Summer in the City – Day 2: Zen Palate and American Idiot

Previous Parts:
Part 1 Summer in the City – Day 1: Pancakes, Wine & Cupcakes
Part 2 Summer in the City – Day 1: Drinks at Macondo and the Spinto Band
Part 3 Summer in the City – Day 2: Kiss-In, Lush & Whole Foods Lunch

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Saturday evening brought dinner along with a show on Broadway. How exciting! I’ve only seen a few shows on Broadway, and they’re always an exciting experience. But before I get into that, let’s have a talk about dinner.

I picked out the restaurant Zen Palate, in the Theater District because it was 1) close to the hotel, 2)close to the theater and 3) vegetarian! The website looks awesome, so I was pretty excited to finally eat here.

The restaurant is way smaller inside than it looks from the outside. Chris and I wanted to sit inside to get the “experience” but, outside probably would have been just as nice. Anyway, first, we walked through the kitchen to get to the main, small, dining area. A group of people actually walked in front of us, after we were told to wait to be seated, which was a little irritating. (Zen Fail #1) Also, this group of people got served before us as well. We waited about 10-15 minutes before anyone even came to take our drink orders. Once the server arrived, I ordered one of the special drinks, (non-alcoholic, since I don’t think they serve alcohol), and they were all out of them. (Zen Fail #2) After waiting another 10-15 minutes, they finally came back to take our order.

Chris got a Ginger Beer, which tasted like really good, all natural ginger ale. I should have ordered that, but got an iced green tea instead.

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We started with three different appetizers, since we wanted to try as many things as possible, because we don’t get eat at a full vegetarian/vegan restaurant often (or ever). Most of the dishes had faux meat in them, which was kind of cool, since usually I’m stuck ordering vegetables or salads at most restaurants.

Appetizer 1: Sweet Yam Fries (sweet potato fries). I’m really glad I ordered these. They were crispy and delicious.

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Appetizer 2: Scallion Pancakes. Probably the highlight of my dinner! They were so tasty…the crust was crisp and flakey, and had good scallion flavor. Inside was a slice of what I’m assuming was faux ham. I haven’t tasted the flavor of ham in so long, at first I couldn’t figure out what it was! It was pretty tasty though.

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Appetizer 3: Autumn Rolls. I wasn’t sure what was actually supposed to be in an autumn roll, but when we asked, the server told us slivered mushroom and bamboo. Something inside the filling did not taste right to me. (Zen Fail #3)I was pretty surprised because I rarely dislike food. These were not my cup of tea…Chris said he enjoyed them though! I pulled the filling out of a few of them and ate the orange crust. ;-)

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I was actually pretty full from the apps, and I didn’t want to waste an entree since I didn’t think I’d be able to eat one. So Chris just ordered a stir fry of whole wheat noodles with veggies and slivers of fake meat and shared it with me. It was pretty tasty! I liked the fake meat slivers. :-) It was a pretty big portion, so I’m glad I didn’t order my own, I never would have finished it.

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Since I was feeling a bit disappointed with my experience at Zen Palate, I ordered dessert at the same time Chris ordered his entree. I ordered the chocolate raspberry cake, and the server told me they were all out! (Zen Fail #4). How can you be all out of a dessert when it was 5:00PM, the beginning of dinner time?! Strange to me. She suggested the vegan cheesecake. So I figured why the hell not? How bad could vegan cheesecake be?

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Not bad at all, actually. Once you take a bite and get over the initial shock that this is in fact, completely dairy free and tastes nothing like real cheesecake, it tastes pretty good. The texture mimics cheesecake because I believe tofu takes place of the cheese ingredient. I’m not exactly sure how you make vegan cheesecake, but I’m pretty sure tofu is involved. The crust tasted great and the blueberries were the star of the show. If it wasn’t for the blueberry sauce, this cheesecake probably would have been awful. I’m actually glad I’m not vegan.

