‘Watts for Dinner’: Zen Asian BBQ offers fun, fusion and fulfillment

Will Watts

Zen Asian BBQ is a “rustic Japanese Pub mixed with Korean BBQ,” as they self-describe on their website. Zen features dishes from Korea, Japan and Thailand, including sushi, assorted ramen bowls and Korean barbecue – which you can cook tableside, in the preferred seating.

Red curry dumplings from Zen Asian BBQ, Naples.
Bok choy from Zen Asian BBQ, Naples.

Things got off to a very appetizing start with two tidbits, the crispy bok choy and the red curry dumplings. I usually like pan fried dumplings, as the steamed just can’t compete. But let them soak up some coconut-milky red curry sauce and it’s a whole different ballgame. An unexpected turn that led to a great taste destination.

The bok choy was on a whole other level. This dish dealt with the leafy side and looked as if you had attempted to make potato chips out of kale. And it worked! Delicious and fun to eat; the crushed candy-like nuts and hot plum soy created a flavor explosion in my mouth.

At this point I need to mention the speed of this kitchen. It was a packed house on a Saturday night, yet before we could order our entrees, our appetizers had arrived – and they influenced my decision-making process. I just had to have more of that red curry.

So, for my main dish, the chicken red curry, served with steamed rice. You might expect the dish to feature bell peppers and zucchini. But what you might not expect – at least I didn’t – was the pineapple floating in that coconut-milky red curry sauce. What an unexpected delight. Each piece of pineapple would reset the taste buds and allow you to taste the rest of the dish as if you were trying it for the first time. Brilliant!

Red curry chicken from Zen Asian BBQ, Naples.
Bulgogi, thinly slice marinated angus beef rib-eye,  from Zen Asian BBQ, Naples.

My partner in dine picked the bulgogi, thinly sliced and marinated angus beef rib-eye served with steamed rice. So, imagine you take the inside of a Philly cheesesteak and serve it up fajita style and throw in some snow peas for good measure. Simple and delicious.

Our night of delight didn’t stop there. Zen features house made desserts such as green tea crème brulee, hot lava cake and cocoa in a jar (their version of an ice cream sundae); and a green tea crepe cake which was named “most insane dessert in Southwest Florida.”

My dining companion had the green tea crème, which was good and gets high marks for presentation. It came packed in ice and surrounded with flowers and other decorations carved from a carrot.   

Green tea crème brulee from Zen Asian BBQ, Naples.
Green tea crepe cake from Zen Asian BBQ, Naples.

I had to go for the “insane” crepe cake. And it was. Thin layer upon layer of sugary green tea goodness served alongside a scoop of green tea ice cream. Our hostess explained that the proper way to eat this dish was a bit of ice cream and cake in the same bite. And she wasn’t wrong.

Zen Asian BBQ offers fun, fusion and a fantastic ride for your taste buds.

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If you go

Zen Asian BBQ

  • 10823 Tamiami Trail North, Naples
  • 239-260-7037
  • eatatzen.com