Zen Asian Contemporary

Twin Cities, Minnesota


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rating star

What utter mediocrity. In a city with no shortage of innovative, delicious East Asian food, Zen Asia thinks it can serve bland, unfocused food and slide by with its track lighting and romantic decor.

I came here for lunch and had a hard time figuring out what was vegan. Choices are limited and seem to comprise a "greatest hits" package of East Asian food: tempura; curry; pho; and all-purpose stir-fry. Instead of focusing on one cuisine and doing it well, Zen Asia wants to pursue a pan-Asian approach, which doesn't necessarily mean failure, but in this case, it does.

I ended up with a tofu stir-fry with mixed vegetables in a garlic-wine sauce ($9). The food was oily and bland, like the most basic stir-fry you've ever tasted in your life. Also, they don't offer brown rice. I found myself struggling to finish my meal and I was kicking myself for not getting a real meal at nearby Galactic Pizza, moto-i, or Pizza Luce.

The decor at Zen Asia is kind of upscale and loft-esque, but the restaurant is too vast and spread-out (also, what's the deal with the carpet?). It's not a place I'd take a date, and there's no bar. The air inside was horribly dry and stuffy and the place smelled like a cross between the shoe section of a sports store and a Lysol-soaked model condo.

My food took over 25 minutes to arrive, even though I was the only person in the restaurant. I must admit the service was extremely friendly and helpful; I felt sorry for my waitress, who was very sweet and attentive and did her best to accommodate my vegan diet, even though (from what I could hear from the kitchen) the cooks didn't seem to care.

If you're looking for good Asian food in a posh environment, go to Jasmine 26 or Rainbow instead. If you just want a good Asian meal, go to Jasmine 26 or Evergreen.

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