ZEN RESTAURANT IS NOT ON THE BEATEN PATH, AND WE HOPE IT STAYS THAT WAY!
If it hits the tourist books, then it is no longer on the beaten path. Zen Restaurant is only passed if you had a friend who lived in Lindenthal, a neighborhood in Cologne, and were heading there for a visit. How we found it, I do not know, but there it was, hidden behind parked cars, with bumpers practically kissing so that even the skinniest of legs could not pass through. A storefront setting, it is sandwiched in on a residential street. Another restaurant is about a half a block away, but is the only other establishment within a 5 or 6 block radius.
The first night we tried to get in, the tables were all filled. And this was after 20 minutes of circling to find a spot. First piece of advice is take public transport and walk from the station. Second is, make a reservation. The second time we tried, we did both. It was worth the walk and the wait.
As with most of our reviews, it is about what few dishes we ordered and the experience we had. Starting with the Edemame, it arrived perfectly steamed with large salt crystals. Firm to the bite, and not in the least soggy.
Sushi was next on the list. We were eating light, so just two rolls were ordered. A tuna (not raw) and a California roll (M2’s all time favorite). They were fresh, light and tasty. The ginger only would have been fresher had they handed us a grater to do it ourselves.
Followed by a moist and delicately flavored salmon fillet. Cologne is landlocked, so seafood is not always our go-to food. It can be found fresh, but we tend to stick to our ocean haunts (Maine) for fresh seafood. I must rave for a moment; this was on glorious piece of fish. The teriyaki sauce was tangy and gently sweetened, a beautiful balance of flavors that enhanced the salmon and did not overpower it’s own naturally sweet, delicate flavor.
The service was pleasant, the restaurant not too crowded, as it was at the start of a holiday weekend. Do make a restaurant because it is small. Choices offered on the menu are the perfect amount. Enough to feel like you could ponder for a few minutes, but not so many that you felt like you were overwhelmed and did not know what to eat. A full wine/beer/spirits list/sake was available as well. There are a couple of outdoor tables, if you don’t mind sitting between the cars.
Zen Japanese Restaurant
Bachemer Str. 236
50935 Köln, Germany
+49 (221) 2828 5755