Dish: Chow Mein (with Hand-Shaved Noodles)
Place: Spicy Talk Bistro, Redmond
On the plate: Hand-shaved noodles with your choice of pork, chicken, beef, vegetables, tofu, or prawns. Pictured is pork. It’s just noodles and meat, along with some cabbage and green onions, plus chili pepper to your desired level of spice.
Supporting cast/What to do: This one is pretty straightforward. It’s a WYSIWYG plate. Just dig in. If it’s not spicy enough, you can ask for chili oil to raise the heat level.
Noodling around: There are a lot of variations of chow mein. The main draw of Spicy Talk’s version is that it’s made with hand-shaved noodles. From a big ball of dough (made of wheat flour and water), the chef skillfully flicks a special tool to shave a pile of noodles for stir-frying. The noodles will have similar thickness, but with enough variation and irregularity to know that they are indeed hand-shaven. The joy of these noodles is that their thickness and freshness yield fabulous texture. Stir-fried, they’re almost al dente (atypical for Chinese dishes, as noodles are usually very soft) with a bit of chew to them.
Spicy Talk is a Szechuan restaurant, so spice levels can soar. I asked for these noodles ma la, which means both numbing (from Szechuan peppercorn) and spicy (from chili peppers). Below the spice, I could still taste soy sauce, which is the foundation of the seasoning. This chow mein is a simple dish that’s satisfying.
If you want more: There are many interesting possibilities on the menu, but I recommend chili with beef tripe ($5.25) as a great starter. If you don’t want your noodles spicy, this dish will provide nice contrast in heat. And you’ll have a second plate with plenty of texture to talk about and enjoy.
Be aware/beware: “Spicy Talk” sounds like it would be the subject for Sexy Feast, but it’s just a Chinese restaurant. Unlike Bellevue’s Bamboo Garden (which I believe is slightly better in quality), it’s not next to an adult toy store. Yes, Redmond is far from Seattle, and more costly now that there are tolls on the 520, but Szechuan food in Seattle falls short of Eastside quality. In fact, Spicy Talk’s chef Cheng Biao Yang was formerly at Seven Stars Pepper, but he sold it, and the quality has been in free-fall of late. (Between Seven Stars and Spicy Talk, he was at Szechuan Chef in Bellevue, which remains popular.)
First published in Seattle Weekly’s Voracious on January 9, 2012.