My first late night meal in Seattle was pork liver congee in 2007 at Homestyle Hong Kong Cafe on King Street. After apartment hunting all day with breaks in between for job interviews, my girlfriend—now wife—and I picked at gai lan and Chinese doughnuts with chopsticks in silence, shaking white pepper into our little bowls of soup. Comfort.
Later, after a catering event at Safeco Field, when I was a young cook for Tom Douglas Restaurants, Tom summoned us to the now-closed Sea Garden for dungeness crabs, tossed in black bean sauce. We feasted, stopping only to wash our fingers and crack open one another’s bottles of Tsingtao. Stuffed, I vowed to unlock experiences like that more often.
These days, driving in from north Seattle, I try to make trips to the Chinatown–International District count. I stuff Uwajimaya bags under my table at Mike’s Noodle House, ready to slurp wonton and brisket soup, and pick up a fruit tart at Yummy House Bakery to serve as my wife’s birthday cake before grabbing a few pounds of sticky char siu, chopped on a well-worn cutting board at Kau Kau. If all else fails, a cantaloupe slushy with green tea jelly from Bobby at Ambrosia makes the visit worthwhile.
Almost none of the places I go to are new; century-old Maneki serves my two favorite dishes in the city: black cod collars and motsuni (tripe and miso stew). I love spots where I can rattle off a list of dishes without a menu, each pick vetted by experience, respected restaurant peers, or endorsed by servers we’ve come to know and love. The dried scallop and egg white fried rice and the cod and pork clay pot were recommendations from Shirley at Honey Court, the same place we entrust with the epic holiday Friendsgiving feast we’ve hosted the past three years.
More than a decade after that first late-night meal, my wife and I praise our son as he tastes the same pork liver congee, made by the same family owners, except now they run A+ Kitchen around the corner. He smiles and motions his pointer fingers towards each other, baby sign language for more. Yeah buddy. More congee, more comfort, more visits to the ID.