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Cafe Zen near Belvedere Square closes, is replaced with A1 Sushi

Café Zen, the Chinese food restaurant in the Belvedere Square area, has closed and Asian eatery A1 Sushi has opened in its place, according to the new restaurant’s manager.

The new restaurant, which opened Sept. 10, will serve both Chinese and Japanese dishes such as meat dumplings, sushi, garlic green beans, according to general manager John Qiu.

Qiu, 21, said his uncle Paimou Qiu is the owner and head chef of the restaurant.

“He’s excited about it,” Qiu said. “He has very huge expectation for this restaurant.”

Qiu said his uncle, who doesn’t speak much English, has worked for an array of restaurants in the Baltimore area over the past 10 years. Before that, he owned a restaurant in New Jersey, he said.

“He just turned 50,” Qiu said of his uncle. “This will be his last business. He was working for other people. He always dreamed of opening his own restaurant and be successful.”

The new restaurant will attempt to transfer Café Zen’s liquor license, Qiu said.

“Not much has changed. We changed the flooring and walls and tables,” he said, adding that a sushi bar would be added in the coming weeks.

Café Zen rose to national attention in 2010 when Duff Goldman, owner of Charm City Cakes, featured it on a chopsticks edition of the Food Network show “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.” He highlighted the restaurant’s A and M Crispy Beef, a crunchy, triple-deep-fried, spicy-sweet beef dish.

In a video clip of he episode, Goldman described Café Zen as a “more modern take on Chinese food. I’ve never had this dish anywhere else,” he said. You can watch the clip here.

According to Cafe Zen’s website, the restaurant had been owned by three generations.

Jo Chang, who is identified as a co-owner of Cafe Zen in the Food Network episode, could not immediately be reached for comment.

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