Mixed Sashimi Platter by Michelle Carpenter. Photo Credit: Manny Rodriguez

From Michelle, Chef/Owner of Zen Sushi:

I think there is a lot of room to break some “rules” in this regard because we can use our own palates and tastes to make these decisions. There’s no hard and fast rules. We’re in a time where critical thinking matters more because more people recognize that there is asymmetry in the world and the old rules can be updated, and they need to be updated.

To begin, the obvious answer would be sake, but sake can go with all kinds of food — not just Japanese food, like Thai, Korean foods, or…


Michelle Carpenter, Chef/Owner of Zen Sushi answers where does your money go.

Yellowtail and Salmon Sashimi from Zen Sushi in the Bishop Arts. Photo Credit: Jakeb Miller.

As a veteran of the service industry with 35 years of experience: Yes, but only if you are open to insight into the industry.

The profit margin for restaurants is razor thin. It is considered master-level triumph if your profit margin is 10%. That means that a restaurant only keeps $10 of a $100 dinner, pre-tax, if and only if they are an highly-efficient restaurant. The costs are never-ending: food, build-out, furniture, dishes, glassware, decor, restaurant equipment, replacing restaurant equipment, increases in labor costs, increases in rent, high…


From Michelle Carpenter, Chef/Owner of Zen Sushi in the Bishop Arts in Dallas, Texas

Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

We know Thanksgiving is going to be quite different this year. These are a few quick tips for our less-cooking-inclined friends and supporters that are going to be cooking at home. These are small steps that help you create restaurant quality food at home.

  1. Make sure your meats are room temperature before you to sear, grill, bake, roast them! Whether it’s prime rib, a small chicken, or whole turkey, let the meat come to room temperature to ensure the meat tastes juicy. High heat plus frozen…

Food Network’s Japanese Beef Curry

This recipe is a poor and inaccurate representation of a beloved comfort food in Japanese homes. (Fun Fact: Japanese Curry is a staff favorite of our employee meals. Everyone at Zen, in the front and back of house, loves curry, even Michelle.)

From Michelle:

The dish is fundamentally wrong in its conception. Appearance-wise, the dish bears no resemblance to the traditional, famous dish served around the world. In California and Las Vegas, there are restaurants that only serve Japanese curry. My suspicion is that the recipe developer was unhappy with how Japanese curry looks, so…


What precautions do sushi preparers take to avoid making customers sick?

Escolar AKA Butterfish AKA Superwhite Tuna Sashimi at Zen Sushi in the Bishop Arts. Photo Credit: Jakeb Miller.

Michelle says:

Fresh-water animals have different digestive tracts than that of salt-water animals. Humans are freshwater animals. Freshwater and saltwater animals carry different sorts of bacteria. The parasites and bacteria that survive in salt water are not as suited to survive in freshwater animals.

Generally, sushi is made with the highest or higher grade ingredients. For example, low grade tuna is canned. The largest, healthiest tunas are caught and auctioned to sushi chefs or fish brokers that sell to restaurants. Consider the conditions non-organic or free range chicken pigs or live in — in contrast to a great, wild tuna…


Pressed Salmon Sushi from Zen Sushi in the Bishop Arts. Photo Credit: Jakeb Miller.

Due to our location in Oak Cliff, we get complaints about our prices from time-to-time. Yes, there are places that serve cheaper options, but we do not consider cheaper options our competitors based on the standard marketing definition. There are all classes of cars, all grades of cosmetics, all grades of burgers.

Michelle says: Sushi costs more for many reasons, but it is not ‘expensive’ in the sense that it has outrageous mark-ups or high profit margins. Here is my experience.

  • Seafood costs more. Regular chicken is $2–4/pound. Organic chicken is $7–9 per pound. Organic ground beef if $8/pound. But…

Zen Sushi’s Vegan Lotus Roll. Photo Credit: Manny Rodriguez

Michelle says: There are no fail-proof rules for knowing that a sushi bar is good before you try it. The only fail-proof way is to try it and judge for yourself. It’s food. You need to taste it, not just look at it. I will give things that I, as a sushi chef, would look for to help you make better decisions for finding quality restaurants beforehand. I think that’s your question.

  1. Examine the online photos of the food.

If there is an over-abundance of sauce on sushi items, then the sauce is generally used to mask something, whether it’s…


Epicurious’ Sesame Arctic Char Donabe

Disclaimer: In this series, Michelle will offer her unvarnished, uncoated, and professional critique of published information on Japanese or Asian cuisine. This is not intended to shame, cancel, censor, or attack anyone. There are no ad hominem attacks or racist rants in this critique. We do not accuse this author of racism or harming Asian people as a group. The purpose of this series is to put forth accurate information about Japanese and Asian cuisine and to correct misinformation about Japanese and Asian cuisine. This Series will be a type of ‘unlearning’ that has to…


Tuna Nigiri from Zen Sushi. Photo Credit: Kate Voskova

From Michelle Carpenter, Chef/Owner of Zen Sushi:

Unless your grocery store advertises that they have sushi-grade seafood or you develop a relationship with your fishmonger, I do not think you can.

Grocery stores are focused on accessibility and availability to their targeted consumers. Grocery stores work with very large distributors that offer product in bulk. My opinion: grocery stores sell seafood that should be cooked. This is a different type of business model than restaurants. They want the more accessible and common fish. A chain like Kroger or Tom Thumb is sending out mailers and advertisements to entire neighborhoods. That…


Nouvelle Styled Yellowtail Sashimi. Signature Special at Zen Sushi. Photo Credit: Kate Voskova.

We live in the age of Yelp, Google Reviews, food blogs, social media, and influencers. To us, it’s rather disappointing (unprofessional) to see that if there’s a snarky or mean-spirited comment, viewers can vote it as ‘funny’ or ‘cool’ on these review sites. Restaurants, by and large, are expected to be professional, but there is no expectation for a reviewer to be professional. Overall, reviews can level themselves out, but it’s tough for small businesses to continually accept poor behavior from poor customers who are self-appointed foodies.

More importantly, what qualifies anyone as a ‘foodie’ or expert? We find, rarely…

Zen Sushi in the Bishop Arts

Michelle Carpenter’s Japanese-American cuisine marrying regional ingredients with Japanese training and technique. Located in Oak Cliff, Dallas.

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