|132 E Street #1A (in Mansion Square)|
|Lunch: Mon-Fri 11:30AM-2:00PM|
|Dinner: Mon-Thu 5:30PM-9:00PM|
|Dinner: Fri-Sat 5:30PM-10:00PM|
|January 4, 2006|
|Masa & Masako Nishiyama|
Zen Toro Japanese bistro and sushi bar came to Davis in 2006, replacing Tapioca Express. Zen Toro had a Sacramento location for some time. That location has since closed and was replaced by a new sushi restaurant, Zen Sushi, which has since also closed.
The presentation is more stylish instead of traditional, as is the food. The portions are generally large, and they have a few Hawaiian-Japanese specialties, including a dish with Spam. The tempura seems to be their strongest dish, while some side dishes such as the pasta salad tend to be critiqued negatively. Prices are (roughly) $8 for lunch and $10-$18 for dinner. Most reviewers enjoy the food and rate it highly, especially their sushi rolls. In fact, Zen Toro was voted Best Sushi/Japanese Cuisine in Davis Wiki's Best of Davis 08 and was recently given a four star rating by the Sacramento News & Review. The common theme of complaints though regards the speed of service, with the consensus being it's too slow (whether it is refilling water glasses, paying your bill, or in some cases placing/receiving an order).
Something unique that Zen Toro features has a Japanese heated toilet with an integrated bidet in the women's restroom, providing a warm water spray and a gentle blow-dry.
Note: Their paper menu (which opens left to right) stresses ***NO SUBSTITUTIONS PLEASE***. There is a section labeled "House Specialties" in the lunch menu that has a column of items costing $1-3 but are only titled in Japanese. What are these inexpensive mystery foods?
These are for extra noodles and optional toppings for the noodles. Here's a rough translation for the Japanese section of the lunch menu:
Kaedama - (Replacement "ball" of noodles) It's a common way of ordering second helpings of ramen noodles in Japan. Assuming you still have hot liquid left, you can say "kaedama kudasai", and your server should theoretically plop some more noodles in your bowl for an extra $2.00
Oomori (Super-size me!) - Unlike the Kaedama method, your server should give you the extra noodles straight away. Many ramen aficionados avoid this method because the extra noodles turn to crap before you get around to them. I have no idea why it's $3.00 here, a dollar more than the Kaedama. Maybe they give you even more noodles??
Chaashuu (2 slices of tender pork) - $1.00
Kikurage (Jelly-ear mushroom) - $1.00
Karashi Takana (Spicy pickled mustard greens) - $1.00
Menma (Fermented bamboo shoots) - $1.00
Tamago (Egg) - $1.00
Additional Japanese text disguises variant noodle flavors! Firstly, you can order the hiyashi mazemen with soy sauce instead of sesame sauce if you prefer. Similarly, you can order the "special ramen" in one of three distinct styles: tonkotsu (broth of boiled pork bone), shouyu (soy sauce), or the default option, shio (salted original ramen).
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Reviews from 2006 ~ 39 comments.
Reviews from 2007 ~ 23 comments.
Reviews from 2008 ~ 18 comments.
A long argument regarding Zen Toro's handling of allegedly-intoxicated patrons can be read at Zen Toro/Punk In Drublic.
2009-01-14 00:20:07 Their meals are pretty good, but a little pricier for Davis. They also take a while to prepare the food. This is a good "date" place because the restaurant setting is well decorated and the staff is professional. Also, the long wait can be used to your advantage so you have a longer time to talk. —AmanpreetSingh
2009-01-21 23:48:15 This is the best sushi restaurant in Davis. I highly recommend Zen Toro to anybody who wants to eat authentic sushi. —Tomo
2009-02-09 08:59:12 I came here for the 2nd time over the weekend. The first time was a few years ago right when they opened. Due to the great reviews, I decided to give them another try, and I'm glad I did. I love their unique rolls! They also have some really spicy choices on their menu which is always great to try when you go out with friends....since I can't eat a whole roll that spicy myself. They had people lined up at their door waiting for their 5:30 open time which was immpressive enough. In addition, their rolls are quite reasonably priced. Other than it smelling like fish (never good in a sushi restaurant!) for a few minutes, I'd say judging by how busy it was and caliber of food I ordered, I will definitely be back! —AmLin
2009-04-24 12:55:11 Definitely my favorite sushi restaurant in Davis. Everything is always fresh, perfectly prepared, and delicious. It'll be a tad more expensive than the all-you-can-eat-extravaganza place across the street, but definitely worth it for the unique rolls, thoughtful presentation, and quality of fish you get. Even the side salads that come with the lunch specials are little works of art with fresh local greens arranged just so.
