PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
Enter this restaurant through the rear doorway and you encounter some slippery customers. Huddled together they appear agitated, chomping at the bit. Other hard looking types are just down right crabby. No, they are not hungry punters impatient for their delicious take-away, but seafood tank inhabitants, sensing their destiny to a cleaver and steamer. Eels and crab are just two of Zen's popular offerings.
Step down into the dining room of this split-level, stalwart suburban restaurant for a bounty of traditional treats. Lobsters and yabbies snapping, barramundi and Murray cod flapping are hard to pass by - especially when you know chef Johnny can send them to your table steamed with ginger and shallots, or fried with pine nuts, dressed in sweet and sour sauce. The salt and peppers spanner and mud crab, and those swirling eels can wind up on your plate as sashimi.
The menu is impressively balanced with meats, soups, cold cuts, rice and noodles. Introduce your palate to an entrée of jellyfish and golden mushrooms, or a warming hot and sour soup spiked with chilli and vinegar. On to mains, the sight of sea cucumber with Chinese black mushrooms and fish lips speaks volumes. You are not in a pedestrian Chinese joint that serves chicken and cashew nut. Croc meat in XO sauce, ox tripe with black bean, garlic long beans and a white bait omelette - the luscious list goes on. Beef is sautéed in oyster sauce with Chinese dough sticks while the belly is stewed with white radish in a claypot to tender perfection.
Manager Phillip Chow proclaims Zen's to be the best fried ice cream in Adelaide. Presented as a trio of chocolate, vanilla and strawberry flavoured balls with assorted toppings, he could be right. Tables full of Chinese diners seem the proof in their sweetly transfixed, zen trance.