Zen Noodle and Sushi Bar

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by hojo

FYI, Zen is closed...

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by sarah

you people are crazy. this place is AMAZING. we went there when it was crowded, one waitress, and we had SPEEDY service. the other 5 times my boyfriend and i have been there we've had great service and the people that work there are incredibly nice. the food is delicious, it is no more expensive than other sushi places, so it's your own fault if you order so much food that you have a high bill. we read these horrible reviews of zen and we just had to comment. not to mention a classy atmosphere. you'd be an idiot to believe these reviews based off of one bad experience. if you want amazing food and really good service for an average price, go to zen.

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by RaymondCruz

I went to Zen for some Sushi before work. I sit down and wait about 15min and didn't even get any service not even water. I over hear a waiter taking a to go order and he asks the sushi chef if there was any Salmon or Tuna. ...The answer was NO!!! So I asked the Chef if there was any and said somebody forgot to order the fish. I got up and walked out, how do you have a sushi restuarant and not have the main staples of almost every roll lmfao. I can't believe I really experienced that at a business that has been open for 2 years. Its Miyabi 9 for now on.Read More

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by riceabove

I have been dining at Zen for two years and have seen a lot of good and bad food, service, and management. Zen's food, service, and atmosphere have risen to an impressive new level over the last few months. New chef Samuel Auen has overhauled the menu by adding more sushi, more entrees, some off the wall sandwiches (Bahn Mi and Pak Bulgogi), many vegetarian and vegan items, and even Gluten Free dishes. Did I mention the daily specials yet? I have had some crazy fish stews with fins hanging out, some pretty off the wall sushi rolls, and some very impressive fish dishes which seem to pull influences from both south east Asia and Italy or France. I love the food here.

The atmosphere seems much more friendly and laid back than six months ago and the servers (most of them new) seem much more in the know. The bartenders are friendly and attentive.

This is a great downtown sushi spot in a histric building. The skywalk even empties out onto Zen's front doorstep.

I guess you could say that "I love this (sushi) bar"

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by marc

the sushi is amazing (if you order the right rolls)

i suggest the buddha first and foremost, the godzilla, dragon, karma and zen.

no matter what rolls you order get some sides of dragon and eel sauce for amazing flavor.

the service is almost always great, i usually have the same girl, short, brunette and very attractive. on my last visit i was sat with another cute blonde girl.

if your not that into sushi, but a guy and single i'd say go just for the cute waitresses.

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by Chad

Great restaurant! Food is pleasing for being a sushi bar in Iowa... even though it's not Miyabi, i would recommend Zen to anyone who wants to try sushi, not be intimidated, not be drained of cash, and leave happy. The waitress I usually have sorta tags a bad name to zen though. she's not very pleasant, often looks unprofessional, and shows numerous tattoos. other than her, zen is a real winner!

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by Lexi

Sushi was the best in town that I have ever ate. Service was kind of poor. I thought the sushi guys were kind of cute. The drinks were average. Good location.

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by zac

the martini and the budda roll was AWESOME!!!

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by chris

zen is the bomb i like it alot i went their for my sister birthday we had free sake bombs and the service was great the sushi roll was very good i love ordering the budda roll..

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by wes

If I could have chosen 0 stars, I would have. My first visit to this restaurant was so bad that I thought it only fair to go back a second time to see see if it was a fluke- - -it was not. Do not waste your time or your money at this spot. The service was very poor on both occasions, the staff is more interested in conversing with one another than dealing with customers. The food is tasteless and the selection is horrible. If you are in the mood for sushi, go down the street to Myabi 9- - much better experience. Lets hope that Zen closes soon and something better takes its place because it is in a nice location.

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by Alicia

Horrible service and lame food. The wide egg noodle dish I had didn't even taste like anything but noodles in sweet and sour sauce that weren't cooked well. The salmon roll I also got didn't seem very fresh, I only ate two. Our waitress was rude and forgetful--this on top of our hour and a half wait when we were told 40 minutes really made the "zen" restaurant experience just plain bad. The host gave us attitude because we were waiting in the doorway as he seated parties that had gotten there after us.

