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Restaurants & Bars 8

Cafe Zen on Belvedere Ave

Whitemarshjohn | Mar 17, 200807:39 PM

On Sunday I finally got to Cafe Zen for the first time after hearing about them for a year or two. Cafe Zen has won lots of praise from traditional sources such as AOL City Guide, City Paper and Zagat. Basically what they say is that the place is not fancy - rather plain and unattractive on the inside, but with fantastic food. When we got there we were the only people in the restaurant. I found the place to look a little weathered, but attractive in an artsy sort of way. My Fiance thought it seemed dirty, but I argued that it did not - to me it just looked weathered and worn from years of wear like an old glove. We got crab meat wontons as an appetizer which were sort of different then we're use to - not very crispy, but with a terrific flavor. The strange thing is the wontons were served over a garnishment of one of the oldest pieces of lettuce I'd ever been served. When our entrees came, we were pleasantly surprised. I had tofu and broccoli in a brown sauce with white rice that was very good. My fiance had an enormous portion of something called a chicken and string beans roll which was a layered scallion pancake wrapped around tender white meat chicken and string beans with a sweet sauce to it - the presentation was beautiful. I have probably eaten at over 50 restaurants around Baltimore in the past couple of years - everything from greasy spoon diners and pit beef stands to Tersiguel's and Antrim 1844, but my Fiances string beans with chicken roll was one of the best things I have ever tasted in my life! It is by far the best dish I've ever had in a Chinese restaurant. We also brought home an order of beef and broccoli to our fussy daughter and she enjoyed her dish as well - which is not always a small feat. One thing that made me feel a little better for Cafe Zen is that they had a couple of take out orders while we ate our leisurely lunch and another table of 2 came in (it seemed they were Regulars) and sat down just before we left. The restaurant next door - Zen West looked pretty busy. I've heard that they are owned by the same people, but the reviews I've seen were not as favorable as Cafe Zen. I'll have to go back again and try some other dishes.

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