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Mevdev's Review of the Zen House


This place is in a weird location behind a gas station. It is at the corner of Maple Grove Rd and Haines Rd. It just opened up at the beginning of the month. I am a great lover of sushi, and looking at this menu there is much more than sushi.

Menu 1

Menu 2

Menu 3

Menu 4

There are not many tables, enough for two servers to keep busy. At the door I see plastic take-away packages of sushi. Kinda like the Byerly's sushi to go. I can't tell if they have meat in them, but at least two were vegetarian. More pics and review to follow.

Sitting down we were greeted by a young lady server. She was nice and told us they "threw it all together" and they were just starting. I asked if they delivered, and she said "no" like I was crazy. Okay, I may be crazy, but crazy about sushi.

I order green tea, seaweed salad,spicy tuna rolls, and yellow tail nigiri. My friend ordered the chicken donburi and green tea. The tea comes quickly in a coffeeshop style mug without an adjacent teapot. I am a bit worried, but at first sip it was not too hot and tasked rather good.

The seaweed salad tasted great with pickled cucumber in with the seaweed. It was a different style of seaweed than I've ever had, but in my book all seaweed is good seaweed. My friend had the white-guy salad, which interestingly enough came with the donburi for a cheap price of 7.95.


There are two other tables besider ours. It was perhaps 6:30pm Friday Jun 23rd 2006. One table was three older ladies, one with a stylish oriental red and white shirt. Red and white is the new black. I commented to them to check out the rainbow after the brief rain. It was magnificent. There was the whole ROYGBIV and a little more.(notice my gimmicky car, the hockey place with a zamboni in the front. This place needs a backdrop of miniature Tokyo like Conan Obrien's New York City)


The other table was a family that knew a young white guy in the back. They looked well-to-do.

As you can see they did up the place with bamboo, but it still looks like a decorated country kitchen four-season porch. It smelled good in there and did have quite a great atmosphere with quiet japanese string music playing above.

Spicy Tuna Rolls - Interesting that there was sauce covering the fish. It looked like a bit of slight of hand, but tasted okay. It was not a huge amount of tuna, but tasted fresh and tender.

The Yellow tail, my favorite of the evening, soft, tender and such care taken with the rice balls. They stayed together wonderfully

My friend's dish Chicken Donburi. I had a taste and it was a bit salty, but filled with great flavor. It made me want to try the tempura vegetables that this place has.

The server brought out ample pickled ginger and a pea-sized bit of wasabi on every plate. I forgot to mention that at the beginning of the meal we were only given a wrapped napkin with a fork, spoon, and a knife. Once we got the tea we both asked for chopsticks, they were bamboo cheap and small. Well, those rolls did not completely satisfy me so I inquire about the crab surimi. The server said it was a neat japanese word for fake. I ordered the tuna nigiri, just tuna naked to the world.


It proved to be a bit much for the selection of the meat as it was fibrous and held together by white bits. If I would try to compare this to another japanese restaurant I would say this would be one of the cheaper slices possible for tuna. This is miles from the chutoro or toro which is succulent and melts in your mouth. I believe that cut is the belly area of the tuna fish. They however, were just listing this as tuna (although they could have used maguro as I think that is a generalized word for tuna). I was hoping for hamachi(yellow tail tuna), but we really can't have everything can we here in duluth. er hermantown.

Overall I liked this restaurant. On July 1st they will get their liquor license, I hope it is cheap, because then I think I will just come to the Zen house instead of an afterwork beer downtown. The Zen house did have eel, but after my first rolls I was not brave enough to try it. They are really doing this. I laud their efforts for authenticity and general food for the dollar. Their prices are spot on and although they do not have the selection of the Fuji Ya it beats the pants off of the Sakana in superior. I actually went to the Sakana at least 5 times and one of those times they didn't even have fish. I think smoked fish is to sushi fish as pemican is to filet mignon. Well, I will never go there again with the Zen house around. When I was leaving I did look into the back of the restaurant. I was amazed at the sheer amount of people back there. I think that there was probably 1:1 workers to customers, but then again that may have been an educational conference. I , however, did notice a very vintage authentic japanese lady in the back.