I won't be returning there.

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by hojo

Sushi here is confusing. When I order a roll, I expect a ROLL, not a mound of rice with something stuffed inside. Terrible form of sushi, although the taste is sometimes there. I agree with previous poster that the rice seemed old. It's just not good. I think the only way this place may stay open is the fact that it's a trendy spot that makes a good drink. I've not eaten the noodles here, so I'll reserve all judgment on their food, but their sushi is the worst in town, followed closely by Wok in Motion (at least by some place that is supposed to specialize in sushi). I'd suggest Appare, Miyabi 9, or Waterfront if you want good sushi. I suggest Cheesecake Factory (yuck) if you want a roll that is actually better than Zen. If you want to swing somewhere and have a quick cocktail, this place would be a good choice, but I don't know why you wouldn't just cross the hall to the spacious bar area at Azalea.

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by PSH

I would say this place Zen should have 0 stars. I don't think they are real Sushi Chefs that know what they are doing. The food was bad, real bad the worst in town. The service was ok, more talking to us then letting us eat. The miso soup was not even miso at all I thought just onion and water. The sushi was more rice than fish and rolls were made loose, uneven, and the rice tasted dry and old. And the fish tasted bad and didn't look fresh at all. The dishes looked bad and no presentation on anything from what I thought was going to be a hight end sushi bar. It is a dissapointment we have this sushi bar in down town.They just don't know how to make ok sushi and I don't think they are chefs at all. Just bad everything, never going back and don't recommed Zen to anyone. Because I heard Miyabi 9 down town has a real Master Chef that makes the best sushi and Japanese food and people enjoy the food.

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by foodie

I eat lots of sushi, so I am always looking for a new place to go and decided to give Zen a try. Went here on a weekday evening, so the restaurant was not too busy. Seated right away by a courteous host.

The good:
Service was decent, nothing to rave about.
The drinks are tasty, creative, and reasonably priced.
The dumpling appetizers were delicious.
The sushi roll combinations are creative.

The bad:
The sushi had very little fish and a ridiculous amount of rice.
I am a large eater and can put away lots of food, but I was so full from all the rice in the sushi that I couldn't finish our plate.
Nor could I taste the fish, just the rice.

There are better, and less expensive sushi restaurants in Des Moines. Won't be back until they cut back on the rice in the rolls.

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by A-Rog

Like its sister restaurant, Azelea, Zen is mostly show and little substance. The sushi was fine. Service was a little below fine. The atmosphere was hip and urban. We went for lunch, so don't rely on my opinion for a dinner, but if you are anywhere close, Taki is a sure sushi bet.

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by Derek Brooks

First let me preface that I am huge Taki fan. The service I recieve at Taki is ridiculous. Those guys are always showing their semi-regular customers a great time.

This weekend my wife and I decided to check out the new guys in town and had a pretty good experience. The decor was nice, and I love having a sushi option in downtown Des Moines.

For starters - the edamame was excellent. Fresh, crisp, warm, and had great salt. I'm sad to say it - but it was better than Taki's. The squid salad was tasty, presented, well and was quite a generous portion, however - it was apparently premade and refrigerated because 1/4 of it was frozen together.

They only had 2 beers on tap, 1 of which been Kirin, so that was alright. They had a great liquor selection though and made some good martinis.

As for food, they didn't have as many rolls as Taki, but for some people that may be a good thing. Their menu is much less intimidating for someone who's not familiar with sushi. The rolls we sampled were Dragon, Buddha, and Karma. All 3 were great with my favorites being the buddha and dragon. The dragon came with a really good dipping sauce and the Buddha had some good flavor with a hint of spice. All of our sushi was presented very nicely on 1 large plate.

