There was a time not too terribly long ago in Oklahoma City when there was a chain on every corner and the closest you could get to local was to make a trip to your farmers market and make the food yourself. We always celebrate all things local, and luckily, it’s getting easier for OKC restaurants to incorporate locally grown, all- natural ingredients into what they offer.
— By Devon Green
photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman
Football season is finally here! We call it soccer, but that doesn’t have to stop you from indulging in two favorite European traditions: walking and pub crawling. Since the Energy FC games will be alcohol-free, we’ve created a list of pubs and taverns within walking distance from Clement E. Pribil Stadium at Bishop McGuinness Catholic High School.
— by Devon Green
photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman
While the idea of fried dough may or may not be American in origin, the traditional ring-shaped confection that we know and love does originate here. According to The Smithsonian, doughnuts were created by an enterprising New England sailor’s mother who wanted a way to store and transport pastry. Regardless of its origin, the doughnut is a modern favorite.
— by Devon Green, photos by Mark Hancock and Shannon Cornman
As a veteran restaurant reviewer, the first question I usually get asked by a new acquaintance is, “OK, so where’s the best restaurant around here?”
I usually answer, “In what category?” Steakhouses, barbecue, Mediterranean, Italian, Indian, French, Mexican, Cajun, German, Greek, Asian and on and on. They look at me and sigh. Believe me, I’ve tried them all.
Could Zen Asian Dining be the top spot for Asian food in Edmond? It is darn near.
Husband-and-wife team Lesly and Jamil Tran own and operate Zen. Chef Jamil’s sister, Kathy Tien, is a co-owner at Grand House China Bistro, known for its trendy weekend dim sum in Oklahoma City. They have been in the hospitality business for more than a quarter of a century.
Zen’s chefs are influenced by the best of specialties from Vietnam, China, Thailand and Japan. Although the restaurant is off the main street and tucked into a strip mall called the Edmond Exchange Building, people have no problem finding it and like to order the General chicken with egg roll, fried wonton, soup and rice ($6.25) for lunch. Mongolian beef with a sweet and spicy light soy sauce ($8.25), the pan-seared tilapia filet with basil sauce ($12.95) and salt-and-pepper calamari ($6.50) from the appetizer list are other favorites.
Among its best choices on the menu are duck, pho noodles and salads, plus good smoothies and chrysanthemum or raspberry teas.
After downtown Edmond’s annual LibertyFest parade, I headed over to Zen with many other paradegoers. I wanted to try the pad Thai, which I did not get to taste during many previous visits to Zen since it opened in 2006.
The combination pad Thai ($6.95) was listed on the lunch special, available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. It was a Thai stir-fried rice noodle dish with a good portion of large shrimp, chunks of chicken, sliced onions, red bell pepper, smaller hot peppers, egg and squares of fried tofu, all with decisive flavors of spice. Those who fear spiciness should have no problem here, as it tasted light and clean, with the chicken chunks almost a pristine white along with refreshing mint sprigs.
On another visit with a dining companion, it was the final day of the U.S. Open at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. Since my good friend had at one time belonged to the club, we considered carryout so we could catch the golf championship at home. But after a mention to our server, he graciously turned the channel from the baseball game to the golf match. Chef Tran, a golfer himself, came out to watch the final shots with us.
Dining on fine food right through the final moments, we began with mini Peking duck ($12.95) and frankly, there was nothing “mini” about it. The duck was tasty and tender, presented with buns and a sweet and spicy hoisin sauce. We followed it with well-prepared pork and black mushroom spring rolls ($4.95), a shrimp oriental salad ($7.50) and a cold cucumber salad ($3.95), which was so simple with soy sauce and sesame oil dressing — brilliant.
For our main courses, we let things kick off with fish and ordered the pleasing tilapia filet with black bean sauce ($12.95), plus a delicious Thai curry with chunks of salmon, scallops and shrimp ($17.95), all sparkling fresh. No shoe leather here.
For dessert, a shared piece of lemon smooth cake ($3.50) was outstanding.
Lesly Tran mentioned later that “zen” means “truth.”
“What you get at Zen is true, authentic Asian food,” she said.
Oklahoma Gazette’s restaurant review policy is to highlight the positive aspects, and include constructive criticism regarding food, ambience or service when appropriate.