Over the years, the Seattle area’s Chinese food scene has been gradually expanding from the predominantly Cantonese fare found primarily in the International District to more diverse offerings that are particularly strong on the Eastside. Eater traveled the area, downing dumplings and “suffering” through the spiciest of chili-laced dishes to bring you a dozen recommended Chinese restaurants.
While there’s no ringing endorsement for any restaurant’s dim sum service, there is good quality to be found in the way of hot pots, Sichuanese and Taiwanese cuisine, Shanghai-style dumplings, and the newest noodle favorite: Xi’an-style biang-biang noodles.
1. Bamboo Garden
Sichuan is the regional cuisine of China done best in Seattle, and Bellevue’s Bamboo Garden is the best of the bunch. The “Walk on the Wild Side” menu contains their most interesting and adventurous dishes, including “Swimming Fire Fish” and “The Other Parts of a Pig.” Order a watermelon juice if you need to cool your mouth from the heat.
2. Biang! (now called Qin Xian Food)
It’s worth the drive to Edmonds for the oil-seared biang-biang noodles alone. These wide, hand-cut noodles are delightfully springy, and while meat toppings are available, the simplicity of hot chili oil shows them off best. Go with a group, and you can those same biang-biang noodles layered at the bottom of the big plate of chicken called dapanji.
3. Boiling Point
This California-based chain is growing, with locations in both Seattle and Bellevue. Here you choose from ten individualized hot pots that have a variety of broths of ingredients. The “Taiwanese Spicy” is great for extreme heat-seekers, but for something unique, give the “Stinky Tofu” hot pot a try. You’ll smell the tofu whether you order it or not!
4. Din Tai Fung Dumpling House
The Seattle area became only the second city in North America to have the xiao long bao palace known as Din Tai Fung, and now we have two locations. The delicate soup dumplings are there, but even better are the shrimp and pork shao mai. This Taiwanese import is a great place to explore a diverse menu of dumpling, noodle, and rice dishes.
5. Dough Zone Dumpling House
The area’s newest darling, near Crossroads Mall, Dough Zone is your place for noodles, dumplings, buns, and more. The soup dumplings give legendary Din Tai Fung a run for the money, with a fried version (sheng jian bao, here called jian buns) an added bonus. Small portions at reasonable prices make this a popular place.
6. Facing East
Bellevue’s Facing East is at once sophisticated and sweet—as Taiwanese food can be. The restaurant and its parking lot are often quite crowded, as young people especially come here to enjoy dishes like Taiwanese beef noodle soup, silky tofu with aged duck egg, and Facing East’s popular “pork burgers.” Fresh fruit shaved ice is also a favorite.
7. Gourmet Noodle Bowl
At times, it seems like everyone in this International District restaurant is enjoying hot pot. As it’s all-you-can-eat, that’s understandable. But don’t overlook the variety of noodle bowls on the menu, as well as the pork belly bun with its sprinkling of peanuts.
8. Little Sheep Mongolian Hot Pot
This multi-country chain (with hundreds of locations in China) is the premiere place for fancified, all-you-can-eat hot pot. Side dishes like skewers, dumplings, and salads like bitter melon or wood ear mushroom are also high quality. Currently in Bellevue, a Seattle location is slated to open soon.
9. Mike’s Noodle House
Mike’s Noodle House may be the ultimate in Chinese comfort food. For a quick and satisfying meal, bowls of wontons, dumplings, and noodles (toothpick thin egg noodles are their speciality) are inexpensive and satisfying. Or join the crowds with a weekend ritual of starting their day with a warm bowl of congee that contains various toppings, along with a youtiao (Chinese cruller).
10. Seven Stars Pepper
For good Sichuan food on the Seattle side of Lake Washington, Seven Stars pepper is your place. Look for hand-shaved noodles, mini-hot pots, and a bone-in version of Chong Qing chicken. And perhaps the best option for Dungeness crab in Seattle is here, with a variety of preparations, including ginger, Szechuan, and salt-and-pepper.
11. Spiced Chinese Cuisine
Spiced has a serious array of Sichuan-style spicy “chilli” dishes made with frog, kidneys, pig intestines, sea cucumber, and even spam. But the best feature is the front counter display of cold appetizers like pig ear, tripe, chicken gizzards, and jalapeños with preserved eggs. You can get a combination of three with a side of rice as a cheap, light meal—or as the start of a feast.
12. Ton Kiang Barbeque Noodle House
It’s easy to overlook this sliver of a storefront in the International District, but the compelling sight of hanging meats will entice you in, and the amazing flavors will make you want to return. Roasted duck has crackly skin, while the poached free-range chicken comes with a superb ginger-scallion sauce. They’ll even set you up with a whole pig if you order in advance.
Originally published on Eater Seattle 9/19/14.