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By Sterling Roberts
Observer Staff Writer 

Chinatown Restaurant Review: Zen Mei Bistro, a great budget dining experience

I was shocked: there was so much food for so little money

 

Sterling Roberts

Michelle Liu, the owner of Zen Mei Bistro, greeting customers

Zen Mei is an authentic Chinese restaurant located in Chinatown in Downtown Los Angeles. It is a family run business which has been owned by Michelle Liu for the last seven years.

The restaurant is small but quaint and while there isn't air conditioning, Zen Mei translates to really beautiful, and that's exactly what the food is. When first walking in, customers are greeted and allowed to choose where they'd like to sit.

After sitting down, a waitress brings a kettle of green tea to enjoy with the meal instead of water, which I personally loved. The set up of the table was really appealing. The chopsticks are a fun bright green which pairs nicely with the red and white plates and bowls that are set up on the table.

We were then given a small bowl of soup as a free appetizer which seemed to consist of tofu, chicken broth, and vegetables. Being honest, it wasn't my favorite dish. The soup was clear and was a strange consistency that seemed jelly-like. We were also served a large dish of white rice for our meals.

Between two people, we ordered mayonnaise shrimp, braised string beans, and Mongolian chicken. The food came out very quickly, though it could be due to the restaurant not being super crowded. I was shocked: there was so much food. Between the soup, the rice, the tea, and the dishes we ordered, I was overwhelmed.

Sterling Roberts

Part of the interior of the restaurant.

That being said, I was very satisfied with the meal. Between two people we ordered three plates and had approximately half of the food left over when we had finished eating. The food was excellent and I honestly have no complaints. Personally, my favorite was the braised green beans. And, for three plates, the meal was only $28.

Before leaving, we talked to another diner who happens to be a regular. His favorite item on the menu is the orange chicken because he finds that it is less "caked" than at other restaurants. We also talked to the owner who explained that their food doesn't contain MSG, so there was less salt and less oil.

Zen Mei is very casual so unless you're in the neighborhood, it may not be worth driving across town for. Nonetheless, the restaurant is a great place to dine at if you're craving Chinese food, especially when on a budget.

Zen Mei Bistro is located on the corner of Ord Street and Yale in LA's Chinatown. 800 Yale Street, Los Angeles CA 90012. Open every day.

 

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