A taste of… Zen Sushi & Dumplings, 301 Montreal St, Christchurch
We'd heard… This wee spot at the Christchurch Arts Centre was the perfect place to get your sushi and/or dumpling fix.
We ordered… A mix of sushi and dumplings, since that's what Zen is all about. Being a small takeaway place, the menu wasn't huge, but there were more than enough tempting options, including a range of pre-packaged sets (sushi, katsu chicken, etc) for people on the go. It was also great to see that those sets came in environmentally friendly paper packaging rather than the usual plastic sushi containers.
We decided to go for the pick-your-own sushi ($2.50 per piece), selecting a variety of rolls and nigiri.
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The delicious salmon tataki roll - packed with avocado, cucumber, egg and crabmeat - was a particular favourite. Zen's owner, who was working behind the counter, told us the Marlborough King Salmon was caught the day before; he even showed us photos of the fish on his phone to prove it. There was no need - you could certainly taste the freshness. I was also a big fan of the tasty, perfectly crispy tempura prawn nigiri.
We had a bit of a wait for the dumplings, but they were well worth it. We chose an assortment ($16 for 12 dumplings) and had them pan-fried (you could also get them steamed). Hot and juicy, they had heaps of flavour and we couldn't get enough of the pork and chives ones, though the vegetarian option, with its strong shiitake mushroom flavour, was also a pleasant surprise. Another highlight was the dipping sauce - the spicy one had just the right amount of heat.
The service was… Excellent. The friendly owner took us through the whole menu when he discovered it was our first time there. And on this particularly chilly winter day, he even came outside to turn on the heater next to our table, which was certainly appreciated.
The vibe was… Bright and welcoming. Most people grabbed their takeaway and went on their way, but there were a few outdoor tables where you could sit and enjoy your meal - providing the weather plays along.
If you go… Be sure to try some of that fresh salmon. And you can't go wrong with a good pork dumpling.
Rating out of 5: 4.5
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