Address: 7634 Woodbine Ave. Markham, ON
When I visited: September 2016, dinner, 2 people
Rating: $$$$, 5
I last visited Zen in 2014 and had a phenomenal omakase experience (read my 2014 review) but not all the cooked food blew me away. So much has changed over the last year as Zen has moved from their 15 year Scarborough location on Eglinton Ave. E., to Markham and became an upscale Japanese restaurant with an entirely new menu. I had fond memories being served by Chef Jackie Lin during my first Zen visit, who has now moved on to open his own restaurant Shousin.
Here is a quick 10 second glimpse of the decor and Chef Kashiwabara at the sushi bar:
The new Zen is located by the Mandarin buffet on Woodbine Ave., and can be easily missed with a small sign. The inside is modern with minimal lines and a relaxed feel. The focus is definitely the bar with a bright back wall, which was where my husband and I sat. If I am going to pay the big bucks, I want the full experience with the Chef serving the sushi one-by-one right in front of me! Plus, I went for our anniversary celebration.
The menu consists of a-la-carte sushi and sashimi pieces, a-la-carte cooked items, as well as course menus such as omakase sashimi/sushi or sushi kaiseki (tasting menu). Zen created a new Kaiseki menu that started on September 1st, 2016 and features Hohba Yaki with A5, Hida Wagyu. According to Chef Kashiwabara, only one other restaurant in Canada located in Vancouver serves this incredible wagyu beef. I was tempted to go with the tasting menu, but it can only be eaten at the dining table. My husband and I got a few a-la-carte items and both got the Omakase Sushi Course ($95 per person).
We started with the a-la-carte dishes which included:
The Kamo Roast (Roasted duck- $12.80) with grated yuzu, wasabi and bayberry.
Soft Shell Crab with Ponzu Sauce ($15)
Kanpachi Kama (Grilled J. Amber Jack Neck-$17.80) -This was a special daily appetizer.
After we proceeded to to our Omakase Sushi course which included:
1– Agedashi Goma Tofu (Deep-fried Sesame Tofu in broth)
2 – Zensai (Assorted Appetizers)- The octopus was the most soft and tender octopus I have ever eaten! How do they even do that?
3 – Tofu Jiru (Fresh Tofu cooked in Soy milk & Fish broth)-I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of it. The housemade tofu was incredible and super soft!
4 – Omakase Sushi (Chef’s Choice Sushi)
We were honoured that we sat in front of Owner/Chef Seiichi Kashiwabara, and had a wonderful time in awe watching him meticulously prepare the sushi. Compared to our first omakase experience at Zen, the new menu features a larger variety of fishes including fish from Japan. The fish selection for the omakase sushi changes depending on what’s in season or available. Our fish selection included medium toro, ocean trout, scallop, sardines from Portugal, shrimp, and Japanese sea bream.
This was the highlight of our meal and every bite was orgasmic and heavenly!
We received the roll with toro that was minced and mixed in with what looked like a Japanese leeks. It was the first time having this and it melted in my mouth! I call this this the “Japanese butter roll”.
5 – Homemade Dessert
I did not want to describe every single dish into great detail since I want you to try everything for yourself! The new Zen is a perfect spot to celebrate an occasion for a splurge meal. Aside from the ultra delicious meal, the servers were attentive, and the food was well paced. Make sure to ask for a seat at the bar, and watch the Chefs in action!
Thank you Chef Kashiwabara for the special dessert for our anniversary!