2009-05-10 14:59:56 My personal favorite sushi place in Davis. Seems to be better quality than many of the other sushi places in Davis, no major complaints, seems relatively fresh and service is good. Favorite is the New Age Bake California, I got it to go for lunch several days straight before. —Michelleshueh
2009-05-15 17:26:16 It's ridiculously expensive and the sushi rolls are so thin and small. I got one of their salmon rolls for 12 dollars and I was so hungry afterwards I had a hotdog. They charge extra for a small bowl of miso soup and dont even refill it. When I had sushi at home, the rolls were huge and hefty and the toppings extravagant. Here you will feel hungry and robbed of your money for what you get! Dont go unless you are filthy rich! —alexlee333
2009-05-16 11:49:23 I think Zen Toro has the best Japanese food in Davis, as well as a friendly staff and pleasant atmosphere—it's a great place to take a date! I also have always wanted to take my parents here, but it is never open when they come to visit (usually on a Sunday). —ColinDoyle
2009-05-17 21:11:37 The food is so yummy~~ We go there at afteroom.......... our food comes so fast~ —coffeetea99
2009-05-29 16:12:56 Finally got a chance to go to Zen Toro for both lunch and dinner- and both were delicious! Not only is the service good (e.g., attentive, friendly waiters), their fish is fresh and their rolls are inventive (but not unappetizingly so). Their lunch specials range from about $7-$10 for sushi/cooked food combos and are a great value; servings are large and diverse. They also have quite a good sake selection. All in all, Zen Toro is a great deal for either meal. (One caveat: I've heard they have odd hours, so I would check their site before going to ensure they'll be open) —chellebelle1685
2009-05-30 19:44:35 Top quality sushi and interesting fusion dishes for suprising reasonable price. One of the best restaurants in Davis!!! —BelindaYT
2009-06-12 11:25:21 One of my favorites in Davis (other is Moshi Moshi). Sushi is always fresh and I love their miso soup. I don't get the big green salad though...either I was missing dressing or it is just bland. —LokiAbbi
2009-06-24 08:04:51 A little pricey, but the service and food definitely make up for it. If you're looking for a local restaurant to go to on a date, Zen Toro might be it. —AbbYu
2009-07-20 13:04:42 I actually think the prices are very reasonable considering the quality of food and attention to detail. If you want to try Zen Toro without spending as much, go during lunch - you can get a variety of sushi/noodle/other stuff combinations for under 10 bucks. I've had to limit myself to only going once a week, but find that difficult - I may be addicted to the udon noodle bowls. I've only tried a couple of the specialty sushi rolls, but the ones I have tried have been interesting, delicious, and very filling. Service has always been very friendly, although not always the most attentive. Food can also take awhile, particularly when they're very busy, but I think there's only one person or maybe two at a time handling the sushi-making, which would explain the hold-up. Again, if you go during lunch during the week, it's rarely very busy and is inexpensive. —jmofro
2009-08-29 21:55:14 Zen Toro is my favorite sushi restaurant in Davis. The food is consistently excellent. The owners are both very sweet and are always present. Lovely ambiance. Worth every penny! —davisdebbie
2009-10-21 11:53:52 I went here awhile ago with some friends. The atmosphere was nice enough, but the service was slow! By the time we got our food, we were so hungry that we were getting irritable, and the mood affected how much we liked the food. —waterlilees
2009-11-09 18:35:40 Wonderful. Everything here is delicious, especially the tataki beef. It's costly, but it's sushi so that's to be expected. Decor is excellent. —KCcomix
2009-11-13 21:38:05 The food has improved! When we ate at Zen Toro's a few years ago, the sushi was good, but the food from the kitchen was uninspired. We went with friends twice in the past month and were impressed with the quality and flair of the dishes. The Hawaiian Ahi Poke Salad, Agedashi Tofu, and Mackerel grilled with salt were flavorful and fresh. After the owners closed their Sacramento restaurant 2 years ago, they put their efforts into the Davis restaurant and it shows. —Craighton
2010-01-26 10:23:30 The food here is fine but I saw nothing to justify either the high prices, the slow service or especially the rave reviews. You can eat a lot more for a lot less at at least half a dozen places in Davis and IMO the food will be comparable.
