The Return of the “Best Chinese Food Outside of China” — Zen Fine Chinese Cuisine

Updated: 20th Nov 2014; This restaurant is closed.

After the Belgian Waffle breakfast at Damien’s, Suanne and I decided to take a walk around the Steveston Village. It was a lot warmer this week.

We stumbled upon a soon to be opened restaurant that will definitely be the talk of town in the next few months!


Steveston Village had changed a lot the past few years. There had been quite a bit of development. I like what I see because the Richmond City had managed to plan all the new development really well without altering the charm of the area.

As we walked past this new apartment / retail building I noticed from the distance the familiar words “Zen Fine Chinese Cuisine”. It took me a few seconds to fully realize the words I was reading. I was hoping that it is THE Zen Fine Chinese Cuisine that became an overnight success over a year ago.


So we moved to take a closer look.

And YES, IT IS. Sam Lau and Zen Fine Chinese Cuisine is making a comeback in Richmond.

For those of you who do not know of Zen, we had written two blog posts about Sam and Zen before.

Chef Sam Lau burst into the limelight in March 2008. At that time, he was running a near bankrupt fine dining restaurant and was just mere … weeks from closing. His fortunes turned around overnight when Jennifer 8 Lee took notice of Zen.

Jennifer 8 Lee is a well respected journalist with the New York Times. She wrote a well received book called The Fortune Cookie Chronicles: Adventures in the World of Chinese Food in which she talked about Chinese Cuisine and the restaurants she had tried all over the world. Of all Chinese restaurants mentioned in her book, she called Sam Lau’s Zen Fine Chinese Cuisine as “the world’s greatest Chinese restaurant outside China.”

Just like that!  That one short statement resulted in the front page coverage on the Vancouver Sun and the world taking notice of this little know Richmond restaurant.


Immediately after the news broke, Sam’s restaurant had a second wind. From being on the verge of closing down, suddenly Zen Fine Chinese Cuisine was the rave in Chinese dining with long bookings. Suanne and I dined there and blogged about our meal there in this post.

Sadly that excitement did not last long because Zen did close a few months after.

I have a feeling that there is another restaurant in Richmond that is associated with Sam in some way. I am not sure how they are connected but Hakkasan (our review of Hakkasan here) appears to serve the same style of food as Sam’s. Does anyone know?

Back to Zen … it seems like it will be a while before Zen re-opens because the renovations had just started. From the fancy looking banner and branding, it also appears like he has some good financial and marketing backing this time.

I can’t wait to see what Sam has to offer!

Anyway, I want to share with you all an interesting video of Jennifer 8 Lee talking about Chinese Food in America … Enjoy!

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  1. fmed

    Nice find! I was wondering where Sam ended up. Yes…Hakkasan is related through a former silent partner/investor of Zen’s – Sam’s sister. They parted ways a few years back and she opened Hakkasan using virtually the same concept. Her daughters run the restaurant.

  2. Winnie

    Interesting news! I hope they do deliver new concepts of Chinese food. And that doesn’t necessary mean fushion food. I am not a big fan of Chinese Fusion.

    btw I wanted to try Hakkasan after reading your review. But what stopped me from going there is their extensive use of Shark Fin on their menu. I am big supporter to “save the sharks”. So I cannot go unless they have any set menu that exclude shark fin. Actually, I can’t go unless they change their menu to less shark fin centric.

    Anyway, another good find by Ben ^_^.

  3. Giorgio Moroser

    I’ve been to both Hakkasan and Zen, and I honestly couldn’t tell you the difference. The menu items were exactly the same, though Hakkasan does have a few additional items. I’m not sure either entirely lived up to the hype though. On one hand, Chinese purists won’t like the idea that they’re paying exorbitant prices for Western style platings, and on the other hand, Western foodies looking for an epiphany won’t find anything as innovative as Green T in Beijing or Yin Yang in Hong Kong.

  4. Britney

    Jennifer 8 Lee was either bribed by Sam Lau or she is a dork who has never seen Chinese food presented in western style plating in her hood.

    I have also been to Zen and Hakkasan, it’s really not a big deal if you see through the facade of western style plating.

  5. HM

    The new Zen on #1 Rd Richmond will have a wine cellar to cater for the upscale “fine cuisine” they offer, but I understand they’re really tight on their reno budget. So, will this eventually translate to high-end prices too?? How long will they last, noone knows, but I agree totally with Britney (Dec 22,2009) about the Jennifer 8 Lee review!

    1. Ben

      Hi HM: Do you know when Zen is re-opening?

  6. HM

    No fixed date yet…will snoop around & keep you posted!

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