Another new entry on the Alameda dining scene: I was driving by, saw the balloons, and stopped in for lunch on what turned out to be their third day.
The former Chin's Garden/Uncle Wing's spot has been transformed into modern Asian-inspired restaurant/lounge space in red and black -- the exception being the brown cushions on the long sectional sofa-like seating area along one wall. There's a small bar -- I asked a woman who appeared to be the manager and she said they will be serving beer, wine and shoju cocktails, but will not have a full bar. At the moment, though, the offerings look pretty slim.
The roots of the "Asian fusion" cuisine appear to be Japanese (not my favorite). Still, there were some appealing items on the menu, which is divided up into soups/salads, small plates and larger plates. I ordered the wagyu beef salad ($8) and the kabocha squash soup shots ($3). They brought me a complimentary small dish of seaweed salad "to try" -- it was okay, but a little too much sesame for my taste, and I noted the greens had some brown edges, which did not bode well for the quality control on the ingredients. The beef on my wagyu salad was deliciously rich and tender, but just an iota too salty. The dish didn't come together well in a way I can't put my finger on. The soup "shots" came in a bowl (something about not having the shot glasses?), but it was delicious. Really, really delicious. One of the best things I've eaten in a while. Thick, smooth, squashy soup with a small dollop of what the menu called cream but was, I think, creme fraiche that added some richness and tang to the sweetness of the squash. The menu description also mentioned miso, and if it was there, its presence only made itself known in the depth of flavor of the soup. As instructed by the menu, I asked my server about desserts and was intrigued by the offering of a raspberry charlotte ($6). It was very pretty, with the disk of charlotte surrounded with zigzags of strawberry puree and a small scoop of vanilla ice cream, but not outstanding flavorwise.
A few other items that looked worth trying were the Asian fries (taro, yucca and burdock, served in a cone), and, under the large plates, the pork belly in mirin and the fish and chips made with mahi mahi.
Open 11-2 and 5-9:30 every day (for now, she said, until they get a feel for it). They took ten percent off my bill, which I assumed was an introductory/grand opening special.
Zen Asian Fusion Tapas + Lounge
2315 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda, CA 94501