Mt. Fuji and Zen crowd Uptown's overgrown Asian cuisine market

Lyndale and Hennepin are peppered with a plethora of Asian fusion options

The sake martini is a nice excuse to linger, a lofty mix that's the best of both drinks, garnished with a cucumber ribbon. If you're feeling more playful, try the Japanese Green, a luminescent concoction of rum, melon liqueur, and coconut that's topped with a maraschino cherry and a paper umbrella. The prices, $6.95 and $6.25 respectively for those two drinks, are decidedly less than what you'd expect to pay in the area. (The Red Dragon's Wondrous Punch has crept up to a wallet-shuddering $10.25.)

While Mt. Fuji does serve a few meat and seafood entrées and noodle dishes, it's first and foremost a sushi spot. (I thought the ika butter, or squid, appetizer was rather rubbery, but I would recommend the shrimp in chile sauce, a sweet-tart, onion-studded riff on shrimp cocktail.)

Liu describes Mt. Fuji's sushi as "French style," but I've also heard the term "sosaku," or "creative," sushi tossed around, which describes a fusion approach to creating elaborate rolls topped with special sauces. Rolls might be stuffed with mango, wrapped in pink soybean paper, and decorated with intricate edible garnishes—one made from twisted daikon radish ribbons looked almost like a peony blossom.

East meets West in Zen's orange-glazed duck
Alma Guzman
East meets West in Zen's orange-glazed duck

Location Info

Map

Zen Asian Contemporary

3016 Lyndale Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55408

Category: Restaurant > Asian

Region: Uptown/ Eat Street

Details

ZEN ASIAN CONTEMPORARY
3016 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
612.822.8896; www.zenmpls.com
appetizers $6-$10, entrées $11-$20

MT. FUJI
2819 Hennepin Ave. S., Minneapolis
612.872.1778; www.mtfujimn.com
appetizers $5-$11, entrées $14-$26

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Not everything works. The lobster roll looked beautiful, garnished with a crimson crustacean shell, but its tempura-fried flesh might have been mistaken for shrimp, and its teriyaki-like glaze was too cloying. The Uptown roll, which is lumps of spicy tuna and avocado wrapped with salmon sashimi and drizzled with a miso sauce and spicy mayonnaise, had lovely flavor but a mushy texture that was the edible equivalent of a limp handshake. But when all systems are go, the result is a roll like the Treasure Island, which tastes just like an adventure. The roll is stuffed with yellowtail and tuna, accented with kampyo (a sweet pickled gourd that tastes a bit like umi, or fermented plum), and topped with a mound of sweet blue crab, a sprinkle of tiny tobiko bubbles, and tempura crunches that reminded me of fried Rice Krispies.

I don't think either Mt. Fuji or Zen is trying to take on the neighborhood heavyweights—Chino will always offer a livelier scene, Jasmine Deli a better value, and Moto-i a superior sake selection. But these restaurants' ambitions don't necessarily need to be sky-high for the places to be successful. Zen's diverse menu is good for groups who can't all agree on Chinese or Vietnamese or Thai. Mt. Fuji's fusion approach is similar to Tiger Sushi's, yet its clubbier atmosphere and more aggressive happy-hour pricing (select rolls are discounted between a third and half off) will perhaps make it different enough. Even if Zen and Mt. Fuji haven't yet proved themselves, they're making the case that Uptown will always have room for a few more Asian restaurants. 

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