West Meets East at These Chinese Outposts Where Fresh Flavors Thrive
By Corinne Whiting
Seattle Local Expert
At 10Best, we're always on the lookout for Seattle's best restaurants, and while we appreciate places that have a broad culinary range, we can't help but adore restaurants that specialize in a given cuisine. Thanks to its large Asian community, Seattle happens to be an excellent city in which to enjoy delectable Asian cuisine. When we're in the mood for Chinese food in Seattle, we head to Tai Tung - a reader favorite - or we count on Wild Ginger's solid track record and consistently great dishes. You'll find these places - and any of the restaurants on our list - to be fantastic options for Chinese cuisine, and if you're looking to concentrate your efforts, start with the vibrant International District area. Other neighborhoods that feature a variety of Asian eateries include Capitol Hill, Fremont, Ballard and the University District, to name a few. Regardless of whether you've ever actually walked the Great Wall or wandered the bustling Shanghai Bund (or have always dreamed of doing so), these Chinese restaurants will make you feel as though you've been transported to the magnificent country of China. Experienced and talented chefs whisk diners off on a culinary adventure that you will no doubt remember for a long time to come.
Sichuanese Cuisine Restaurant
Lovers of Asian cuisine delight in this Chinese restaurant in the International District that opened in 1992. Sichuanese cuisine is known for its spiciness and diversity of fresh ingredients. Flavors come from "three peppers: pepper, chili and peppercorn," and the beauty of Sichuan dishes lies in its spicy spectrum. The eatery, "Old Szechuan Restaurant" in Chinese, was founded by Chef Kao Hsiao-Suna, who is said to have introduced the "Mala Huoguo" - "Hot and Spicy Hotpot" to the United States. Popular dishes include Mapo Tofu ("Pocked Face Grandmother Bean Curd"), Huiguo Rou ("Twice-Cooked Pork") and Liang Fen (or "Cold Noodles"). ((206) 720-1690)
One of the district's grand old-timers (open since the 1930s), Tai Tung capably keeps pace with the flashier, hipper establishments by keeping its focus on what's really important: the food. Indeed, menu stalwarts like Kung pao shrimp, Singapore-style vermicelli, and mu shu pork have been drawing raves from three generations of customers. Once a haven for Seattle's night owl diners, Tai Tung looks to have changed little decor-wise from its heyday (dark wood paneling and Formica tabletops) as one of the town's only late night eateries. Patrons laud this International District venue for gems like the garlic spare ribs (Chinese style). (206-622-7372)
A popular notion here in Seattle is that you have to make your way to the International District to find really good Chinese food in this city; fortunately, this Wedgwood eatery goes a long way toward dispelling that myth. For the better part of a decade now, the Black Pearl has been wowing Seattle's Northside with a menu that peppers traditional Chinese fare with a bit of a Pacific Northwest lilt. The hand-rolled noodles are becoming somewhat of a local legend. The menu, which customers call varied by not overwhelming, includes dishes like tofu choices, mu shu and homemade chow mein noodles. (206-526-5115)
Convenient to the Seattle Center, this understated little Chinese joint has made quite a name for itself in Queen Anne circles thanks to its terrific prices and tasty Mandarin fare. At lunchtime, especially, the place stays packed with the hungry clientele enjoying everything from moo shu pork to kung pao chicken (all combinations come with rice and an egg roll). Owner Yu-Mei Wang has been called a "hands-on entrepreneur with a warm, smiling countenance and lots of style," and since she likes to connect with her patrons, she's been known to make the rounds and sit down for a friendly chat with her customers. (206-285-7710)
Imperial Garden Seafood Restaurant
Located in Kent's Great Wall Shopping Mall, this Chinese restaurant may seem a little over-the-top to first timers, especially when the afternoon dim sum lunch carts roll around -- any apprehension quickly fades once you've tried the shrimp dumplings, though. Regulars rave about the menu's broad array of dinner dishes, with the choices ranging from Thai-style tilapia flavored with lemon grass and cilantro, to Szechwan seafood hotpot, to Peking duck, to a seafood hotpot that comes with shrimp, squid and finfish. Reservations accepted during the week, but for groups only on the weekend. If you're seeking tasty Chinese food outside city limits, this may just be the perfect spot for you. (425-656-0999)
Judy Fu's Snappy Dragon
Highly regarded by local food critics, Judy Fu has firmly cemented herself in the company of the Puget Sound's finest Chinese chefs. Scintillating Mandarin and Szechuan dishes include shrimp or chicken mu shu, crispy tea-smoked duck with hoisin sauce and Land and Sea clay pot stew. With its contemporary yet unpretentious ambience and great menu, Snappy Dragon tends to get quite crowded at times, so reservations are recommended (but will only be taken for groups of six or more). Aside from its delightful name, this eatery in the Maple Leaf neighborhood is lauded for its spectacular service, friendly vibe and favorites dishes like boiled dumplings with pork. (206-528-5575)
Ideal for those looking for something a bit different that won't break the bank, this Chinese standby in the International District earns high marks from regulars. Honey Court emphasizes quality food, fresh ingredients and friendly service over the fancy decor you might find at rival places. Specialties include steamed whole tilapia, sautéed fresh squid with broccoli and shredded squab with crispy lettuce, but what the customers truly adore is honey-walnut prawns. In addition, the dim sum is a terrific lunch option. On weekends after the clubs shut down, Honey Court has been known to stay open even later than usual. (206-292-8828)
For diners with exotic palates, this is one of the most popular spots in the International District (or perhaps the entire city). If the crowded restaurant lobby doesn't deter you, then you're in for a treat. Choose from a wide selection of Hong Kong-style dim sum as waiters push bamboo steamer-adorned carts past your table. The steamed pork buns are moist and the perfectly salty-sweet, while the steamed shrimp dumplings are plump, firm and bursting with flavor. To finish up, be sure to try a dish of egg tarts, which exhibit perfect flaky pastry shells to go along with the smooth custard filling. (206-622-8181)
Ask around, and you'll quickly discover that Wild Ginger is a definite Seattle favorite. The James Beard Award-winning restaurant that introduced the satay bar to the US also welcomes an eclectic mix of business people, families and celebrities. Fragrant Duck is the signature dish, but Pow Wok Lamb and Drunken Quail are excellent choices as well. The lively atmosphere is made even better by friendly servers and live jazz, which is a Monday night specialty. Attached to popular, subterranean music venue Triple Door and its Musicquarium Lounge, this is the perfect spot to grab a delicious meal before hearing live tunes; why not make a night of it? (206-623-4450)
About Corinne Whiting
Corinne hails from the other Washington, where she caught the travel bug early on. Corinne studied abroad in Strasbourg, France (undergrad) and in Edinburgh, Scotland (graduate school). She's backpacked around Australia, taught English in Argentina and explored (so far!) countries from Cambodia and Egypt to Turkey and China. Corinne served as associate editor at Where magazine for five years; as a freelancer, she now writes for publications like National Geographic Traveler and Amtrak's OnTrak. Here in the lovely Northwest, she's attempting to debunk the rain myths, up her coffee and live music quotient and find her Zen near/on the water.
Read more about Corinne Whiting here.