Zen Gardens is one of our favourite restaurants that’s fairly close to home, and we’re finally getting the chance to review it here! They have several locations in Ontario and one of them happens to be located in northeast Mississauga. It is a little bit of a jaunt from our place, but it is well worth the drive. Zen Gardens specializes in delicious Chinese cuisine that happens to be entirely vegetarian. This establishment is mostly vegan with only a few items on the menu containing egg or dairy, and these are clearly marked. However, to all of you omnivores out there, fear not: you will definitely be able to find something that you love on this extensive menu, and your body will thank you for consuming such a healthy meal!
The menu at Zen Gardens is quite large and there truly is something for everyone’s varying tastes. There are so many different options to choose from, including noodles, Dim Sum, sushi, soup, rice dishes, and so many more. Zen Gardens is known for their mock meat items that can rival any meat dishes. Not only do they taste great, but they are created entirely using natural ingredients and spices without any chemicals or preservatives.
Justin and I had a difficult time deciding what to order when we discovered that they have Combination Boxes! These are large Bento boxes that come with a sampling of many items so you can try many items from the menu. Perfect! Each combination box comes with a main entree, purple rice, Dim Sum, soup of the day, a salad, a spring roll, and soy nuggets.The food is very reasonably priced – all of that is only $15.99 per person. And trust me, it was more than I could eat – I was happy to enjoy part of my entree and rice as lunch the next day!
The first items to arrive at our table were our Hot and Soup Soups (the soup of the day). These small bowls were great starters that stimulated our appetites. From the website, the Hot and Sour Soup is:
A hearty vegetable broth spiked with vinegar and hot chilies, filled to the brim with sliced bean-curd, bamboo shoots, carrots, tofu and a variety of mushrooms
The soup was the right amount of spice that wasn’t too spicy. I loved the big chunks of tofu and mushrooms in the broth. It was very flavorful and a great start to our meal.
Next up…the Dim Sum!
The Dim Sum arrived in these cute wooden steamer containers. I don’t believe I’ve ever had Dim Sum before, and neither had Justin. We weren’t really sure what was stuffed inside of these dumplings, although I’m sure we could have asked. But, before we knew it, they were completely devoured so it was too late to ask, really. The dumpling on the left in the photograph was pretty good, but the one on the right was amazing. Again, I have no idea what type of Dim Sum these are, except that they come with the Combination Meal, and I adored the one on the right!
Before we knew it, our Combination Boxes had arrived! In addition to the soup and Dim Sum, we also got to eat these:
As you can see, there’s a whole lot of food there! Let’s start with the salad. There were mixed greens, cucumber, tomato, and some fruits (pineapple, orange) topped with a bright, citrus dressing. I have never had pineapple in a salad before, but it tasted great with the fruity dressing! The little orange slices inside the salad were so fresh and juicy. I could have eaten another one of these salads quite easily.
We each were served a veggie spring roll as well as two soy nuggets with a dipping sauce. The spring roll tasted pretty much like any other deep fried vegetarian spring roll you’ve had in the past – it was good! The soy nuggets were really yummy. Justin said that they tasted like a way better version of Chicken McNuggets and we wondered why fast food chains couldn’t just serve soy nuggets instead of ones made of chicken! I have never eaten chicken in my life, but I will take his word that these are much better than the “real” version.
For our entrees, Justin ordered the Kung Po Soy-Fritters (my personal favourite and usually what I have ordered in the past as a main meal) and I ordered the Fried Bean-Curd and Veggies. Here are the menu descriptions:
Kung Po Soy-Fritters:
A traditional Chinese chicken dish. This vegetarian version combines soy protein with mushrooms, bamboo shoots, celery, bell peppers, vegetables, and chillies.
Fried Bean-Curd and Veggies:
A house specialty! Tender bean-curd and veggies on a crispy seaweed crust, glazed with a light sauce, and served on a bed of steamed bok choy.
The Kung Po Soy-Fritters are so delicious – there are many vegetables in the dish topped with whole mushroom caps, bean curd, and crispy soy fritters. The sauce is really yummy with just the right amount of spice. The Fried Bean-Curd and Veggies was really tasty, too. There were slices of tofu on top of crispy seaweed, a combination like nothing I’d ever tried before. I loved all of the baby bok choy in the dish, and the sauce added a light flavour to the meal. I think you would enjoy my meal if you are a fan of seaweed (which I am!), otherwise you may not like it as much. I couldn’t see anyone not enjoying the Kung Po Soy-Fritters though as that dish is just one tasty bite after another!
The decor at Zen Gardens is very modern, yet warm and inviting. The restaurant has an Asian-themed motif with a calming water wall on one side of the room. There are a couple of very large tables that would be great to accommodate large groups or families with a lazy Susan in the center of the table to share several dishes “family-style”. This would be a great place to meet friends, have a date night, or meet work colleagues on a business lunch. I would recommend making reservations on the weekend as it is quite a popular restaurant around the dinnertime hours.
One more aspect that adds to Zen Gardens’ appeal is the little tea shop off to one side of the restaurant. There are many different types of traditional teas that you can purchase to bring home with you. There are many green, white, black, oolong, herbal, or blooming teas to buy. We found a really unique tea that I’ve never seen for sale anywhere else, a Blackcurrant Fruit Tea. While I don’t have any images of the tea shop in the restaurant, here’s one of the actual tea that we decided to try as soon as we got home:
The tea turned the water a deep pink shade. It was some of the most delicious fruit tea that we’d ever tried! I’m actually thinking that I’m going to have to head back to Zen Gardens just to pick up some more of this tea.
Zen Gardens is a great place to try vegan food if you’ve never ventured to a vegetarian restaurant before as there are so many wonderful plant-based selections with tastes that are familiar to meat eaters. They have six locations throughout Ontario, including the one that we visited in Mississauga near Highway 401 and Hurontario:
6980 Maritz Drive, Unit 6, Mississauga, ON L5W 1Z3
Exit Hwy 401 at Hurontario and go north. Head west on Derry Road and take your first left onto Maritz Drive. You will find Zen Gardens in a little plaza there.