Zen Sushi Bar & Cafe is a tiny streetfront restaurant dishing up an extensive Japanese menu. Located on lower Queen Street, the cafe is pleasantly decorated and seats, at a maximum, 14 people. The kitchen is efficiently tiny, filled with a dinner ballet of four staff navigating rice wraps and sake cups.
We arrived to a full house and waited about 20 minutes for counter seats, entertained by perusing the quickly disappearing take-out sushi trays, the stunning arrays of food being delivered to tables and studying the menu.
We started with sake. Flavourful, slightly warmed and warming. Pleasant to sip and chat and watch the early evening passings on the street. Enjoying being together in an unhurried way in a cozy joint in Charlottetown.
We shared an order of Pork Ginger from the a la carte menu. It was tender and tingly warm with green onions and just the right amount of ginger.
We were delighted by the presentation of the Volcano Roll. This medium roll sushi (tuna, red snapper, shrimp, cucumber, tobiko, mayo, and hot spices) sat amongst fish flakes and was bright with almost flourescent green tobiko, the roe of flying fish, made green with wasabi in this case. It was absolutely delicious.
We followed the volcano roll with two shrimp and two chicken ricewraps (spring rolls) with peanut sauce. These wraps were not as wonderful as the volcano roll or as nice as the (Vietnamese) spring rolls we make at home.
The kitchen was very busy with every seat occupied while we were there. Service was friendly and attentive, but the dishes came up slowly. Perhaps, in our rushed world, that is a good thing. Zen. I know I appreciated the time to just sit, sip, snack and smile with the person with whom I am most at ease in this world.
With the kitchen in full swing, however, spiciness filled the air and irritated most customers’ eyes. I spoke with 5 other customers (so, including us that was 50% of the diners) and 5 out of the 7 experienced stinging watering eyes. The two who did not, one of whom was me, both wore contact lenses, kind of a spice prophylactic for the iris I guess. Perhaps, in such a quintessentially small, simple space the cafe is in need of better ventilation/air exchange.
Delighting in our time together, our bellies happy with the digesting of light fare and our gullets softened by a few ounces of sake, we tripped into the night and headed to campus at UPEI to take in The Path Of True Love.
Put on by Vagabond Productions, the “final frontier” staging of this live theatre, where the actors performed amongst the audience, using whatever space was available, was a treat. The small but mighty cast were tremendously talented, engaging and, though they made use of LOUD a few too many times, spun a story of BIG laughs. The audience seemed enthralled and so very entertained.
The Path Of True Love will show again tonight at 7:30. If you miss this show be sure to watch for the 2011 performance by Vagabond Productions. Live theatre at UPEI is worth supporting.