In addition to the rolls, we ordered some Seared Tuna Sashimi - however they messed up the order and brought us just regular Tuna Sashimi. They were quick to fix the problem and took both off of our bill. Both were delicious with perfectly sized cuts of fish.

The service was good, but not excellent. Our drinks went empty a couple times and my salad came out quite a bit before my wife's miso soup (which she said was a bit too onion-y). Our waitress apologized and explained that they had a "spoon crisis" in the kitchen, ha. Also, like I said they corrected our sashimi problem and took care of us.

I'll probably still hit up Taki most of the time, but this is a great option for downtown. I hope they do well.

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by Jolene Williams

Dreadful!!! Absolutely dreadful!!
Have you ever seen sushi rolls cut unevenly- well I hadn't either until I ate at Zen. My sushi rolls went from a normal piece of sushi to a sliver and then big chunks of cucumber that over powered the tuna. Not to mention way over priced for what you get!
As for the soba noodles.....wow... I have tasted better flavor in a can of campbells chicken noodle soup- what a disaster.
If you can't do it right Zen....don't do it at all.

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by Dre

Visited Zen on a Friday night. Overall, we were impressed. The atmosphere/decor was contemporary/urban, pretty laid back. We are Taki regulars, and in comparison, I would say Taki is more "party" and Zen is more... well, zen. Laid back, upscale place. We had edamame and a couple rolls - the Gorilla and Buddha something - both were excellent. Service was friendly and helpful with suggestions. Prices were a little steeper than Taki, but not outrageous. Overall, it's a great alternative to suburban Taki. Probably we will head there when it's just 2 or 4 of us looking for a more sedate evening and head to Taki when 4 or more of us are looking for a Sake Bomb night.

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by bwfrieds

Good service and food. Chairs were comfortable. Music was not so loud that I had to scream to have a conversation. Although I would have preferred Asian music over American pop & rock. Unfiltered saki was good. Sushi chefs were kind and conversational. Prices were competitive. Miso soup was very very good. The green tea was also good.

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by Heidi

I have been waiting for an exciting new sushi place to open in downtown Des Moines, so I was thrilled when Zen finally opened in the Kirkwood building. I probably should have brought a big group for dinner so that I could get a better feel of the service and sample a more of the menu, but instead chose to settle in for a solo lunch.

The decor is modern Asian minimalist and there is both counter and table level seating at the centrally located sushi bar. There are also window tables and chic booths around the perimeter. As the name of the restaurant implies, the menu offers variety of noodle bowls (with assorted add-ins like shrimp, tofu, and shrimp available) and various maki, nigiri, sashimi, and specialty sushi rolls. Four prix-fixe sushi sampler options are also available. These did not offer near the variety you usually find in a Japanese bento box, which was a disappointment because I was hoping to be able to sample some miso soup, a little salad or some veggies, tempura, and sushi in a single meal. The rest of the sushi menu looked pretty standard and uninventive, with the exception of the Iowa roll, which is made with pork.

Because bento boxes were not on the menu and I wanted some variety, I ordered an "appetizer" of edemame, the udon noodle bowl, and tuna maki. The edemame arrived at the same time as the noodles, which was unexpected but perfectly acceptable. The edemame was a bit over-cooked for my taste (the pods were mushy), but was well salted. The giant steaming bowl of soft udon noodles were nestled in a simple, flavorful both and topped with six large tempura vegetables (onions, mushrooms, and asparagus). The tuna was of good quality and the presentation was simple and unremarkable. .

The service on this quiet Thursday afternoon was ok, not spectacular. My water glass was kept full, but dirty dishes weren't whisked away as quickly as I would have liked. As I got up to leave, the manager did ask how I enjoyed my meal.

Next time I visit Zen I will come with a large group and try an assortment of specialty rolls and the nigiri so that I can get a better feel for the quality of the sushi and better test the chef's creativity.

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Located on the first floor of The Kirkwood at 4th and Walnut.