MADRID, SPAIN. In the Spanish street maze, there’s the big and the small, calles and callejones. The opposite of avenidas and paseoscallejones are narrow, short alleys, many times sin salida, meaning one-way. Just off Calle Jorge Juan in Madrid’s Barrio Salamanca, the Callejón de Puigcerdá is one of those callejones sin salida, home to the Asian restaurant Zen Central. Once you enter, there’s no way out without some sushi, sashimi and more.

Welcoming you through the glass doors is a red, plastic statue of a Buddha, his hands offering you the establishment’s business cards. If you’re waiting for the rest of your party, you can have a seat on the white cushions of a wood sofa and read today’s paper. When you’re ready, head to the main dining salon, where you’ll sit beneath a three-part mobile of white fish hanging way up above; the establishment is two-storeys. Another option is to dine on that second storey, where one part looks down at the main salon below and the other is more private and cut-off by a waterfall.

In either case, you’ll be served a complimentary appetizer, usually a fried Chinese empanada stuffed with meat. If you’re vegetarian, or simply don’t like fried foods, no need to despair; the staff will kindly replace it with some edamame.

After that, ordering at Zen Market is easy. It’s all-you-can-eat sushi and more, both at lunch (16 Euros) as well as dinner and on weekends (23.90 Euros). If you want the full selection, come at night or on the weekend, when the menu expands to include sashimi as well as dishes prepared with duck. Note that drinks and desserts are extra.

In the full menu version, you can choose from classic California rolls, indelible Ikura maki and rollos de primavera springrolls available year-round. Add to that some Tataki atún (Tuna tataki), some Pato con cebolleta (duck flavored with onions), a tempura mixta (mixed vegetable and shrimp tempura), and a fried rice – becoming a repeat customer is easy; the dishes are numbered.

“Give me a 29, a 65, and a double order of 73 and 75.” The latter will get you 16 fried shrimps total; 8 of the langostinos XO and 8 langostinos Té Oolong, the former spiced with chili and the latter with Chinese blue tea, also known as “Wu long” in China, meaning black dragon.

For dessert, – if you’re not satisfied just yet, – you top it off with an helado de té verde, a green tea ice cream. Those who prefer the beverage, there’s green tea, as well as coffee, too. That’s after you’ve had several Tsingtao beers to accompany your meal, of course.

When you’re done, you’ll be glad that you’re in a callejón sin salida: you can only roll out one way.


Callejón de Puigcerdá, 6.

28001 Madrid

Tel. +34 91 431 12 33

Metro: Serrano

Lunch: 2-4.30 p.m. Dinner: 9 p.m.-midnight.