Colinary Tour: Japan

Pick any time between 10 a.m. and midnight and that is a good time to expect a large crowd at Zen Box Izakaya. Zen Box Izakaya, located on Washington Ave. in downtown Minneapolis, serves up traditional Japanese dishes with a focus on noodle bowls – specifically ramen.

Izakaya roughly means “sharing plates” in Japanese, like tapas.

The majority of the menu is focused on smaller plates not meant as an entree, with the exception of the ramen. Three ramen options are mainstays: Kimchi, Miso and Tonkotsu. Every weekend features a new and unexplored ramen bowl flavor. Every Tuesday is Vegetarian Umami Night.


Natalie and I tried all three ramen bowls over the course of a two-day research expedition. Clear winner: Kimchi. Runner Up: Tonkotsu. Distant third: Miso.

However the bell of the ball in my opinion was the Tempura Avocado. Japanese for Fried Avocado.

Now, I like avocado fine. Throw it on a torilla chip, sure I’ll have some on a sandwhich. But I’m not the kind of guy to just whip out an avocado and dig it with a spoon like it’s a jar of peanut butter. So I’m probably a half an avo deep when Natalie pointed out that I’ve never eaten that much avocado in my life. Well, good point. But then again, fried avocado has never been an option for me up until now. It is served with a divine spicy mayo yum yum sauce. At $8 for the plate, it is worth every penny.


If you like food, you need to go eat at Zen Box. But do yourself a favor and make a reservation. Tables are at a premium.