Overall: mildy disappointing, after having somewhat high expectations. I guess I have to do more research when looking for places to eat in the city.

After waiting what felt like forever (Zen Fail #5) for our check, it was finally time to get out of there.

Zen Palate on Urbanspoon

We had time to spare before our show, so we walked over to Riposo 46, where we ate brunch the day before.

Chris and I sat at the bar, and enjoyed a glass of wine! They were out of the Shiraz I had Friday (boooo!) so, I ordered a Riesling.

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After a quick drink, it was time for American Idiot!

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Chris and I are both huge Green Day fans, so we had been looking forward to this forever! Chris actually wrote a special review of the show for my blog, my first ever guest writer! Here it is:

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 I should probably preface this guest post with a few things about me. First, when I was in middle school and high school, I wanted to be in Green Day. My friend called me Tre Cool, I called him Billie Joe and we spent hours with our guitars playing Green Day covers in his basement. So I may be a little biased towards American Idiot. Second, I am a really visual and musical person who will listen to a song on repeat for hours. When I watch movies I try to take in the whole experience and can talk for hours about shots composition and editing. So in short, I walked into St. James Theater with huge expectations of a great visual and musical show written by my favorite band of all time.  

To sum it up, American Idiot on Broadway was probably the most exhilarating entertainment experience I’ve ever been privy to witness. There are just so many amazing parts that all add up to a moving and thrilling experience. If you’re going to see this show I recommend that you first buy the original cast recording. First, it will acclimate you to hearing someone other than Billie Joe singing and second, it will get you used to some of the new arrangements, because the show is not just a simple reproduction of the album. I bought the soundtrack about two months before seeing the show and was instantly hooked on listening to the new interpretations. There is the exciting and fast ‘American Idiot’, the dark pulsating ‘Holiday’, and then a few surprises such as an all-girl rendition of ‘Letterbomb’ (maybe the best song of the musical) and a sad ballad of ‘Whathername’. So that’s just the music. On a visual level, there’s a reason American Idiot won a Tony for set design. There are televisions hung up all across the back of the stage and if you watch them during the show, you are treated to an incredible mixture of media-induced fear, Youtube technology and visuals that enhance the songs/story. Finally, the cast does an amazing job of creating a simple but moving story of disenchanted youth in America. There are moments of real emotion, whether it be a girl sharing a pregnancy, soldiers rolling and ducking under the sound of bombs, and a spectacularly haunting depiction of the September 11th attacks that will simply take your breath away.

It’s hard to say more than will capture the experience of seeing this musical. It runs until the end of January so I encourage everyone to go check it out. You never have and never will see anything quite like it.

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So, after the show, which was only an hour and half with no intermission, we decided to relax back at the hotel for a while, so we could talk about the show. We then later went and walked around Times Square until 1:00AM. What else would do you in the city that never sleeps? I may have ordered a frozen yogurt at a shop in Times Square at midnight, but forgot my camera. I love NY!

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3 comments to Summer in the City – Day 2: Zen Palate and American Idiot

  • A good vegan place in the city is Franchia on Park near 34th. LOVE that place. Not exactly in the area you were looking for but you should try it next time.

    I would love to see American Idiot but can’t get time off to go to the city before it closes. :-(

  • Kathy P

    Jen, your experience at Zen takes me back to my one and only experience with a vegan restaurant – Sublime, in Fort Lauderdale. I remember the food was pretty good and they had a full bar. My husband Wade surprised me by ordering a raw vegetable pizza. I can’t remember what entree I got, but I remember the chocolate “cheese”cake for dessert – the texture wasn’t quite like the real dairy thing, but chocolate covers a multitude of faults :) It was actually pretty tasty. Sorry your experience was not as you guys hoped, though -

  • That’s a bummer about the restaurant, but the show sounds like it was amazing! I am going to go to a show this fall/winter and American Idiot is definitely on the list!

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