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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Kickoff Dinner of Meet and Eat SWFL at Zen Asian BBQ

Meet and Eat SWFL is a group that evolved from the Facebook foodie group, Paradise Coast Foodies. Meet and Eat SWFL will be starting up a number of interesting activities, mostly centered on helping locally owned restaurants succeed and allowing easier access to them by the public.

I am all for mutually beneficial relationships, and one focus of their business model is to have restaurants provide gratis or for a minimal cost their wares to a number of reviewers in exchange for their opinions on social media. To allow easier public restaurant access, they will also be selling restaurant discount cards. For a small yearly fee, diners can enjoy a substantial discount at participating local restaurants with priority seating. Finally, they plan to organize publicly accessible dining events at local restaurants at a substantial (15-20%) discount. Not only will these events help local restaurateurs, but also be a good outlet socially and financially for local diners as well.

The kickoff event for Meet and Eat SWFL was held at Zen Asian BBQ in Naples, FL a restaurant I had recently Blogged about.

As attendees sat down and waited to be served,

the kitchen staff and the sushi chefs,

were preparing food for us from a very special menu.

Before we started eating, the founders of Meet and Eat SWFL, Randy and Jamie Mandra and Guy Clarke in addition to the manager of  Zen Asian BBQ, Michael Cardascia (background) introduced Bill Barnett, current City Councilman, former mayor and current mayoral candidate. Interestingly, former Mayor Barnett was one of the first food critics for the local newspaper here.

The first thing that was served was the spicy garlic edamame.

I am not a big fan of Edamame but these were not bad. The sauce that the edamame shells were coated with saved the day. Who doesn't like salt, garlic and chili oil?

Spicy tuna tacos were next.

It was a very nice presentation. Creme Fraiche, guacamole and jalapeno highlighted this dish. Due to the portion size, I reserve judgement on this dish until I come back and try them again.

Crispy Brussels sprouts were served for the third course.

I love roasted vegetables, and was all over this. Roasted Brussels sprouts were mixed with candied walnuts, bacon, and a fish based Yuzu Miso sauce. Tres Yum!

Tuna Pizza was next.

Ahi tuna was served on a grilled tortilla with tomato, red onion, tomato, cilantro and an Aioli made from a traditional savory and spicy Korean condiment, Gochujang. This was good but the flavors were not very expressive. It was not my favorite of the night.

Hokkaido Ramen followed, and is a noodle soup dish served here. Literally, it is a noodle soup dish served from one of the Northernmost islands off the coast of Japan. I do not know if this is true but it was really good.

17 hour broth (I assume they spend 17 hours making it), house made noodles, seafood, garlic oil, bean sprout, scallions, egg, and corn. This was some of the best food of the evening. The broth was so rich and delicious, highly recommended.

The lamb massaman curry was the sixth course.

Rather than have this served in a bowl with a lot of sauce they went with a minimalist approach which I liked a bit better. Rib chops of lamb were coated with the most delicious cinnamon peppered massaman curry sauce, with potatoes, carrots and avocado. The curry sauce tastes like candy and is excellent. For those that like their rice, a small side of curry sauce would have been good as a condiment for it.

While everyone was enjoying the food and the evening,

 we were brought one more course, a Bulgogi Ramen nacho.

This was really great, and was barbecued bulgogi beef with ramen noodles, Parmesan cheese and a siracha aioli, among other unknown but delicious ingredients. Upon bringing to the table, this dish was was to be immediately mixed before serving. Outstanding!

Green tea creme brulee finished the meal.


The presentation of this dish was beautiful, but it did not live up to it's potential in texture and flavor. No matter, I am not much of a dessert person so no big deal!

This was a very, very good night out. The food, on the whole, at Zen Asian BBQ was excellent. Additionally, the concept behind Meet and Eat SWFL is a good one. Once embraced by both restaurateurs and diners, Meet and Eat SWFL has the potential to be beneficial to everyone.

It's a wrap for another post on Forks.

Zen Asian BBQ
10812 Tamiami Trial N.
Naples, FL 34108

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