As the first overseas project of Chinese company Barony Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Baron's Sino Kitchen & Bar provides a modernized version of classical Chinese cuisine and Asian fusion, coupled with its star product the Peking duck, to downtown Bellevue. In a sleek space on the second level of Lincoln Square South, a talented culinary team combines the finest ingredients and most skilled traditional cooking techniques to create innovative dishes and a fun dining experience. The international hospitality company has more than 80 resorts and hotels; there is a Baron's restaurant in every hotel, with each one being different based on the specific location and market.
For the restaurant’s decor, General Manager Rickie Wang says they wanted “something powerful and strong-feeling” to complement the high-end dining experience. An array of warm golds, metals and dark woods greet guests in the 8,200-square-foot main dining room that accommodates up to 290 guests. Although the décor doesn’t feature many Eastern elements, there’s a stunning wooden wall of carved Chinese characters that shows off common family surnames. In addition to the theatrical interior and world-class, full-bar service, three private dining rooms offer luxurious decorations, customizable banquet menus, and dedicated staff for up to 42 seated guests.
Wang describes Baron’s cuisine as “more than Chinese.” Their traditionally-inspired dishes incorporate fresh ingredients from beef Wagyu to seafood, plus scrumptious sauces that are all made in-house (even their soy). Their most popular dish, what Wang deems the “hero” of the restaurant, is the Peking duck. He says diners travel here from as far as L.A. or New York, to savor this six-pound organic duck from Pennsylvania that gets age-dried for 24 hours in their special drying room and then put in the oven (“roastery”) for 40 minutes. The chef’s own preparation uses a special marinade for the duck meat and skin. The result? That unique, coveted combination of crispy skin alongside especially juicy meat.
These days, the restaurant sells about 60 to 80 Peking duck dishes a day, nearly double their initial tallies. And on major holidays, like Mother’s Day, these numbers skyrocket. Their record: 160 Peking ducks in one day. (To achieve that kind of output, Wang and Chef Chu had to be in the kitchen from 6 a.m. on.)
Their second most popular dish, the Wagyu sirloin, is served diced, marinated in their own sauce, and then stir-fried with red peppers, mushrooms, leeks, and other fresh vegetables. The Baron’s seafood fried rice is another house special, showcasing whole scallops, shrimp, and lobster.
The Bellevue location came to be when owner Baron Gu traveled to Vancouver in the summer of 2015. In the midst of catching his Seattle connection back to Shanghai, he stayed at the Hyatt Bellevue. This got his wheels spinning about the brand’s next location. At the time, the brand was considering expanding into a variety of U.S. cities (NYC, L.A., San Francisco, etc.); Bellevue hadn’t been on the radar. Yet when Gu saw where the expansion was taking place for Lincoln Square South, he had the sixth sense that this site would have great potential. Sure enough, the restaurant was constructed between 2015 and 2017, and finally opened in September of 2017.
Since this was their first time opening a business in the U.S., the company spent the opening couple years trying to understand the destination in which they had landed and how regional diners perceive Chinese food. “We were trying our best to match the localization and to meet the market,” Wang says.
When Covid arrived in the Northwest in March of 2020, they had to shut completely for a month. They then shifted to takeout from April through the end of the summer. At the time, Wang and Chef Chu were running the restaurant on their own. Gu knew they were in a critical situation, and felt it was important to persevere to keep the restaurant open throughout. (If they shuttered their doors, he believed reopening would be next to impossible.) “The way we work helped a lot in building people’s recognition,” Wang says.
Since Baron’s was one of Bellevue’s few restaurants that managed to stay open throughout the pandemic, Wang says they have “slowly, slowly” built a customer base as an increasing number of first-timers coming by to check out their offerings had evolved into loyal regulars. “The past two years, we did build a very strong relationship with our neighborhood,” he says. “More and more people know about the restaurant. Our customer relationship is super strong.”