Sweet and Spicy in Lake City

Mao xue wang at Yummy Space

Mao xue wang at Yummy Space

At the main intersection in Lake City, where NE 125th St connects with Lake City Way NE, you’ll find branches of two international chains that have been feeding locals for some time: SUBWAY and Panda Express. They’re safe bets for some, but more adventurous eaters should stroll north along Lake City Way for more interesting establishments.

On the west side of the street, Toyoda Sushi has been a mainstay for many years, while the east side sports a variety of Asian eats, including Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, and Chinese.

Representing China is a place called Yummy Space, a hole-in-the-wall Sichuanese restaurant with an all-Chinese staff whose English is limited – you’ll likely have to navigate the menu on your own. Typical of Chinese restaurants around town, the cooks can come and go quickly, resulting in ever-changing consistency and quality. I’ve ridden that rollercoaster in recent visits to Yummy Space, but I’d still choose this over Americanized Chinese food anytime, as I appreciate the bold flavors of this regional cuisine.

One of Yummy Space's dry pots

One of Yummy Space’s dry pots

My favorite dish is mao xue wang, a bubbling, spicy stew of tripe, intestines, pork blood, and other meats (including a spam-like ham), along with tofu, cabbage, and bean sprouts. Somewhat similar is shui zhu yu (water-boiled fish), a recent version of which was starchier than usual but still satisfying. Numbing spicy (ma la) dry pot is another good option, with protein choices that include beef, chicken, shrimp, and frog. If you want true Sichuan-style heat levels, be sure to emphasize that you want your food extra ma la. Check the case up front for cold delicacies like sliced pig ears. Yummy Space’s picnic table-like setting seems suitable for orders of grilled meat and vegetable skewers, and it looks like Chinese doughnuts and soy milk are recent additions to the menu.

Follow up your savory Sichuanese meal with sweet treats just a few doors down at Beyond the Bowl, which features an array of Japanese-style desserts. The contrast extends beyond flavor. Beyond the Bowl offers a modern casual atmosphere with all-around attention to aesthetics. Decorative touches appear on presentation as well.

"The Pot" at Beyond the Bowl

“The Pot” at Beyond the Bowl

The Pot, a dessert resembling a potted plant, is picture perfect, bringing with it an element of interaction. The “pot” contains soft cheesecake, a layer of berries, and chocolate soil with Oreo shavings on which you “water” the plant with a little pitcher of royal milk tea. Plated with all of this is mango pudding, more berries, and whipped cream.

Even better is the green tea lava cake. Because it’s made from scratch, preparation takes 30 minutes. The payoff is a warm chocolate cake, erupting with a lava-like green ooze from the melted matcha ganache inside. The cake comes with fruit and a scoop of ice cream—vanilla by default unless you prefer green tea.

Beyond the Bowl’s green tea lava cake

Beyond the Bowl’s green tea lava cake

It’s not all sweet stuff at Beyond the Bowl, as you can also find a variety of udon bowls, gyoza, and the Japanese fried chicken known as karaage. (There’s also poke, but doesn’t it seem like everyone is doing that now?) I asked chef-owner Jack Tang about his inspiration for Japanese cuisine, and he said, “I have been a fan of Japanese food since high school, when I had my first piece of sushi, and I’ve been chasing umami ever since.”

He acknowledges that his restaurant concept is new for the area, commenting that Lake City is a challenging market due to lots of competition, leading to price sensitivity. With a degree in accounting and an initial desire to go that route, he changed career goals and now counts on making customers happy, explaining, “I want to keep making unique things…and be able to step out of the kitchen and see smiling diners enjoying my desserts.”

Smiling they are. His products are truly a far cry from a $5…er, now $6 footlong.

Originally published at Ethnic Seattle on December 12, 2017.



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