Go Zen or Go Home

go-zen-vegan-chao-Malaysia-Roti-Prata-review

It’s usually a sad occasion when a vegan restaurant closes — more often than not, it’s replaced by a “normal” joint. 

Yet by some stroke of luck, the new owners of the space previously occupied by VP2 have decided to keep the vegan flame alive, and I can’t complain about that. 

Except… I can!

Ambiance – 4 carrots Near Confection Perfection

I really dig the new vibe + decor of Go Zen. Gone are the worn-out red pleather semi-circle booths that were unwieldy to slip in and out of. Go Zen updated the space with additional light fixtures (or simply started using bulbs in them) for consistent light, not like the randomly-placed spotlights of VP2. 

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The space feels bigger and… shall I say it? More “zen!”

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The woodsy decor certainly adds a verdant touch.

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Asian-inspired faux windows are cute, though not at all functional. Wouldn’t it be cool if we could see into the next business?

Wood and earthen tones of chestnut brown, sandstone and touches of mahogany gave the space a more unified feel. 

Service – carrot-rating-4-0

Maybe it was because they were only three weeks into opening, but the service here was crazy attentive, to the point of being annoying.

I’m not saying it’s necessarily a negative thing, but it was noticeable. The rule of good service: know when a plate would be cleared, ask questions but not about every little thing and — this is key — when a patron makes extended eye contact with you, they are most definitely trying to get your attention.

A good waiter won’t just look at you staring back at them and not come over, unless they think you’re staring at them because they’re hot. In that case, they should come over anyway!

Still, over-attentiveness is much preferred to non-attentive, any day. 

One of the waitresses then asked if I wanted ice/no ice in my water, which I thought was pretty rad. Plus, she held the door for us as we left! Amazing.

* A note on the menu: Go Zen’s menu is one of the most disjointed ones I’ve seen. They have Thai/Malay/Asian dishes as well as American (burgers), Mediterranean (mango pita) and Italian (pasta). It made me pretty confused as to the theme/focal point of their cuisine. 

Oyster mushroom – Fair, but really, can't you do better? three carrots

It’s getting harder and harder for me NOT to order an app. Somehow, my tummy convinces my mind that I’m just that hungry that I can’t wait a few more minutes. 

Anyway, having said that, I couldn’t resist ordering an appetizer. Since I just came from a long movie at the IFC across the street (Oscar nominated animated shorts, if you must know), I was über hungry. 

Had I known Go Zen’s portions were just as huge as VP2’s, I would’ve waited. Such is the gamble when one eats out. 

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Flashbacks to my authentic Chinese food dinners out with family: so salty, so MSG’d!

The oyster mushroom app tasted a lot like the deep fried white pepper shrimp I used to eat growing up on authentic Chinese food, i.e.: loaded with MSG. Because of that, it was incredibly tasty, but it made me thirsty and not too happy that I was ingesting flavor additiives. Still, I liked it. 

Definitely not a dish to order if you want to feel healthy. 

Singapore Mei Fun ($8.00):4 carrots Near Confection Perfection

Originally, I was going to order the dish my friend Kristi (check out her food blog, Eat NYC) ordered, but boy was I glad I didn’t. The mei fun, like the oyster mushrooms, was pretty salt-tasting and MSG-laden. After eating, I felt really gassy and uncomfortable. I did like the dish, however. And the portion size was great for being only 8 bucks.

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Sure was tasty, but for the right reasons? Not sure!

Again, not something to feel healthy about. My theory is that dishes with various components (a stir fry, sauce-covered or seasoned thing) mixed together is much likelier to contain MSG than, say, a salad or sandwich. 

When will restaurants stop tricking our tastebuds to turn a profit/cover their lack of cooking skills? 

Malaysia Roti Prata  ($13.00):carrot-rating-2-0

More oily water-soup than curry, this dish was a huge letdown. We were expecting something closer to Thai- style curry, so it was disappointing to behold this dish. 

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They should just call this “Malaysia Soup” or “Malay Oil Water.”

The Roti bread, however, was exceedingly light and fluffy and had a pleasant, pliable texture ideal for ripping and dipping. I’d rather have had five pieces of the bread than a bowl of the “curry.” 

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LOVED this fluffy bread. Can I have sum ‘oor?

Furthermore, does anyone have a recipe for vegan Roti bread? Because I need that in my life. 

Sound it out!

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