Seattle Dining Guide

Our Very Favorite Chinese Restaurants

A properly made dumpling is a beautiful thing. Same goes for three-cup chicken, hand-torn noodles, and all manner of spicy Sichuan dishes.

By Hsiao-Ching Chou With Allecia Vermillion

The attention-grabbing Forbidden Roast Duck platter at Vivienne's Bistro.

Image: Amber Fouts

You could spend weeks eating at Chinese restaurants in the greater Seattle area and still not cover a fraction of them. New places pop up faster than you can visit the “must-tries” that were already on your list. The classics will be the classics and the familiar chains we all love will continue to thrive. This tour of Chinese restaurants spotlights places that have a particular specialty, or an especially good version of a specific dish. 

A note about flavor profiles: For restaurants to meet the demands of the dining public, they tend to draw influences from across regional Chinese and Taiwanese cuisines. So, a Sichuanese restaurant may also have Northern-style dumplings or Cantonese-style dim sum. Being rigid along regional boundaries can be detrimental to a restaurant’s survival. 


Dumpling Generation

Edmonds, Lake Forest Park

As the name implies, baskets of steamed dumplings are the move here. The wrappers are hand-rolled—not too thin or thick—and the fillings are savory and juicy. If you prefer some pungency, get the dumplings that include Chinese chives, which have large, flat leaves that aren’t afraid to announce their presence. The kitchen makes its own noodles, upping the game on dishes like beef noodle soup and tomato egg and noodles. It’s always a delight to encounter tomato egg on a menu. To find this dish with noodles doubles the pleasure.

Hand-rolled wrappers hold juicy fillings at Dumpling Generation.

Image: Amber Fouts

Spicy Style of Sichuan

Northgate

The restaurant’s Mandarin name is a clever play on a phrase that means “we’re No. 1 and No. 2 best Sichuan” restaurant. The boast makes sense when you taste dishes such as the stir-fried sour-and-spicy shredded potatoes, eggplant with chili peppers and preserved eggs, dry-fried green beans, and steamed pork belly with buns. The potato dish (a telltale benchmark of the kitchen’s attention to detail) hits all the right notes. The ma la tingling of Sichuan pepper isn’t shy in the ma po tofu and it’ll require extra rice as a companion. Spicy Style is located at the Asian Family Center on Aurora Avenue North, so time your visit for when you need to stock up on Asian ingredients. 

Looking for Chai

Bellevue, Edmonds

When the Three Spiced Chicken with Basil (aka three-cup chicken) arrives at the table, it’s a moment of exaltation and appreciation. Chunks of bone-in chicken have the right amount of seared edges; sauce is a caramelized balance of soy sauce and wine. The basil ties it all together. For fans of dry-fried green beans, Looking for Chai’s version contains bits of pork and dried shrimp. The sizzling platter with chicken steak or pork chop is a mess of food that many folks find irresistible.

Imperial Garden

Kent

The dim sum menu contains all the favorites and any extras make great takeaway. The kitchen uses lump shrimp in its har gow, delivers perfectly fried (i.e., not greasy) sesame balls, and focuses on making great pork for its steamed barbecue pork bao. But Imperial Garden’s star remains the Beijing Duck—shaved pieces of meat topped with planks of lacquered duck skin, served with condiments and translucent steamed pancakes. A whole order commands the table; a half order lets you explore more of the menu. While the restaurant uses white tablecloths and is spacious enough to accommodate large banquets, the vibe isn’t formal. Folks are as likely to come after shopping next door at 99 Ranch Market as they are for a special occasion.

At Imperial Garden, you can order half or whole duck.

Mama’s Dough

Kent

The soup dumpling game in the Seattle area has its camps. Mama’s Dough can hold its own with its xiao long bao, which have thin wrappers that are gorgeously pleated. Filling options include pork, crab, or vegetables—though the vegetarian version doesn’t have soup in them. Surprisingly few restaurants in town serve braised beef pancake rolls; the version here wraps a scallion pancake around sliced shank to create a filling appetizer, albeit tough to share beyond two people. Round out your meal with a few cold dishes, such as the seaweed or cucumber salad.

