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Eats and Drinks

Best Chinese Restaurant

Café Zen

438 E. Belvedere Ave., (410) 532-0022

Posted 9/15/1999

We have a love/hate relationship with Chinese food. We love Chinese food, but we hate most of what passes for Chinese food around these parts--or at least we do after about half a serving. Is it possible that the cuisine that ostensibly nourishes one out of every four people on earth must always be so greasy, so murky in flavor, so untextured, and so uninspiring as the stuff we usually fish out of our take-out carton? Of course not. For those seeking an alternative to the cheap-Chinese-as-usual treadmill, Café Zen is a find. Zen's food, like its décor, is atypical of inexpensive Chinese dining in Baltimore--it's light, eclectic, and full of subtleties. Compared with the soupy, mysterious sauces common at more run-of-the-mill establishments, Zen's flavors might seem almost bland to the uninitiated. We have found, however, that the restaurant's lighter sauces allow the flavors of the actual ingredients a fighting chance on the palate, which often gives old reliable entrées a whole new life. Pan-Asian influences also make for pleasant menu surprises such as a selection of mild but flavorful curries (our fave is the shrimp curry, featuring crustaceans so tender and plump that they're almost worth two bites). Factor in treats such as a delicious, minimalist veggie-dumpling appetizer and the best won ton soup in town and we find ourselves returning to Café Zen again and again.

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Other Awards for Best Chinese Restaurant:

Grace Garden, 9/16/2009

Grace Garden, 9/17/2008

Szechuan House, 9/19/2007

Café Zen, 9/20/2006

Chinatown Café, 9/21/2005

Chinatown Café, 9/22/2004

Chinatown Café, 9/17/2003

Chinatown Café, 9/18/2002

Bamboo House, 9/19/2001

Szechuan Best, 9/13/2000

Grand Palace, 9/17/1997

All Awards for Café Zen:

Best Chinese Restaurant, 9/20/2006

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