“Come for the vibe, and stay for the food,” says owner Denis Soukhanov of the lifestyle center he created after moving to the states from Russia 20 years ago for college. After 12 years in the educational software business, Soukhanov went through a dramatic lifestyle switch after watching his beloved mother die quickly from cancer.
He spent months frantically researching cancer and healthy living. While his mother passed away quickly, the lessons Soukhanov learned have endured and form the foundation of the Zen Mystery lifestyle center.
“We want people to come here and experience our special vibe. It’s a very, very relaxing, soothing environment."
“It was sort of a blessing in disguise of sorts, because I didn’t realize how heavy I was. I started slowly learning and changing my diet. It started with chocolate soymilk, which at the time I thought was [healthful],” he says.
“It was a slow transition, but I picked up the pace as I went along. I read hundreds of books. Once I learn something, I can’t unlearn it — I have to do it,” he says of transitioning to raw veganism ten years ago.
Now down 95 pounds, Soukhanov has taken the knowledge that took him years to obtain and created a cultural events center and café for others that share his passion for healthy living. And for three years, he has turned that passion into a successful business.
To celebrate, Zen Mystery is hosting a three-year anniversary event from 7 p.m. until midnight on Saturday, June 18, featuring five local bands playing original music, a belly dancer, and plant-based comedy courtesy of vegan comic Josh Rosen.
A full menu will be available at the vegan café, including the Buddha Burger that Soukhanov has been told is the best veggie burger in the world as well as their ever-popular raw dish, Live Pad Thai, made from almond butter and kelp noodles.
Soukhanov's café proudly presents a variety of organic, vegan, and gluten-free dishes, about half of which are raw. Smoothies, desserts, local Kombucha, and over 20 organic loose teas round out the offerings, and he is working on obtaining a beer and wine license to offer craft and organic varietals.
The inspiration behind Zen Mystery’s décor is '60s village, with decorations from Bali and Tibet, new and reclaimed Indonesian wood furniture, and a violet ceiling. The decorations are eco-friendly, as are the café’s birch tree silverware and recycled napkins.
Additionally, you can take classes on yoga, Tai Chi, tribal belly dancing, and meditation or attend a New Moon Women’s Circle and an open mic with comedy, poetry, and music. Ongoing events include vegan ice cream parties, organic living seminars, documentary nights, and an original singer and songwriter series. On Saturdays, Soukhanov donates space to an organization that teaches yoga to children with autism.
An onsite gift shop carries interesting crafts from around the world including crystals, organic clothing, local artisan products, and jewelry.
Soukhanov considers Zen Mystery his second home and says the environment is thoughtfully designed to be informal and relaxing.
“We want people to come here and experience our special vibe. It’s a very, very relaxing, soothing environment. Take a book from our library or bring your own, relax, and meet friends. And it would be hard to beat the freshness of our food.”
Zen Mystery’s Third-Anniversary Party is from 7 p.m. to midnight, Saturday, June 18. It is located at 56 N. Federal Highway, Dania Beach. Call 954-241-4655 or visit zenmystery.com.
Wendy Rhodes is a freelance writer and award-winning author. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at @WendyRhodesFL.