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Lunch Anyone? ZC Boston

Crosstown Center restaurant a reincarnation of popular Roka

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When the South End eatery Roka opened in September 2013, it quickly became popular for its sushi and Chinese and Japanese classics. Last summer, owner-chef Jerry Chen rebranded the restaurant, calling it ZC Boston. Some fans were afraid the inventiveness that had made Roka such a standout would be lost in the transition. We’re happy to report that the pan-Asian restaurant is even better than before, an excellent place to grab a budget-friendly lunch. The restaurant, in the School of Public Health’s Crosstown Center, has become a draw for hungry students, staff, and faculty on the Medical Campus.

ZC Boston has the same 7,000-square-foot footprint as its predecessor, a full cocktail bar mirrored by a sushi bar, and an extensive menu offering both Chinese and Japanese fare, from tempura to stir fry to dumplings. And like Roka, ZC Boston is most popular for its sushi, especially on weekends when all sushi is half-priced from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. For those on a budget, it doesn’t get any better.

We came to sample ZC Boston’s new Chinese and Japanese lunch deals. Available are Chinese-American classics like lo mein with chicken or beef ($11), General Gau’s chicken ($9.50), seafood options like jumbo shrimp with walnuts ($10), and vegetarian dishes like string beans with fried tofu ($10). Almost all dishes are accompanied by a choice of white rice or pork fried rice. Appetizers, among them spring rolls and crab rangoon, can be added for an additional $2.

The Japanese lunch entrées include maki combos, sushi combos, bento boxes, and soups. We were particularly enticed by the bento boxes ($10.50 to $11.50), which are a great value. They feature proteins such as salmon teriyaki and chicken katsu accompanied by rice, shumai, gyoza, vegetable tempura, green salad, and rice.

place of Japanese sushi makis

Maki combos are among ZC Boston’s new, affordable lunch offerings; customers can choose from 14 different kinds of rolls.

Although we were tempted by the salmon teriyaki bento box ($10.50) on the Japanese menu, we opted for the two-maki lunch combo ($9.95), also available as a three-maki combo ($12.95). Customers can choose from a variety of rolls, from oshinko (pickled radish) to spicy yellowtail. We decided on the avocado cucumber maki and spicy salmon maki and were served six of each, accompanied by pickled ginger and wasabi. The avocado cucumber maki was very simple—just cucumber and avocado sandwiched between seaweed and sesame seed–dotted rice. But it was totally satisfying: the creamy avocado contrasted nicely with the crunchy cucumber, and both ingredients were very fresh. Just a quick dip in some soy sauce and it was ready to enjoy.

The spicy salmon maki paired fresh, buttery salmon with crunchy tempura coated in chili oil. It was mildly spicy, enough for one in our party, though we would have liked a little more kick. Still, it was enjoyable and had a pleasing crunchy-smooth contrast. Next time however, we plan to try the AAC maki with asparagus, avocado, and cucumber or the tuna avocado maki.

From the Chinese menu, we chose the sesame chicken ($8.50) with pork-fried rice and added an egg roll appetizer for an additional $2. The entrée came with steamed broccoli and a sweet orange sauce on the side. The chicken was everything you could hope for: moist on the inside, crunchy on the outside, and slathered with a glossy, sweet sesame sauce. The pork-fried rice was loaded with small chunks of char siu BBQ pork, but was a little bland, as was the broccoli, although the sesame sauce jazzed up both. The biggest disappointment of the meal turned out to be the egg roll. The filling was freezer-burnt dry and practically flavorless, other than an odd, overwhelming taste of cabbage. The sweet orange sauce was cloying and didn’t really work with anything on the plate. That said, the sesame chicken was delicious and a great value.

Whether you want a light lunch or something more substantial, ZC Boston is a convenient spot for med students, doctors, and anyone in the neighborhood seeking great sushi or modern twists on Asian classics.

Plate of sesame chicken, broccoli and beef, seafood deluxe, and drunkard’s noodles from ZC Boston

ZC Boston has a variety of homey Chinese lunch dishes for $10 or less, including sesame chicken, broccoli and beef, seafood deluxe, and drunkard’s noodles.

ZC Boston, 801 Massachusetts Ave., is open every day; lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and dinner from 3 p.m. to 2 a.m.; phone: 617-989-9988. Takeout and delivery are available. Order delivery here. The menu is available here. Reservations can be placed here. The restaurant accepts cash and all major credit cards. Take an MBTA Orange Line train to the Mass Ave stop.

This is part of a weekly series featuring Boston lunch spots of interest to the BU community. If you have any suggestions for places we should feature, leave them in the Comment section below.

Kylie Obermeier can be reached at kylieko@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @kyliekobermeier.

2 Comments

2 Comments on Lunch Anyone? ZC Boston

  • Elisabeth on 09.30.2016 at 9:59 pm

    Thank you for featuring this place! I tried it out and enjoyed it. I had the yaki udon with chicken and couldn’t believe the serving size. It was an entire large plate which I actually was able to finish. I would definitely suggest it to anyone in the area. It is easy to walk to from the Albany Street BU Bus stop.

  • Dylan on 05.10.2017 at 1:22 pm

    ZC Boston is a great place to eat Japanese food, thank you for the article Kylie.

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