The near-gushing praise this place receives is kind of a mystery to me. It's basically Mikuni's quality. —rfrazier
2010-02-13 10:36:36 Still the best nihonjin food I've had here in Davis. This place is legit. Old school and delicious. Service gets a little rough when crowded. —103
2010-02-24 18:08:14 I hope Zen Toro replaces the lights in their back room. The lights there flicker rather unpleasantly. —ColinDoyle
2010-03-08 14:42:53 I really wanted to like this place, but I think that it just wasn't meant to be. I went on Saturday night in a party of five to try it out. I ordered the "mini sushi don and noodle combination" with the Hawaiian poke and tempura udon. I had assumed that, with two sizable dishes that were both supposed to be at extreme temperatures, the poke and udon would come out separately, but they came out together, ensuring that I'd end up with room temperature fish, cool soup, or a horrible stomach ache from eating it all too fast. I was sort of forced into trying the udon first, since they tossed what once may have been delicious and delicate tempura into the (also maybe once hot) soup. Try as I might to save them from their unfortunate fate, I was left with soggy panko batter on some warm shrimp and veggies. The noodles were of good consistency and the broth was good enough, but this ridiculous oversight (soggy tempura and not particularly hot soup) was unacceptable. The poke was a fitting continuation of the meal: it seemed to be their just fine seaweed salad tossed with a little extra sesame oil over some chunks of tuna. I'm not very knowledgeable on poke, but was hoping that it would be better than the sum of its parts (it wasn't). Maybe I took too long chatting with my friends, but after a few minutes, it was at about room temperature, and took a huge dose of wasabi for me to think it edible again. It ended up doing wonders for my sinuses, though.
As for the co-diners' dishes, two of them seemed fine if not uninteresting (Special Dinner and Vegetarian Delight, I believe), but I didn't decide to order them or try them so I can't really say much about them. The other two in the party ordered the duck breast and lamb shank entrees. The bite of duck breast that I had was chewy and not particularly tasty. The bit of lamb shank that I tried was pretty yummy, glazed with a nice sweet soy-based sauce. It was a bit heavy and monotonous for my taste, though, and would perhaps better serve as a dish to split with someone (or to order for a small meal and some leftovers).
For all of the complaints that I've read about inattentive staff and slow service, I didn't have problems with those two points in particular. There was some issue with kitchen equipment that delayed the last two entrees' preparation, but they kept us updated about it, and brought out some edamame for those two to munch on. Instead of a bright green pod with firm soybeans within and a nice salty tang to them, the pods were pale and brownish, soybeans almost mushy, with no delightful salty aftertaste. I hope that these were just sitting around the kitchen waiting to be given to someone, because if that's the typical preparation, that's a shame. The food did come out in fits and starts, and that delay would probably be pretty irritating in a meal for two, but since we had the group, I wasn't expecting a perfectly coordinated service. Others in my party were annoyed at the heavily staggered service of entrees, but I didn't really mind.
