I've been to several new restaurants lately and a few have been good enough that I'm going to rec them. Two are Chinese restaurants, which is shocking given the dearth of good Chinese food here!
1) Szechwan 99
- A hidden gem in Lynnwood. I weep that I've had such good Chinese food near me all this while and I've only just found it. It was fate how I found it. I was looking for a reputable dim sum place in my area (I hate dim sum but my mom likes it), couldn't find one, but ran across this place, which has 4 stars on Yelp. Decided it wasn't worth the risk when there are some tried and true Chinese places we like to go to while she's here, so didn't even make note of its location. After a trip to Trader Joe's, I was supposed to turn left at this one major street, a street I ALWAYS turn down, and yet my mind was somewhere else and I bypassed it. I had to turn down a random street I'd never been on before. And guess what was there? Szechwan 99. Freaky.
Since it seemed like fate, we decided to give it a try. IT WAS SO GOOD! I mean, okay, in comparison to Chinese food in places like LA, NY, Richmond (Canada), it was just good... but for Chinese food HERE? Some of the very best I've had. We ordered the Szechuan 99 Fish (fish fillets breaded and fried, perfectly seasoned with Szechuan spices, garlic, salt, and pepper), ma po tofu, and hand-shaved noodles with beef. Everything was very authentic tasting, which is such a relief. That's a weird word to use, and yet the best I can come up with. Usually, it just doesn't taste right
somehow. The fish was my favorite, while the tofu was my mom's. I usually love ma po tofu, but in this dish I like the tofu to be silken and really mashed up, whereas their version uses firmer tofu. The flavor was still great, though. The hand-shaved noodles were good, but I like them better at Szechuan Chef
2) Fu Man Dumpling House
on Greenwood (I guess it's in an area known as Bitter Lake) is the closest I've found to a good dumpling place in the Seattle area. I've actually been here before, a few years ago when someone recommended it to me. I was hugely disappointed at that time, however, because it was nowhere near as good as I was used to; it didn't seem authentic.
On second try, I lowered my expectations to a more reasonable level for the area, and I've decided that it's good enough that I'll be returning every once in awhile.
It's a total travesty how there are NO good dumpling houses here, and this suffices as the 'best.' :/ It's definitely okay, certainly if you have a craving for dumplings, but it pales, totally pales, in comparison to the real thing. Every time I go to LA I insist on going to a dumpling house so I can gorge myself on proper Shanghainese dumplings (more commonly known to non-Chinese folks as "potstickers" -- but are soooo much more than that, many different kinds and varieties of both filling and outside 'wrapping,' which can be paper-thin dough or toothy buns). Even the condiments aren't right -- dumplings should be served with black vinegar and thinly sliced ginger, with soy sauce and hot sauce if you desire it. Fu Man has the latter two, but instead of black vinegar uses a pink/white kind, and also has a 'garlic sauce' that's good, but unfamiliar.
I realize that I don't sound all that complimentary for a restaurant I'm supposedly recommending, lol. Unfortunately, it has to be compared with the real thing, and in such a comparison it doesn't stand up well. However, getting the real thing around here is nigh impossible, so that being the case, Fu Man is the most acceptable substitute around. That's actually high praise, because I won't even bother with dumplings elsewhere. A truly mediocre dumpling is not worth eating.
Anyway, my favorite is the pan-fried dumplings and the boiled dumplings aren't bad either. We didn't get to try the steamed dumplings because they were out that night. Avoid the chow mein; it's flat and flavorless. The noodle soup, however, is good.
3) The Stone House
in Redmond is something the east side doesn't have a lot of -- high-end dining, specializing in local/sustainable fare. I went for lunch today and it was fabulous. As the name indicates, the restaurant used to be a house, remodeled into a quaint and lovely little restaurant. They were pretty busy for lunch today and there was only one server. O.o That is about the worst thing I can say about my experience; she was constantly running around and so tables were waiting longer than they usually would. Not sure if this is a usual circumstance or whether they weren't expecting to be so busy/another server called in sick. Even so, she was smiling and friendly every time we spoke.
As for the food -- yum. I started with their Penn Cove mussels. They're simmered in a red coconut curry broth, which had just the right amount of tanginess, creaminess, and kick. It's a really big portion (would easily serve 4 as an appetizer) for $9. And best of all, they give you several slices of bread to go with it, so that you can dip it into the awesome broth.
I wanted to try the French onion soup, and a couple of the salads... oh, who am I kidding, I wanted to try everything. But I managed to restrain myself.
For my lunch entree I had the flat iron steak sandwich, which was cooked medium rare without my having to specify, and filled with pickled red onion, tomatoes, an herby mayo, and argula. I loves me the argula. It was a bit heavy on the brown mustard, unfortunately, but was otherwise very good.
Then! I asked for my check and guess what came with it? A perfect little bite of brownie. I'm usually too stuffed at the end of a meal to order a full-sized dessert, but this was just the perfect little ending note.
Really loved my experience here, even with the slow service.