A+ Hong Kong Restaurant

Chinatown–International District

If the opinion of an 80-year-old Chinese grandma matters to you, the braised beef brisket stone pot at A+ Hong Kong Restaurant is the best in Seattle. Indeed, the brisket and tendon hold together until you take a bite. The bed of napa cabbage under the braised beef deserves its own award, cooked to the point of translucence, but before it loses structural integrity. Other stone pots include the eggplant with XO sauce and sliced beef, which has just enough funk and arrives still bubbling in its cauldron. If quantity of food is an important measure, the lunch plates offer enough rice for two meals. The salt and pepper chicken wings are deep-fried crispy and laced with just enough curry to make you obsess about it but not so much to overwhelm the flavor profile. We could go on. Or you can just go now.

The braised brisket stone pot, part of the expansive menu at A+.

151 Days Chicken Soup House

Redmond

If you go to a chicken soup house that raises its own Arlington Bresse chickens on a farm an hour north of Seattle, it stands to reason: You get the chicken noodle soup. 151 Days serves its signature noodle soup with slivers of chicken, chopped cilantro and green onions, fried shallots, soft-cooked egg, and greens. The light-bodied broth goes down easily. Potstickers shine thanks to Berkshire pork filling that tastes memorably fresh and clean. The tofu salad combines slivers of potato and radish alongside the fried tofu. It’s a can’t-stop-eating-it dish that’s sumptuous enough to be an entree salad.

Xi’an Noodles

Downtown Seattle, Downtown Bellevue, University District

Biang biang noodles take their name from the satisfying thwack you hear when chefs slap skeins of dough on the counter. The impact creates fissures that lead to wide ribbons with ragged edges, the specialty of the northwest Chinese city of Xi’an. These chewy, hand-ripped noodles center in most dishes on the menu. Order them as a soup, or as a bowl tossed with spicy cumin lamb or just some chili-flecked hot oil. The original U District location just received a thorough remodel; the downtown outpost is a counter on the second floor of Westlake Center.

Biang biang vfgygz

Xi'an Noodles serves hefty bowls of biang biang.

Image: Sarah Flotard

 

Xiaolongbao House

Shoreline

The Mandarin characters for Xiaolongbao House (formerly Royal Dumplings House) translate to “No. 1-ranked Sichuan and Hunan.” You might notice this has nothing to do with soup dumplings, the purported specialty. The compact dim sum lineup nods to that English name, but the full menu is where this place reveals its true nature. Thin dan dan noodles sport a mixture of caramelized ground pork and sui mi ya cai (minced pickled mustard stems) and a pool of ma la chili oil with a hint of sesame paste. The kitchen knows its way around eggplant with green chili peppers and preserved egg, a dish that’s gained popularity across many Sichuan restaurants. Their version of sour and spicy potato is loaded with garlic chunks, ginger coins, dried red chilies, fresh green chilies, pickled cowpeas, green onions, and red bell peppers. The pig trotters—pressure cooked and then stir-fried with dried red chili peppers and black beans—are ideal for diners who like to savor the bits. Focusing on xiao long bao in the name is culinary clickbait for a menu with other intentions. 

Vivienne’s Bistro

Mercer Island

Chef Danna Hwang, previously of Peony Kitchen, now oversees an upscale 180-seat dining room, marked by wooden lanterns, high-backed booths, and a preponderance of citrusy cocktails. Hwang’s menu starts with Cantonese flavors, then moves in unexpected directions like mu shu tacos, clam chowder croquettes, or squid ink rice baked with a decadent topping of cheese. Even familiar dishes like honey walnut prawns or wontons get plated for looks as much as flavor; Vivienne’s showstopper is the Forbidden Roast Duck platter, a five-spiced bird with crackling skin that arrives with a DIY array of herbs, radish, delicate lemon slices, and monogrammed bao buns.

Chef Danna Hwang makes beautiful plates at Vivienne's Bistro.

Image: Amber Fouts

Chengdu Taste

Chinatown–International District

A Southern California favorite—started by a pair of Chengdu natives nostalgic for break-a-sweat spicy Sichuan—expanded to include a handsome dining room in the Publix building. Classic Sichuan dishes are uniformly great, the laziji chicken exceptionally so. On the menu, it goes by a deceptively tame moniker: crispy chicken with red chili pepper. Bite-size morsels get a deep-fry to lock in moisture, then a wokked follow-up tossed with Sichuan peppercorns, toasted sesame seeds, and generous lengths of red chilies. Chengdu Taste offers two versions of this dish, a traditional bone-in chicken and a boneless take that’s easier to eat.

