Zen Contemporary Asian Cuisine
WHERE: 3016 Lyndale Avenue South
PRICE: $10 - $20
Recently opened Zen Contemporary Asian Cuisine is so new, it actually still smells a little like paint. Opened about a month ago, the fusion restaurant offers Asian food for every palette, from Vietnamese pho soup to peanut fried pad Thai to traditional grilled Korean ribs.
At $10 to $15 a dish, the restaurant’s prices aren’t economical enough for an everyday visit. However, it’s a peaceful departure from pricey upscale restaurants.
A&E recommends starting with the heaping Wonton Napoleon appetizer, one of Zen’s specialties. The wanton is a piling of fried wafer pastry sandwiches with cream cheese and avocados and topped with turnings of fresh crab meat, and set next to a whirl of tossed salad greens in savory vinaigrette.
Past that, most of the food, though often splayed artfully across the plate, lacks originality that would keep the customers coming back. The Zen Lo Mein features deliciously sautéed carrots and onions with salty marinated chicken, but the noodles needed a savory sauce, so the dry dish as a whole missed its mark.
Though the food’s design is crafty, the building’s décor fails to inspire enlightenment implied by the restaurant’s name.
While the interior’s color palette hails deep plum and soporific violet with dainty lavender accents, the cavernous dining area only provides seating around the perimeter. This exposes an enormous stretch of salt and pepper carpet reminiscent of a middle school play area.
Luckily, the service at Zen is in a grade all its own. From start to finish, the staff was helpful without hovering and consistently pleasant.
Depending on what’s needed for a personal dining experience, Zen may be a tad disappointing. Hopefully, when it gets acclimated to a client base, the menu will be expanded and the liquor license will be approved.
WHERE: 2940 Lyndale Ave South
As the name “Moto,” Japanese for “beginning,” implies, Lyn-Lake’s new Japanese-fusion restaurant may be the start of an unprecedented cult following. The new restaurant is the first sake brewery outside of Japan. This is reflected in the menu, which mostly features everything from cabernet sauvignon to light, sweet junmai nama sake , and only a tiny array of delicious food.
Each shot of the seven kinds of sake runs about seven bucks, and pairs excellently with the menu’s spicy dishes.
The menu features delicious, tiny appetizers for $3 to $7 each. The first sub-group is labeled “Snacks that go with alcohol,” so nothing is left to the imagination. It ranges from dried squid sautéed in wasabi mayo and Thai beef jerky in chili-onion sriracha sauce to fried shishito peppers smothered in kosher salt and a light oil.
The restaurant’s interior is clean, with a drop-down glass ceiling and dark-lined booths. The restaurant’s simple lines are pleasing to the eye and provide a minimalistic but elegant atmosphere for a simple dinner date or a precursor to a night on the town.
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