8 Best Sichuanese Restaurants in Seattle

Ask knowledgeable food fanatics where to find the best Chinese food in Seattle, and the snarky answer is always: less than three hours to the north, in the Vancouver area. Admittedly, I am one of those snarky people. In contrast to Seattle’s bland Chinese food, most of it Cantonese (including dismal dim sum), Vancouver offers a diverse and delicious range of food from a variety of regions in China.

Fortunately, the Seattle area does have a number of Sichuanese restaurants, with good overall quality and some stellar dishes. At these restaurants, you’ll find more adventurous menu options, including the pickled and peppered preparations typical of the Sichuan region—especially some fiery ma la (numbing and spicy) dishes that come with bright red colors. Most of these places are on the Eastside, but when I’m in the mood for something spicy, I don’t mind crossing Lake Washington.

I count eight Sichuanese-specific restaurants in the Seattle area. After extensive research, i.e. mouth-burning sessions, here’s information about all of them, starting with my ranking of the top three.

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GOLD MEDAL: My favorite Sichuanese restaurant, not to be confused with the vegetarian restaurant of the same name in Seattle, is Bamboo Garden in Bellevue. The owners have taken what would be the “secret” Chinese language menu at many restaurants and created a “Walk on the Wild Side” menu. Servers educate diners, encouraging them to give one or more of these authentic and, to some, offbeat dishes a try. It’s this menu that contains pork tongue slices, rabbit chunks (bone-in) in chili oil, sour & spicy jelly fish, pork stomach with pickled cabbage, and much more. My favorite Chinese dish in Seattle is The Other Parts of the Pig ($11.95, pictured), with its “Dare to try pork intestines, pig blood cubes, tofu chunks, basil and pickled cabbage in a tangy broth.” It’s rich and earthy, and deeply delicious.

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SILVER MEDAL: While I enjoy the entrees at Bellevue’s Spiced, I can easily make a meal out of Cold Dishes ($5.99 for three items), which elevates this restaurant to my second favorite in the Seattle area. You go to the counter to check out the fascinating options and place your order there for delivery to your table. Tempting are jalapeños & preserved eggs, pickled chili chicken claw, and sliced pig ears; pictured are “Spices Chicken Gizzard” (sic), Hot & Sour Seaweed, and Spicy Beef & Tripe Slices. If you still have room, explore menu sections like Green Chilli Hot Sauce, Pickled Chilli Pepper, Chopped Fresh Chilli Pepper, and Boiled in Chilli Bean Paste Sauce, with offerings like frog, kidney, pig intestines, sea cucumber, ox tripe, and spam.

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BRONZE MEDAL: Bellevue is also home to my third favorite Sichuanese restaurant: Szechuan Chef. Long a popular outpost for the Chinese community, this restaurant is now testing the taste buds of shoppers at the newly opened Wal Mart who are venturing in for a try. Szechuan Chef has an extensive menu that includes the classics, and I especially recommend any of the “Wild Chili” dishes (pork intestines, lamb, squid, etc.). Pictured are two from the cold appetizer section of the menu: House Special Chicken ($9.95), which reminds me of drunken chicken, albeit with a little more spice; and Szechuan Cold Noodle ($5.99), a refreshing dish with chili-spiked, vinegary soy sauce and sesame seeds.

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Making a strong play for my third favorite Sichuanese restaurant is Seven Stars Pepper, perched atop a strip mall at the intersection of 12th and Jackson in Seattle. This restaurant has a history of inconsistency, but it’s been better in recent visits. In season, Seven Stars is one of the places I send tourists who want to try Dungeness crab. Szechuan crab is the way to go, though those looking for less spice can order salt-and-pepper crab or ginger crab. As a fan of ma la Chong Qing chicken, let me point out that the dish is available on the menu, but I’d instead steer you to the hot pot menu for Szechuan Chicken Little Hot Pot ($11.99) for the bone-in version of the dish, with tastier meat.

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Like Seven Stars Pepper, Sichuanese Cuisine Restaurant is also at the intersection of 12th and Jackson in Seattle. For me, this is where Chinatown transitions into Little Saigon in Seattle’s International District. It’s also one of the city’s most interesting food intersections, with Vietnamese delis, noodle restaurants, grocery markets, a Malaysian restaurant, and other Vietnamese and Chinese restaurants—the appropriately named Sichuanese Cuisine Restaurant being one of them. Split-broth hot pots are popular here, as are the inexpensive but tasty dumplings. Pictured is Ant on the Tree ($6.95), a house specialty of ground pork pieces clinging to “branches” of vermicelli noodles.

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Chefs at Chinese restaurants move frequently, and the one at Spicy Talk Bistro is no exception. The current chef was previously at Seven Stars Pepper and Szechuan Chef, and is now working the woks at this restaurant in Redmond, a favorite of many who work at the nearby Microsoft campus. The menu is less adventurous than others in the area (look to the wall for more interesting specials), and you’ll need to sell your server on your ability to handle the heat if you want to go super spicy. Pictured is Chow Mein ($8.25) made with hand-shaved noodles, always a treat.

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Szechuan Noodle Bowl is smallest of the Sichuanese restaurants, with a specialized menu. This hole-in-the wall in the International District is the place to visit for a quick meal of dumplings or noodles, with a few sides also available, like the popular green onion pancakes. In addition to the long pot stickers, I like Szechuan Beef Tendon Noodle with Soup ($6.50), pictured. The wheat noodles are just okay, but the broth is beefy and hearty, tinged with some chili. You can get plain beef, but I like the inclusion of tendon for some textural variety.

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Amidst the many Korean restaurants in the northern suburbs is Szechuan 99, located just off of Route 99, which takes Seattleites to the restaurant. It’s actually my least favorite of the Sichuanese restaurants, a bit dingy with hurried service. But if you’re in the area and craving Chinese-spicy, you’ll find some satisfying dishes. I recommend trying anything with house-made bean curd. Pictured is Hot Spicy Won Ton Soup ($5.50, medium, shown, or $7.50 large) which has red-hot zing to it.

(Originally published at Serious Eats on September 19.)

Bamboo Garden on Urbanspoon

Spiced - Truly Chinese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Szechuan Chef on Urbanspoon

Seven Stars Pepper Szechuan Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sichuanese Cuisine on Urbanspoon

Spicy Talk Bistro on Urbanspoon

Szechuan Noodle Bowl on Urbanspoon

Szechuan 99 on Urbanspoon

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