by Tom Sims
Tom Sims searches the Valley for tips on eating healthy, buying healthy food, growing healthy food, and eating out healthy in the Valley, for this Healthy Eating in the Valley column. Feel free to share your suggestions of places and things to check out!
Sometimes you have to compromise. You are with your family and the combination of their preferences, health biases, and commitments are not the same as yours. At that time, you look for a place where there might be a meeting in the middle, or at least more options. Then, you might end up at Hometown Buffet and wonder why.
More on that later.
Other times, you are on your own, perhaps in the Tower District, and you can do as you please. That is when you might consider, if you share some of my food interests, Zen Wok Fusion. Zen Wok Fusion has a full menu that includes meat dishes, local and fresh products, and natural ingredients, but also a very full and delicious vegetarian menu that is not an afterthought.
There is no major back story to the restaurant. Co-owner, Craig Dixon had been in the restaurant business for years and teamed up with his partner, Andy Karsh who owned the building. Zen Wok Fusion just seemed like a good, catchy name to them and the menu developed out of years of experience in the industry and a sense that they were meeting a growing market need. Both had years of experience in the industry.
Of course, while Craig does not attribute the healthy options on his menu to lofty ideals, he has worked through some positive healthy changes himself in the last five years and is a walking example of a lifestyle of wellness and good nutrition.
They have been successful enough that they are launching a new location on Palm and Herndon in October. A new menu hits the streets this month.
It is always fun when good taste and good nutrition meet.
Four stars on Yelp and a 96% rating on Urban Spoon do not happen when the food is not good. There are detractors, but there are always detractors.
The first time I was there, just walking in off the street, I ran in to some happy friends who share my interest in gourmet eating and good health. They told me they were regulars.
On my first visit, I had the Garlic Noodles with Vegetarian Chicken Strips. It included mushrooms, snow peas and sweet red onions in a spicy white wine sauce with a touch of chili paste. On the second visit, I ordered vegetarian egg rolls off the starter menu.
I have to say, that both times I went away with the satisfaction of having pampered my taste buds, stimulated my culinary imagination, filled my tummy, and nurtured my body.
Most full meals are $12-$14. Some dip below $10 and some ease above $15. Starters are generous serving in the $6-$9 range.
Sundays at Hometown Buffet are about $12.50 plus $2.69 for the beverage bar.
It used to be one of my favorite places for down-home tastiness and abundance. Now that my tastes and commitments have changed, it is more of a challenge. That being said, their options have narrowed, serving sizes have been prescribed, and some new dishes have been created, none of which work for me. Even the greens are swimming in a pork wash. They never promoted themselves as gourmet or holistic. However, they have always had a number of fresh ingredients on their salad bar.
They still do and, in spite of the crush of people bee-lining to the potatoes and fried chicken, they keep the tables clean and the food well presented. There was ample room at the salad bar.
Avoid taking their pre-made salads and build your own. Also avoid their dressings and use the lemon wedges and olive oil. I was able to visit there Sunday with my family and be my own salad chef. Everyone in the family found something they enjoyed. The diabetic among us probably had the most difficult time. There seem to be sugar enhancements in many of the dishes.
Another hint: Collect ingredients from here and there, including the taco bar. The salsas are very nice.
So, I gravitate back to Zen Wok Fusion. If your party likes Asian food, there is something for everyone and reasonably priced. If you have started to scale back on quantity, the starter menu provides plenty of quantity and you will actually save money over a buffet.
I ate some things I should not have eaten at Hometown and enjoyed them. I indulged in the macaroni and cheese. I had desert. I tasted a few other “delicacies.” I even had a roll. Bread exists as a host for butter! When I left, I felt slightly bloated, somewhat guilty, but satisfied.
When I walked out of Zen Wok Fusion, I had no guilt, but also, deep satisfaction.
I’ll probably go back to both places, but I will have to be more careful at the buffet.
Zen Wok Fusion Bistro
609 East Olive Avenue Fresno, CA 93728
Monday – Thursday 11:30am-9:00 p.m.
Friday 11:30 a.m.- 10:00 p.m.
Saturday 12:00pm-10:00 p.m.
Closed on Sunday
Ask about catering