I will be here again.

-mevdev (Note this entry is "Restaurant Reviews" and not "Creepy Japanese Things")


Thanks for posting that review. Maybe this place will catch on and stay around for a while.

What's the deal with the commenting system? It seems to be really hit or miss these days.

Well, YESTERDAY, I commented something to the effect of:

Thanks for the thorough report, Mevdev! I will be sure to check this place out. Thanks for scouting the place for us.

I've been there twice. I really, really like the tuna. (I haven't tried the spicy tuna yet, but that's next on the list.)

The California rolls are tasty, but they're enormous, which I don't like so much. Also, they didn't automatically give us individual plates (I like to share), so you have the choice of either cramming the whole thing in your mouth, or trying to manage half a roll with your chopsticks. You end up with rice all over the table and roe all over your face. (We had to ask for chopsticks the first time, but the second time we had the same server and she just brought them to us. )

The salmon nigiri was great; I loved the texture. They could maybe add more vinegar to the rice. Still, the food is overall delicious and very reasonably priced, plus (I can barely believe this) it's open every day.

Also, I really want to try some of their noodle dishes. I'll definitely return as well.

Just for future reference Zen House is closed on Sundays. We tried to eat there tonight, and it was closed.

Did you note their regular hours?

We just talked to the ICO clerk. There weren't any hours posted, and we didn't ask.

Rokidoke. I'm planning on gong there tomorrow evening. I guess I'll call ahead to check.

tanks for letting us know about this place. Reminds me of a Japanese truckers' diner--food is solid and tasty.

tanks for letting us know about this place. Reminds me of a Japanese truckers' diner--food is solid and tasty.

I went tonight. The food was good to very good. The service was, well, they are still getting their act together in that department, but very friendly and they got the food out fast.

Here's what we had:

Tuna Roll - Very good and straightforward.
Eel Nigiri - Good, but not the best eel I've ever had.
Miso Soup - Very tasty. A bit sweeter than I'm used to but good.
Chicken Udon - More than we could handle for the two of us! It's a meal in itself, easy.
Vegetable Tempura - Quite nice.

For more than we could eat we paid what I thought was an extremely reasonable price. Less than dinner for two at Luce or Lake Avenue Cafe, certainly.

We talked to the owner and she said that they will be starting hours on Sundays soon and are planning on having a sushi buffet. I'm interested in seeing how that is.

I'll definitely be back.

You must be so proud to have a Japanese restaurant that calls soba "egg noodles".

I tried sushi at this place this Sunday. It was bad.

Let me tell you how it is bad.

(1) The rice is too sticky and dried. Look like the chef doesn't know how to cook rice at the first place. This made me feel like the time I tried CUB FOODS sushi.

(2) Too much vinegar in the rice make it tastes strange.

(3) The main purpose of eating sushi is eating the fish not the rice. However, Zen house did the opposite. Fish is too little but the rice ball is too big.

(4) When eating sushi, we eat the whole thing at once. Sushi at Zen house is too big to fit one bite. They could have make a longer roll then cut into more small piecies.

The service is very nice. I would not recommend to come to Zen house for sushi.

BUT, I DO RECOMMEND TO COME THERE FOR Noodles or other items.

We got some sushi to go for New Years Eve, and I was very happy with the quality. We had a spicy tuna roll and a California roll. I agree the the California roll is too big, but I was able to pick it up and eat it in one bite. The spicy tuna roll exceeded all expectations. Generally speaking I like to have the seaweed on the inside of the roll. In the past the seaweed has been tough and chewy and it makes biting through it unpleasant and tough. But the seaweed at the Zen House was very tender and easy to bite into. Overall I thought it was very good, and it is nice to no longer have to travel to the Cities to get sushi. Hopefully they can make a go of it either there or ideally maybe they can upgrade there location in the future. I admit there's something a tad creepy about eating sushi in an ICO station.

Fun fact: If you Google "zen house duluth" this is the #1 entry.

And as long as I'm here, I ordered seven rolls out for my birthday party last month. I can't say much for the service as the person on the phone seemed like it was an annoyance to take an order, but the sushi was very good. Not the best I've ever had, but very good.

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