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Anyone have an opinion on Zen?

I'm back in Austin after being away a couple of years and this place sounds good but I don't know anyone with firsthand expereince. Anyone?

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  1. Zen. Bland Food. Fast.

    4 Replies
    1. re: achtungpv

      If I may ask, what did you have? In fact, what all do they have?

      1. re: chrislike

        Rice bowls and noodle bowls mainly. Pretty boring stuff. It all tastes the same no matter what you get.

      2. re: achtungpv

        I agree. Save your money. I think I had some beef and noodles dish that was not only bland but the way the veggies were cut in proportion to the cook time was inconsistent. Some were too hard and thick, some were overcooked. I'd rather walk to Freebirds.

        1. re: achtungpv

          I also agree, and I've been there quite a few times with a friend that likes the place. All of the dishes are incredibly, incredibly bland, and the sushi isn't great either. Think of this place as the Japanese cousin of Pei Wei (a terribly bland fast-food take on Chinese).

          The Austin Chronicle keeps on giving this place awards: "Best Place to Dine Alone," "Best Fast Food That's Not Fast Food," and "Cheap Meal." Trust me when I say there are cheaper and better alternatives, even when it comes to fast food. And if I happen to be dining alone, well, I tend to go to places that actually have decent chow -- pretty much everywhere in Austin is great for dining alone, anyway.

        2. I'm capable of eating there when I'm hungry and some other people are already going there.

          If you want tastier and far more interesting healthy pan-Asian food, just drive the extra few miles to Koriente at 7th and Red River. Go there and try their 'Ka-re' and it'll whomp anything on Zen's menu.

          1. I don't think that Zen is setting out to be some culinary masterpiece at the price you pay for the amount of food that you get.

            It's definitely mediocre food, but it's healthy, cheap, and fast.... more than I can say about alot of places at the same price.

            I order the hibachi bowl.... it's pretty decent and healthy.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Johnny Thunders

              I agree with you - it is what it is...and cheap.

              I don't go out of my way to go there, but I've been pleasantly surprised with the following:

              7 pepper ahi tuna
              edamame bowl for $2
              spicy shrimp bowl (do the noodles, not the rice and ask for extra spicy)
              seaweed salad for $1.50
              A little side salad for freakin 90 cents.
              And the sushi is cheaper and just a cut above central market.

              And they have nice vegetables that they cut up

            2. GREAT FOOD, fast and reasonable!!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Gourmetchef

                I live *right* next door to the Zen on South Congress and sadly I go there more due to the convenience than the food. I've tried everything dozens of times. I can't say that any of it is great but it's inexpensive, its fast, the staff has been helpful and friendly over the past three years, and it's 1000x better than hitting up a fast food place. Rudeboy pretty much nailed all the decent things on the list . . . although after all these years I can't decide if the side sauce that comes with the 7-pepper tuna is just weird, or actually sort of good. Sometimes I love it and sometimes it just makes me cringe. Strange stuff.

              2. Zen is really good for the price. I'm not sure what dishes you guys are ordering, but I've been really happy with variety of my favorites. I think as long as you stay away from the sushi, which is really overpriced for what you get, you'll do really well at Zen.

                As a bonus, if you are health conscious, not only are super healthy, but they have very good nutritional information there to help you make a good decisions. Not many local places do that, and I really appreciate it.

                1. All the bowls taste the same to me, kind of generic asian "brown." They always seem either too salty or too oily or both.

                  I do occasionally go there if I want something cheap and quick but really don't want to go through a drive through for a burger. I get a little box of the tofu roll, and add a side of plain udon noodles and the whole thing is barely more than $3. I eat pretty light for lunch so this is the perfect amount of food for me. And I actually like the really mild flavor of the broth the noodles are in.