Mabuhay, mahal, kumain is the motto of owners Chonnie Richey and Czarina Hounsel at Zen Bistro & Dessert Bar—Tagalog for “live, love, eat.” It’s an appropriate mantra for a bakery shaped by the sisters’ Filipino heritage with flavors collected from across Asia and comforting, homey treats such as cake balls. The latter have been raved about on the Cooking Channel's Food Crafters and in D Magazine. Each day, the kitchen rolls them from fresh-baked cake, frosting, and add-ins such as dark-chocolate cookie dough and fruit to create more than 10 classic and seasonal flavors including Filipino-inspired creations such as a purple ube yam variety. The spheres are then dipped in melted chocolate and decorated with more chocolate, colored crystal sugar, and sprinkles. At the dessert bar, customers can also reach for piles of stuffed cookies, gourmet cupcakes, and cakesicles—a fluffier, chewier version of icicles.
Asian flavors come into the forefront in a bistro menu of traditional Filipino dishes, Asian tapas, and bubble teas brimming with black tapioca pearls. The savory side of Zen’s mini-empire has attracted nearly as much attention as the sweets for dishes as bracingly authentic as the spicy beef caldereta—a tomato-based stew of potatoes, beef, and liver—and as American-influenced as the egg-topped Tocino burger, which made CraveDfw’s Comprehensive Dallas Burger Guide.