G-Zen Restaurant in Branford

G-Zen Restaurant in Branford, Connecticut Organic, Seasonal, Plant-based Cuisine in Grand Style

Natural-foods chef Mark Shadle has kicked it up a notch with G-Zen. Opened together with raw-foods chef Ami Beach Shadle, it’s a gorgeous and charming new restaurant in Branford (a coastal town about 7 miles east of New Haven, home of Yale University). Shadle’s art was previously well known and appreciated in Middletown, at the restaurant called It’s Only Natural.

G-Zen takes a seasonal approach to food, with some of the vegetables grown on their four-acre farm. Dishes are also served to-go in eco-friendly containers. (G-Zens’s sweet potato fries served with house-made smoked hickory ketchup are famous.) Table scraps are composted. This is the only restaurant of its kind in the state, with its own organic, solar-powered farm that grows and composts all the waste material from both G-Zen and its mobile version: the G Monkey food truck.

As a vegan cookbook author, I expect food to be as appealing-looking as it is delicious, healthful, and light on the planet. G-Zen certainly delivers on that score. Ample portions of food appear with perfect timing and imaginative plating. The atmosphere is friendly and helpful, Ami’s energy in the front of the restaurant warm and inviting.

The fresh-baked bread and miso-carrot spread is wonderful, and the Roasted Thai Red Pepper-Coconut Bisque ($6) is the best soup I’ve had anywhere. And don’t miss the raw pâté known as un-chicken salad (small $8; large $12) made from sprouted cashews, herbs, pumpkin seeds, raisins, dates and sundried tomatoes. For the main dish, the gluten-free Pasta with Raw Marinara ($20) made from carrot, beet and zucchini slices with herbs and garlic will amaze, as will the raw Tacos in Romaine leaves, filled with guacamole, cashew sour cream, cashew parmesan, scallions, herbs and a stunning sprouted walnut mixture ($20).

G-Zen is founded on the principle of ahimsa: non-violence and respect for all conscious beings. And never has a principle been more delicious. Whether your choice is Sublime Vegan Nachos, Pure Radiance Salad, a Zen Burger, or Spinach and Potato P ierogi, G-Zen offers vegan cuisine at its best—good for one’s health and the environment. Accompaniments include organic wine, beer and sake, as well as fresh fruit juice, organic soda, tea and coffee.

While I’m a fan of Mark Shadle’s cakes, the special on the night I visited was a dense Chocolate-Banana Bread Pudding served with coconut ice cream and garnished with pomegranate seeds. Simply divine.

G-Zen could convert omnivores to plant-based cuisine, so it’s great that Mark and Ami are catering for special events, and also bringing their G Monkey Vegan truck to other areas of Connecticut.

G-Zen: 100% plant-based, organic cuisine

Location: 2 East Main Street, Branford, CT 06405

Information: 203-208-0443

On the Web: www.g-zen.com  and www.gmonkeymobile.com

Reservations for parties of 5 or more accepted.

Hours: Tuesday through Saturday, 4 to 9 pm.