I didn't try any nigiri or rolls or anything; they might be the bee's knees. Everything in the meal was somewhere between eh and blech, and overall I was really disappointed in the restaurant as a "Japanese Bistro." —dobrin
2010-03-23 14:51:22 The is hands down the best restaurant in Davis, The food is amazing and the service is always really great. I go there so often, the waitresses know my order. The lunch specials are sooo good... but you can't ever go wrong with Crazy about Calamari and Palette of Fire as far as the rolls go!!! yummy —krissyp
2010-03-24 13:30:12 Definitely the best Sushi in town - if you're looking for the real deal as opposed to buffet style, this is the place for you. I highly recommend the Tuna Lover's Dream roll. —CollinSUN
2010-04-29 15:22:36 Really good date restaurant or when the family comes to town. It is pricey for a college student but you can order wisely. Service is always great. Plus they have a toto toiled in the womens bathroom-Talk about a unique experience! —Ldish949
2010-06-21 16:52:21 While the sushi here is always excellent, the service is hit and miss. One night I went with one other person and had a lovely meal, a month later with a party of 4, they forgot to enter our order for almost an hour, and when we finally got their attention it took another 30 minutes. We ended up having to get our meal "to go" and were not given any sort of discount for the inconvenience. —jdkurushima
2010-07-06 00:13:33 Good food, service varies. I'd rather not go here when it's crowded because there are only a few servers and the wait can be forever (even after you get a table). —susiekim
2010-07-25 10:54:32 They've got some awesomely different rolls here, and I like that. —ChristyMarsden
2010-08-06 15:29:23 I'm not really into sushi buffets — I definitely value quality over quantity. I think this is one of my favorite sushi places in Davis. The presentation and quality of the ingredients always impresses me. Fortunately for me, I've had pretty good luck with the service here. Some things I've ordered are the udon/hawaiian poke combo, ZT crunch and the one with a lot of shrimp on it! They're pretty delicious. —AmberMa
2010-08-24 15:51:25 Had the Loco Moco today with a side of Spam Musubi. Awesome! Service was great too. —DavidGrundler
2010-08-26 13:38:25 I don't know why this place isn't rated higher on UCD's Best of Davis 2010. I've been going to this place for about a year now since I started using Aggie Cash (I'm not sure if this place still accepts Aggie Cash, but even if it does, I wouldn't recommend it because you'll use them up really fast outside of campus). This place is EXCELLENT! It's my favorite Japanese restaurant in Davis. My boyfriend LOVES sushi and has tried many locations in the Bay Area; he says this place is the only place in Davis (after having tried Davis Sushi Buffet, Fuji's, Sushi Nobu (Nobu Hiro), Sushi Unlimited, Osaka Sushi, and Jusco Japanese Restaurant) that is comparable in quality to the Bay Area but won't hurt your wallet as badly! Having tried all these places with him, I definitely concur with this. Normally Japanese/Sushi restaurants are super expensive, esp. if you order rolls, but dinner for the two of us (often includes 2 entrees/dinner combinations, miso soup(s), and 2 rolls) costs about $30-40, which isn't too bad considering most sushi places charge about this much on only 2 rolls and soup. Zen Toro does an amazing job with both raw food and cooked food, but I prefer the cooked food here. Their hot udon is the BEST I've had in Davis! I actually prefer Zen Toro's udon over the noodles in Dumpling House & Noodle City. Some of my favorite rolls here are the ZT Crunch (a hefty, filling roll), Avo-Negihama Special (a lighter roll), Sonoma Duck (duck on top is AMAZINGLY cooked!). Their spring/summer specials right now are curry dishes, and I definitely recommend anyone try their curry with tonkatsu! It's a very big dish, however, so be prepared to be filled. Their regular portions are a decent size, leaning more towards the bigger end. Their customer service on occasion is a miss, esp. when the place is really busy like on Friday nights, but overall I've never been dissatisfied with the service.
