I kicked off the month of February by taking a drive up to New Port Richey to have lunch with my friend Jodi, aka Tampa Wine Woman, at Zen Forrest. After hearing so much about their exquisite cuisine that is both delicious and healthy, I was anxious to take the 45 minute drive from South Tampa. We met for lunch just before 1 pm on a Friday afternoon and my meal clearly exceeded my expectations.
Located at 4148 Rowan Rd in New Port Richey, Zen Forrest is a culinary gateway to China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia. Many dishes are a fusion of both international and American flavors, thus creating exotic dishes with incredible flavors. More than just a local favorite, Zen Forrest has fans all over the Tampa Bay area that are willing to drive more than an hour for Chef Victor Wang’s incredible cuisine.
We started off with Zen Forrest Rolls which consist of sautéed minced chicken and a medley of vegetables wrapped in an egg roll shell accompanied by their spicy lemon mustard dipping sauce. One of their signature items, Zen Forrest Rolls are served with several lunch items or can be ordered as a starter.
Chef Victor is known as being an avid believer in the benefits of balanced nutrition and the philosophy of “Food as Medicine” and has incorporated his beliefs into his own cooking style. I was excited to learn this, as I started off 2013 on a program dedicated to eating clean and eating super foods rich in nutrients. For lunch, I went with their fresh fish special of the day, Amberjack, which was served over Green Goddess Rice and fresh vegetables. Jodi had the same and for mine, I skipped the rice in favor of additional vegetables.
A nice off-white fish, Amberjack is mild in flavor and is not too oily. It had been a very long time since I last had Amberjack, and I was quite pleased with my lunch selection. It was prepared perfectly and the taste was simply fantastic. It blended so well with the veggies and I finished every last morsel. As much as I wanted to try the rice, I had to refrain since I am eliminating starches from my diet at the moment. As soon as I introduce them back into my diet, I will have to take another trip up their for dinner.
Chef Victor came to our table and chatted for a bit. He wanted to send us some dessert and I told him that as much as I wanted to have some, I had to decline due to my diet. He told me that what he was bringing did not have any calories, so it was ok for me have some. Well, how could I argue with that? 😉
First we started off with Dark Chocolate Mousse that is vegan friendly sans the whipped cream. Light and airy, it was divine. The portion was just perfect and I didn’t feel an ounce of guilt.
Our second dessert was Coconut Panna Cotta served with a fresh fruit salad consisting of kiwi, strawberries and mango. Made with coconut milk, the panna cotta is light and vegan friendly. I adore panna cotta and this was sensational. I could have easily finished it all, but I was good and only had about three bites.
I am so glad I decided to take the trip and venture out of Tampa for the afternoon. If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend stopping by Zen Forrest for lunch or dinner. With a fabulous wine list and a friendly staff, Zen Forrest is definitely a dining destination.