One should dine at Now and Zen, now and then

A review of the messy yet delectable Now and Zen dining experience


A task undoubtedly as challenging as solving a Rubik’s cube while blindfolded is consuming a sushi roll at Now and Zen.

Restaurant: Now and Zen

Location: 202 2nd Street NW, Charlottesville, VA 22902

Type of food: Japanese

College is a time when you learn a lot about yourself. You impress yourself with your accomplishments and discover your shortcomings. During my three years at the University, I have noticed some of my shortcomings surface, like keeping an organized backpack. But I’ve also seen myself face difficult situations head-on and strive to overcome them, such as completing stressful group projects and consuming sushi rolls at Now and Zen.

A task undoubtedly as challenging as solving a Rubik’s cube while blindfolded is consuming a sushi roll at Now and Zen. The sushi rolls listed under the “BIG Rolls” section of the menu are about the size of a fist. And don’t be fooled; even though all of the contents are tightly coiled up, the second you take one bite, the entire masterpiece just implodes. What was a polished ball of raw fish, seaweed and diced vegetables just moments earlier becomes a string of mush hanging out of your mouth, gradually plopping onto the plate in front of you.

I call attention to this messiness factor so you know what to expect when choosing where to dine. If you are going on a first date and want to impress the other person with exquisite table manners and cleanliness, I suggest taking a rain check on Now and Zen. But if you’re dining out with anybody who isn’t judgmental, or if table manners just aren’t that much of a priority, drop everything you’re doing right now and go get a meal at Now and Zen.

Let me highlight the presentation aspect of meals at Now and Zen. When the server arrives with your plate, you will think that he or she is coming to you with a colorful sculpture of a caterpillar. But then you will slowly begin to make out the small grains of rice, the fleshy texture of the fish and the black outline of the seaweed. When the plate is set in front of you, you will feel conflicted. Do you dare break apart this beautiful masterpiece for the sake of eating it? Do you selfishly let your hunger prevent you from honoring the artistic genius that went into the construction of this sushi roll?

The reason for which the answer to the two previous questions is “yes” is the unforgettable flavor packed into this sushi. The roll I always order, the New Orleans Roll, consists of tempura shrimp, cream cheese, crab stick, avocado, cucumber, flying fish roe, eel sauce and spicy mayonnaise (I normally hate even mildly spicy food, but this sauce is incredible and will not burn your tongue off at all). Something about the combination of all of these ingredients just packs the most delicious punch. I can assure you every time I eat this amazing dish, any guilt I had in ruining the dish’s presentation immediately vanishes.

Fear not, haters of sushi and all seafood. Now and Zen has an extensive offering of vegetable dishes, meat dishes and tofu dishes. The Goma Miso Gyoza will leave you satisfied, and does not have a trace of seafood. And who doesn’t love a refreshing seaweed salad, a warm miso soup or tempura vegetables?

The bottom line is that you should want to venture out to Now and Zen sometime in the near future. As long as you have a fair amount of time on your hands, since the restaurant does not have the quickest service, you can expect to have an enjoyable experience. Now, roll up your sleeves, get those chopstick-handling skills ready and go treat yourself to a marvelous meal!

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