After 22 years at It’s Only Natural (ION) Restaurant, its masterful head chef sought new challenges, so he and his wife opened G-Zen, initially a sort of Neo-ION, as half its menu was the same, but with new and more imaginative though sometimes pretentious names. What could have been better than ION? Two ION’s!
Yet who can refrain from making comparisons? (Obviously not I). Many new dishes do distinguish it from ION, especially in recent years. For instance one entree here is all raw, with many side dishes raw too. Decor and dinnerware are more elegant and opulent than at hippie artsy ION. (You decide which better suits your personality.) I do prefer the “vibes” (yeah man, am a hippie) of ethnically-diverse and middle-class Middletown to that of predominantly Caucasian and affluent New-Haven-bedroom Branford, and prefer the trip to Middletown on scenic and lightly traveled Route 9 rather than on industrialized and truck-choked and traffic-jammed Interstate 95.
The food at G-Zen is outstanding, and it is primarily for the food that one chooses any restaurant. Every entrée is flavorful and often unique, if not invented by the masterful chef then surely perfected by him. The portions sometimes are small, but the nutritional standards always are high. So are the prices, especially of the desserts. It costs $15 for a sliver of ostensibly raw (cashews are never raw) dessert. Add tax and tip, and that’s $20, and for a mere sliver. Do not be duped by all the hype about raw this and raw that, because steamed broccoli or cooked brown rice are far more nutritious than any dessert heavily laden with sweets and fats, raw or not.
Yet the desserts and all the other food, raw or not, deserve the accolades bestowed upon it by others: it is delicious, nutritious, nearly wholly wholesome, mostly organic, much of it raw, beautifully presented, graciously hosted, and totally vegan. This very well may be vegan heaven!
Just ignore all the self-ingratiating hype on its website and DeFacebook page and menu, which should be taken with a grain of Himalayan salt. This is not the best veg restaurant in the entire Milky Way, which its tiresome hyperbole tries to bludgeon you into believing. This is the best veg restaurant in Connecticut, but CT is the third smallest state and its entire population is one-third that of just NYC’s. And NYC hosts several comparable restaurants.
G-Zen, no one loves your food because of all your hype. Rather, we love your food despite your hype.
Cons: the hype, the parking, the dessert prices