OH, and if you're interested in trying a toilet that cleans your buttocks, LADIES, give this place a try ;) —MooMoo28
2010-10-02 19:21:39 After a tiring night of work, I quickly made my way to Zen Toro so that I could buy some food for myself and my parents. Even though they were preparing to close shop, they were still willing to cook a meal for us. I ordered the dinner sushi combo with teriyaki beef and a shrimp tempura roll. The beef was cooked perfectly and had a tasty sauce lathered over it. The salad was delicious and so were the noodles that it came with. I was a bit disappointed by the portion of rice and cucumber slices, as well as the sushi roll. The shrimp tempura was soggy and the sushi was falling apart. The prices are pretty high up there too, but then again I think that Japanese and Italian food are the most overpriced cuisine out there so it's not just this restaurant. Overall, Zen Toro is a nice place to come and dine with coworkers or a significant other. I would definitely be willing to come again, but most likely for lunch. —BenLee
2010-10-05 14:18:37 Their nigiri menu is standard, but they have an extensive roll selection, which I like. My friends and I ordered 3 different rolls. I liked the flavor, but the rice was so over-cooked it was mushy. Although I do like my rice on the soft side, what we had was not appropriate for sushi rice. They seemed to use heavier seasoning as well; saba nigiri was a bit salty. The salmon skin in my deluxe crispy salmon skin roll was also very salty that it masked the flavor of the salmon on the roll. The tempura shrimp in one of our rolls was soggy (I tried it as soon as it got to our table), probably because the rice was so full of moisture. Service was nice. I would like to think they just had a bad rice day (not very excusable for a Japanese restaurant tho...), and would probably give them another chance in the future. —winddolphin
2010-10-27 01:14:46 In terms of quality of food, I rank Zen Toro second behind Osteria Fasulo in Davis. It should be placed in the category of "Fine Dining" in Davis. Needless to say is of course the best Japanese restaurant in Davis in terms of quality, authenticity, and service. At prime time on Friday evening, it may take a little longer for some dishes, but good things simply take their time. I appreciate their attention to detail. —bcschipper
2010-10-30 16:03:16 I think the atmosphere here is really nice and the food is pretty good but it's not good enough to justify the price. —elgreen
2010-12-18 15:14:53 This is my favorite restaurant in Davis. Excellent service and sushi! —KaitDancer
2011-01-27 22:28:36 This was the second sushi place in Davis that I tried and incredibly good. I brought my mom here. The atmosphere was nice, and the service was great, and though the prices were higher than other places in Davis, I would say they were reasonable for the quality of the food. Sometimes a person wants real sushi and this is a great place to go. I would recommend it to people that want a nice restaurant and are willing to pay a little more for quality. —hbtisell
2011-02-12 22:38:14 The food is really good here. But service can be slow. Not the waitresses but seating & getting your food. They need to bite the bullet & hire a sushi chef and a bus person. If they did that they could keep up with the foot traffic. I saw 10 people walk out in the hour we were there. I'll be back sometime but probably not anytime real soon. It's too bad because the restaurant scene in Davis stinks. This could be one of the best places...just gotta hire those two other positions. —LPGrote
2011-02-19 20:27:58 The Pork Katsu (Cutlet) is awesome here!!! —ChocolateFrogs
2011-02-25 20:59:41 I was disappointed with Zen Toro after reading so many positive reviews. The service was slow. It took a long time to get our meal and when we finally did get food it did not come together. I got my food 5-10 minutes after my wife's came out. My wife felt here dish was too salty. My fish was tasty but all of the sides that came with it were nothing specially. My problem with the fish was that it had 6 or 7 large bones in it. I told the waitress about the bones and her response was "Oh, that does not usually happen". I know it was not her fault but I felt that something should have been done to address this, at least an apology would have been nice. I don't think we will be going back here anytime soon. —ScottMauger
2011-03-02 20:31:03 Best Japanese restaurant in davis ! :) the service can be slow but i think it is worth the wait. i usually get tonkotsu ramen, udon or specialty sushi (like toro nigiri). Their rolls are pretty good too. I wish i could go there more often but it's pricey so i only go occasionally when i feel like sushi! —littlemissbug
2011-03-16 17:10:18 Took my nephew from Sacramento there who loves sushi. We order three rolls and they were all great. He was very pleased and so was I. —LokiAbbi
