Zen Sai at Essex House: Secret Sushi on SoBe
Zen Sai Prosciutto Roll
Literally hidden in plain sight, the terrace is tucked behind a wall of foilage, safeguarding this hidden gem from the cliches of Collins Avenue. Soft sounds and colored lights set a serene tone as you cross onto the veranda. Much like a child stumbling upon a secret garden, I knew I had discovered something different after entering Zen Sai.
Following in the tradition of great Izakayas, Zen Sai is more than just sushi. It's a Japanese gastropub that's gone incredibly chic, yet remained undeniably unpretentious. Zen Sai means "small plates" in Japanese, but we were in store for big flavors.
Service was swift and sincere. Our waters were poured and the daily drink special was delivered in a flash. Crisp and light Sake Sangria ($12), balanced perfectly with white wine, quickly whisked the soupy day from our thoughts. Relaxation continued as we met our server, soft-spoken and articulate; each dish and drink recommendation was delivered with detail and passion.
Zen Sai Garbanzo Spring Rolls
The small plates were delivered when ready and were perfectly spaced. Garbanzo Spring Rolls ($8) served with cilantro curry cream, were crisp and delicate. The Spicy Tuna ($10) roll was excellent. The satisfying chew of sushi rice juxtaposed with the creamy texture of spicy tuna kept us coming back for more, despite the growing heat. Dipped delicately into the balsamic teriyaki, one of three robata sauces brought to the table, its complex sweetness played perfectly with a spicy companion. With our palates awakened and drinks emptied, we decided to order another cocktail.