Published with permission from LuxuryWeb.com
In our extensive experience dining at many premier restaurants across the US, Europe, and a few in Asia, we admit we’ve become somewhat hard to impress. However, a recent dinner at a new restaurant had us absolutely captivated.
Nestled in the town of Englewood, New Jersey, a fresh dining spot has emerged. It’s a sibling to an original location in Brooklyn, New York, and, as far as we understood, another outpost in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Masterful blend of fusions
CZEN, pronounced “seaZon”, sits adjacent to the Bergen Performing Arts Center Theater, one of the town’s main drags. Stepping inside this distinctively customized restaurant feels like an immediate teleportation from New Jersey to the Caribbean — albeit, with a notable Asian flair. A sensory celebration greets you, full of vibrant colors, rhythmic tunes, and a tantalizing menu of fusion cuisine.
The venue respects the recent trend of alfresco dining, offering a few tables under market umbrellas on the pavement out front.
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The interior of the restaurant is divided into two areas: an elongated bar and a collection of intimate tables comprise the first room, while the main dining room features turquoise leather banquettes lining the walls and snug, coral-colored chairs — a vibrant nod to the hues of the Caribbean Sea and sun-bleached sands.
A grand chandelier adorned with turquoise droplets provides the lighting in the main dining area. Meanwhile, the walls showcase an homage to the Asian influences in the menu, adorned with abstract art pieces and vivid sun umbrellas matching the turquoise and coral seating. Dominating one wall is a sizeable Caribbean mural featuring the restaurant’s logo. The simple black slate tables and black plates prove an ideal stage for the culinary artistry.
Upon arrival, we received a warm welcome and were guided to a table under the chandelier. We were handed a menu and drinks list, and I opted for the Pineapple Crush (Pineapple Ciroc, Pineapple Rum, Peach Schnapps, and Pineapple juice served in a hollowed fresh pineapple), while Barbara went with the Jammin (Jameson, Lime Juice, Ginger Beer, Ginger Ale). A bowl of crispy, seasoned chow fun noodles with a signature dipping sauce kept us engaged while deciding our order.
We had the delightful chance to meet Chef Jonathan Broadwater. Intrigued by the unique ingredient pairings in the appetizer section, we asked for an assortment, creating an impromptu tasting menu rather than a standard one-appetizer, one-entrée meal.
Happily obliging, Chef Jonathan initiated our culinary journey with one of the finest corn and crab chowders we’ve ever had. It was loaded with corn, crab, carrots, celery, onions in a savory broth, topped off with a perfectly fried lotus root that added some crunch to the beautifully spiced soup. Even if you’re not a soup fan like Barbara, this bowl will win you over – she virtually wiped it clean!
A culinary delight
Our dining adventure continued with tender fried wings, possessing a mild kick, served alongside a berry jerk dip, and then Asian-style dumplings, filled with oxtail or vegetables.
Another appetizer we sampled was the Bang Bang Cauliflower, lightly fried and tossed in one of CZEN’s signature sauces.
In a delightful twist, Chef Broadwater surprised us with a course not featured on the current menu but intended for future ones, given that most dishes rotate seasonally. The dish was a blend of lobster and shredded pineapple meat in fried jerk rice, containing generous chunks of lobster and a variety of veggies, served in a fresh pineapple shell — absolutely delightful!
Our meal concluded with frozen vanilla ice cream, encased in a crispy crust and served with unsweetened whipped cream (Schlag), accompanied by a side of blueberry compote.
Adding to CZEN’s ambiance, music plays a central role, with live entertainment featuring on several evenings and weekends (check their website here for details).
Currently offering both lunch and dinner, CZEN is a must-try for anyone with an appreciation for exceptional and uniquely curated cuisine.
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