100 Favorite Dishes: No. 19, Zen Box Izakaya's Wantan Shoyu Ramen

A bowl of some of the best ramen in the Twin Cities

A bowl of some of the best ramen in the Twin Cities

As a countdown to the Best of the Twin Cities 2014, coming April 16, the Hot Dish is serving up 100 of our favorite local dishes.
Joy Summers
A bowl of some of the best ramen in the Twin Cities

Zen Box Izakaya is first and foremost a cozy neighborhood watering hole with a staff that will remember your favorites after only a couple of visits. It's our secret weapon spot to hit before a show at the Guthrie blocks away and a great way to introduce friends to Japanese food that isn't sushi-centric. 

What Zen Box has grown into since opening just a couple of years ago is a destination for ramen aficionados. Creating the broth, coaxing new levels of umami, and perfecting a personal ramen noodle recipe are the things that occupy Chef and co-owner John Ng's dreams at night. 

See also:


Ever since he and his wife, co-owner and front of house hospitality empress Lina Goh, traveled back to Japan for a whirlwind ramen tour, Ng has been exploring all the different regional styles of ramen, while giving each bowl his own twist.

The key is in the base of the soup, a broth that must be carefully tended to, because of the soy sauce it's seasoned with. Soy sauce can never reach a boil, or the flavor will turn bitter.

All the hard work that goes into making the broth is worth it: This is love at first slurp. The levels of umami are off the charts, as the broth coats the mouth with a wonderful silky texture. The bowl is packed with all kinds of delicious goodies to explore: delicate wantans (wontons are Chinese) stuffed with shrimp and unctuous pork belly, pork belly chasui wound up tender and packed with toasty flavor, tart and savory seasoned bamboo, fish cakes, and delicate chive blossoms. It's a stunning bowl of goodness.

Although they have ramen on the menu every day, the inspired chef ramen specials are only available Friday through Sunday. Call ahead or follow Zen Box on Facebook to find out what ramen you can dive into this weekend.

No. 40: Crema's affogato
No. 39: Broders' quadrucci con pollo

City Pages on Facebook | Hot Dish on Facebook | Twitter | e-mail us