Zen Box Izakaya

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Place Category: Food & Drink, Restaurants, and JapanesePlace Tags: Cocktail Bar, Ramen Resta, and Zen Box Izakaya

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  • The true spirit is the interaction between one another, the combination of people + food & drink + atmosphere.

    It is not just a destination, but a culture of its own – The Zen Box Culture.


    In 1996 an architectural student in San Francisco (John Ng) met a financial student (Lina Goh) in New Zealand in an online chat-room. A long-distance relationship maintained through emails, postcards, and a first meeting in San Francisco in 1997 finally resulted in the two getting married in 1999. Being apart for so long has created a dynamic that has allowed them to work in complement. Each bringing both of their skill sets and strengths together, they work as a team.

    At the behest of friends and family, in 2004 they found the community and support to open their first restaurant focusing on bento in downtown Minneapolis’ financial district.

    With the expansion and opening of Zen Box Izakaya as their latest location in 2012, John and Lina have since realized their dream to share the many complexities and nuances of Japanese cuisine and ramen with their loyal fans and guests.

    Both in and out of the kitchen, architecture has always been John’s outlook and aesthetic. While the bento serves as a constant study in harmony and structure, his passion is ignited in ramen.

    Chef Ng’s style, both, works and is indeed his own style, because of a firm understanding of the importance of structure, yet the drive to challenge and redefine that same structure. In creating a new space, the architect must consider every space that has come before. Ramen, too, is indebted to and steeped in the same tradition. Every facet of design is an extension of his own self, from his restaurant spaces to his signature ramen; it is from this platform that Chef Ng begins a new creation. Each bowl of ramen is the consideration of all possibilities – this is the style of the Ramen Architect.

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