The Mein Man: Down for the Ten-Count at Uptown China

uptown_noodle_500Dish: Ten ingredient sautéed rice thread noodles
Place: Uptown China, Queen Anne, Seattle.
Price: $9.25.

On the plate: A heaping pile of stir-fried rice stick noodles with, as promised, 10 other visible ingredients.

Supporting Cast: Nothing else. Unless you ask for something more. Which is what you should do. Read on.

What to do: Just eat. And try to list the 10 ingredients. (Spoiler: There’s shrimp, beef, chicken, pork, egg, cabbage, green onions, carrots, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots.)

Noodling around: Still celebrating Chinese New Year, another round of noodles seemed appropriate. Fascinating, though, that despite the pervasiveness of Chinese food, Uptown China is really the only strictly Chinese restaurant in Queen Anne, besides Chen’s. I drive by it constantly, but hadn’t been since shortly after I moved to Seattle nearly 12 years ago.

And now I know why.

Oh, the staff is nice enough. And the place is clearly popular, as it’s been around forever. In fact, Uptown China was First Runner-Up for Seattle Magazine‘s “Reader’s Choice” award for best Chinese restaurant–back in 1993. The sign is still up to prove it.

But I looked at and listened to the clientele carefully. No Asians at all. Just Caucasians, asking cautiously if the “Happy Family” dish has anything spicy or mushy or that in any other way might make them an unhappy family.

This menu is far from risky. It’s General Tso’s chicken. It’s honey walnut prawns. It’s perfect for out-of-towners who want to have an “exotic” international meal before their Key Arena event. (Caucasian commentary to complement coincidental Chinese food “controversy.” Can’t we all just get along?)

Which leads me to my beef about the noodle dish. I’d trade the beef for one missing ingredient: flavor. I was floored by how flavorless this was. I simply had to stop eating and ask the server for hot chili pepper–or anything. Hot mustard? Soy sauce? Salt?

If still hungry: I’m hesitant to suggest spending any extra money here, but maybe try a cup of hot and sour soup ($1.75) just to see how “hot” and how “sour” it will be?

Be aware/beware: My partner ordered the Singapore rice noodles, listed as “hot & spicy.” Not. OK, there was a tinge of spice from the yellow curry. But where was the hot chili pepper I equate with Singaporean? Aside from the curry, this was the same as my noodle dish, with the same 10 ingredients, swapping out pork for onions.

First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on February 15, 2011.

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