2011-03-24 12:29:46 I've never really had much issue with their wait time (but I usually go for lunch and the wait is average to a bit slow but not overly so). The one time I went for dinner, I was quite surprised by how slow it was. It took about 2 hours for my table to finish our food and dessert (maybe we should have skipped the dessert, but it was my companions' first time here). It does seem like they only ever have one waiter out at a time, even for the dinner, which is a bit odd. Anyway, their food is good and worth going for, but just watch the time issue if you're in a hurry. —Ravyn
2011-03-27 22:38:14 Like many, I had to try Zen Toro from the rave reviews. I tried this place twice and each time that I was here, I was not impressed by the service or the quality of food for the price. The fish is just a little bit above average, nothing noteworthy. At least it wasn't half frozen like other places I've tried. The service can be pretty slow during busy nights but that's expected. LIke sushi unlimited, I like this place because it's not a buffet and that gave me hopes of having better quality food. Average + at best. Come here if you want to try out different Sushi restaurants in Davis but I wouldn't recommend it based on my experiences. —C.Ling
2011-08-16 16:48:59 The food here is quite pricey, and sadly the quality of the food doesn't reflect the high price. The waiters/waitresses are polite for the most part. —PaulV
2011-12-16 16:49:50 best Japanese place in Davis in my opinion! —JeffA
2012-05-21 19:49:24 Yes we all know this place is a bit pricey, but it's for a reason. It's the highest quality sushi you can find in this area. They serve Toro, which is pure quality heaven in your mouth and belly. I've tried it at other restaurants and it tasted like Mackerel (aka didn't measure up). This is the BEST Sushi Restaurant in Davis. Better yet, best in Yolo county and Sacramento! —MyBusiness
2012-05-24 10:04:26 Good sushi, abysmally slow service. Forgotten for 1.5 hours! Then given a small bowl of edamame that had been lying on a nearby table and the three orders of rolls and wakame salad trickled out over another hour one at a time. —OliviaY
2012-07-25 13:52:33 Ah, I can't believe it's been 3 years since I wrote something about Zen Toro (then again, how many people actually follow up 3 years later?)!
For a couple of years, my fiance and I were faithful customers to Zen Toro, regularly enjoying some ramen, the dinner special, or one of the mini sushi dons. In recent months— perhaps very nearly a year now, actually— we've been coming here less and less. In fact, I think the last time we went must have been back in May, which doesn't seem like much unless you consider the fact that we used to come here about twice a month for almost two years.
Why the change? It's a number of little things that add up. I still feel that the service is friendly (we are still greeted when we walk in, and thanked when we leave, even when the place is packed), but increasingly slow. For awhile, I figured it was because we were looking for dinner during prime time and that was just the way kitchens worked, but even stopping by as early as 5:30, the time it takes from being seated, to placing our orders, to digging in seems to be getting longer and longer. Also, while the quality of the food has not really diminished, I feel that the quantity of it has. I regularly ordered the Zen Toro Special Dinner with either beef or chicken teriyaki: beef for when I'm not really hungry but craving red meat, chicken for when my stomach wants something more substantial (which is to say that the chicken portion is about twice the size of a beef portion), but in our last two visits, both servings of chicken were insubstantial. It looked (and felt) like they gave us half a thigh of a moderately-sized chicken. It makes me worry about what a serving of beef looks like.
Slower service combined with the reduced portions on my favorite dishes and the (very slight) increase in prices, Zen Toro has become less attractive over the years. We still stop in for a nice dinner, but definitely not with the frequency that we used to. I would still recommend it to friends as a place to go to enjoy good food and good company, but not if you're in a hurry or looking to get stuffed. —AbbYu
2012-12-10 09:49:21 I don't often often have severe cramping and poo water all night long, but when I do I prefer the New Age Baked California at Zen Toro. I also enjoy waiting 40 minutes after everyone else at my table has finished eating to get my food. With such great service and excellent food, I will be back every time I want to lose 10lbs of water weight. Thanks Zen Toro!! —MarkYoyo
2012-12-11 21:08:02 My family and I visit MANY sushi joints in Davis. When money is no object, Zen Toro is overwhelmingly our favorite and go-to place. The quality is amazing. Service can be slow at times, as described above, but if you get some appetizers, that won't be as much of an issue. —BrianPakpour