The sushi at a Miami restaurant was so exceptional, local businessman Mike Cardascia told the chef on the spot he wanted him to come to Naples to open a new restaurant together. About a year and a half later, Cardascia and Chef Koko (right) have launched Zen Asian BBQ, a rustic Japanese-style pub in North Naples blending contemporary Japanese, Thai, Chinese, and Korean dishes. Chef Koko, who trained with Iron Chef Morimoto in Japan before heading to the States, says he spent a year perfecting the recipes for the Naples venture.
The menu features rice and house-made noodle dishes such as pad thai, bibimbap, and a special Hokkaido ramen, which the chef makes with a 17-hour broth, calamari, shrimp, garlic oil, and other ingredients. Additional options include meat and seafood cooked on a traditional robata grill, and what he calls Next Level Sushi, featuring unique sauces. Five high-tech Korean barbecue tables in the dining room allow guests to grill their own marinated meats, fish, and veggies to dip in house-made sauces. “The social aspect of Korean barbecue, with you and your family or friends around the grill eating great food, makes it fun,” Cardascia says.
Zen special seaweed salad with Chef Koko’s ponzu sauce.