Turns out I was restoring package files from a path outside of /home/admin/admin_backups - and apparently that caused some issues as the restore process runs as admin.
Once I put the package files in /home/admin/admin_backups and did the restore the zone file and a lot of other necessary files were restored.
I don't know if /home/admin/admin_backups is that vital per se, but I bet the parent directory holding the package files was not owned by admin and that's what was causing my issues.
I figured the restore process ran as root - that's what it does from the other control panel system - and this incident was part of the learning curve for me. I was in a hurry to restore the accounts without properly vetting everything.