Friendship BBQ

Northgate

Northeastern-Chinese-style grilled skewers are the main attraction at the Seattle franchise of a New York–based chain. Meats and seafood (chicken, wagyu beef, lamb, pork, shrimp, squid, and others) come coated in a cumin-forward seasoning with your choice of spice level. Don’t miss the side dishes, including the garlic eggplant, which is roasted until the flesh is virtually liquified and slathered with a minced garlic sauce. The cold shredded potato with garlic strikes an ideal balance of texture, savoriness, and acidity. If a restaurant could have a personality, Friendship would be the philosopher. The Chinese characters printed on the backs of staff uniforms roughly translate to: “Your palate can enjoy all the flavors. But life can also subject you to fire and ashes.” Such is the duality of life—and of flame-grilled foods. 

Spicy PoPo Szechuan Fish

Bellevue/Bel-Red

The objective here is the fish pot. It’s a cauldron of spicy and numbing (and piping hot) broth brimming with chunks of halibut, red and pickled green chiles, and your choice of meats and vegetables. The pleasure and pain of each bite necessitates at least one bowl of rice, which goes down too quickly. You can choose the level of spice from zero to three. Even the level one packs a punch—though, anecdotally, they might tone down the spice if you aren’t Asian. The dry pots are popular, too. The range of other stir-fried dishes on the menu can be hit or miss. 

Bright lights, curved booths, and piping hot fish pots at Spicy PoPo Szechuan Fish.

Dan Gui

Bellevue/Bel-Red

Deciding what to order is easier if you’re with a larger group that can handle ma la and pungent foods. You can’t go wrong with classics: ma po tofu, dry-fried green beans, toothpick lamb, eggplant with preserved egg. Do give fish or chicken with green sichuan peppercorns a try, as well as the sauerkraut beef or fish. For something sweet, the fermented glutinous rice ball “soup” can help tame some of the fire on your palate. The restaurant takes its name from the fragrant osmanthus flower and offers a definite bright spot in a sprawling strip mall.

Tyger Tyger

Queen Anne

Yes, it’s possible for wok-seared brussels sprouts to carry a menu. In the version at this spot across from Seattle center, the brussels and slices of Chinese sausage come alive with the wok char, plus chilies, garlic, ginger, and Sichuan pepper. It’s hard to stop popping bites and focus on other dishes, but then you’d miss out on the prawn, chive, and egg dumplings, which arrive in a pool of black vinegar chili oil. The crispy rockfish with sour mustard greens is fiery, tangy, and demands steamed rice. The dan dan noodles are creamy and tingly. Tyger Tyger describes itself as “Sichuan-inspired” (like its sibling restaurant, Lionhead, on Broadway) thus they’re not shy with the ma la flavors.

Tyger Tyger's ode to Sichuan flavors meets a thoughtful bar program.

Image: Amber Fouts

Harmony Palace

Chinatown–International District

The new occupant of the former Fortuna Cafe spot offers a curated selection of rice rolls, rice, noodle dishes, and dim sum—flavorful shrimp-packed dumplings, fluffy steamed barbecue buns. XO sauce is a popular flavor on Cantonese menus; one of the house specialties is the XO with two types of noodles and bits of chicken. When you need a big plate of rice, the Singapore-style curry fried rice offers a hint of spice with chunks of pineapple as a sweet counterpoint. Harmony Palace is the kind of place where you might find a group of elders chatting away over snacks and tea. Snag a table upstairs, if you can.

Lucky Barbecue and Noodle House

Bellevue/Bel-Red

They had us at “chubby duck.” This fast-casual spot for Hong Kong–style noodle soups, rice dishes, and congee is part of the food court area adjacent to Asian Family Center. Noodle varieties include thick or thin egg noodles, or several different rice noodles; you can top them with duck, beef brisket and tendon, fish balls, squid balls, and barbecued pork. Roast pork, ribs, chicken, and duck are all on the barbecue menu. When you select a duck from the case, you can specify a skinny or chubby duck. Bring on the fat.

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