give it that name.

            1. re: TripleAxel

              Actually Zen Buddhism comes from China, where it's known as "Chan". Westerners know the Japanese word, hence "Zen", though I think Chan Garden might have worked.

            2. Liu, bumping this up since I've been a few more times this past year. I ordered "Beijing Style Noodles" or something similar which was a pretty interesting dish that's probably about as rare as white rice over there, I've just never seen it here. Fresh egg noodles served with thin slivers of carrot and cucumber, with a thick miso-based sauce of braised beef on the side, with another side of chopped fresh garlic in vinegar. It was really good.

              Also, not to distract from the main thread, but since it's down the street, Green Onion now has photos of all of its Chinese specialties on an Ipad, which the waitress will hand you to scroll through. There are at least 30 dishes, many of which aren't translated from the Chinese (none are named you just point). One in particular that caught my eye was an earthen bowl with rice, diced Chinese bacon, what may have been spinach, and a fried egg on top. Ordered rice cake with pork and mushroom on the basis of the photo, which turned out to be a stir-fry of slices of soft rice ball (I guess called rice cake?), strips of pork, and mustard greens, all pretty good. Obviously never would have known about this. As I said above, these places *can* do really outstanding dishes, you just have to put in the time to figure out what they are (the waitress at GO and I have a standing joke where I've been trying to order the same tofu dish for the past few months and I'd kept ordering the wrong one, much to her dismay - but hey, Ipad to the rescue).

              3 Replies
              1. re: cant talk...eating

                Hi, can't talk...eating!

                Thanks for putting Zen Garden back on my radar; I haven't been there in a long time.

                Regarding your iPad experience at Green Onion, that is great to know! Their menu came in the mail the other day, so I thought I would give it a try. I ordered their seafood soup; I both loved it and hated it. It was too gelatinous and starchy for my tastes, but the ingredients were tasty. The shrimp were quite good, although there were only three in my order.

                The vegetarian dumplings at Green Onion were probably frozen and they took about 15 minutes to prepare. I would not have minded the wait, but I wondered about why it took so long to steam some frozen dumplings. They were only okay.

                I might want to check out some of their other soups and I definitely want to check out the iPad options. Thanks for that information.

                A while ago we discovered Nori in the Lassen's shopping center on Thousand Oaks Boulevard. It is a Japanese shop owned by a very kind Korean family. I don't like the very saucy items, but they do have many options. Also, they will accommodate any special requests, like less sauce, please. While it is a usual suspect, I particularly like their California roll...made to order.

                1. re: liu

                  Nori is on the rotation! Actually just been there a couple times but yes, possibly the only source for kimchi-associated dishes for 15+ miles around, so definitely a key place to know about. I agree on the dumplings - don't even get me started on frozen gyoza at Japanese places (do they even exist in a fresh form, anywhere??).

                  Just fyi, the 15 minute wait is so you don't just assume they ripped open a bag from TJs and stuck them in the microwave 13.5 minutes after you ordered them, which is what they'd never, EVER do.

                  1. re: cant talk...eating

                    Very funny, can't talk! All silliness aside, I do agree with you! I don't even look anymore; for dumplings, we trek to the SGV!

                    I am glad that you know about Nori. Although a great place to live, the Conejo is sad and uninspired. We went to Niroj Levant (Kurdish food on Canwood in Agoura Hills) last night for dinner. I like their cold appetizer sampler plate.

                    Please share any other places in the greater area that you enjoy!