Azalea & Zen, Des Moines, Iowa

Another great Des Moines stage took place at Azalea with Sous Chef Sean Wilson, Essex ‘07. Sean and his co-sous chef run two restaurants out of one kitchen. Zen, the sushi bar and lounge sits on the corner of Walnut and 4th Street and serves an average of 150 covers a night. Directly across the hall is Zen’s sister, the very elegant Azalea. Beautiful high ceilings with open exposed beams, both of raw concrete and wooden logs, balanced by black velvet curtains hung from the ceiling and dark suede and leather upholstery, with large mirrors and solid oak accents everywhere. Chef Marcus spent Friday evening with Chef Sean. He orders from some 37 purveyors alone. Plus spends time at the Asian and farmer’s markets purchasing ingredients he never thought he’d use. He calls up the Hawaiian fish market and orders his sushi grade yellow fin to be delivered the next day. It’s quite and operation. Chase and I were given the grand tour while the farmer’s market was taking place, and Chase washed our dishes in the Azalea dish machine. We reminded him that every great chef starts at the dish sink. Saturday night, the three of us had a wonderful meal at Azalea. The menu is American eclectic with an Asian flare, if I had to pin it down. There’s tuna tartar, gently seared raw tuna with capers, red onion, and hard boiled egg…It was sushi and Russian caviar blend, and wonderful. There’s a wood fired oven in the open kitchen which makes a variety of wood fired pizzas, and quail with corn bread stuffing. There’s a delicately flavored potato ravioli with pesto and sweet corn broth, so mild we could taste each ingredient perfectly. The fried calamari was perfectly cooked, The best he’d ever had, Chef Marcus said. Tempura batter wrapped around tender calamari with a pepper aioli dipping sauce. The goat cheese on the arrugala greens with prunes was the perfect balance of spice and sweet. Braised beef short ribs, spicy Kim chi, and white rice made for a wonderful entrée, and I enjoyed my sea bass in fish sauce. Des Moines is ready for great food, and Azalea and Zen are doing their part to provide it. Thank you, Tripp, for a memorable time.

Published in: on September 5, 2007 at 2:41 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Fabulous photos, Erika! What a beautiful restaurant, you captured its elegance. Have fun digging for gold over the next five days!

  2. I celebrated my bithday here had a great time and even better sushi can t say enough good about this place called zen!!!

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