By Assunta Ng
NORTHWEST ASIAN WEEKLY
What do you do to make up for the loss of a three-year lockdown without dining much in restaurants?
In the name of family reunions, I ventured out to enjoy nine incredible meals in the past few weeks at six different restaurants. What would be the best eateries to treat our relatives visiting from afar to avoid the usual boiled free-range chicken with ginger sauce, walnut prawns, and stir-fried vegetables?
“Alaska King Crab!” said my husband.
“Great idea. I’ll tell the restaurant to order it,” I responded. “But the news said the red king crab is hard to find.”
The Ho Ho Restaurant owner said, “Don’t know if we can find it since the pandemic has shut down most of the Alaska fishermen’s business. Then, the Ukraine War has sanctioned Russian’s export to the U.S.”
“Just get it,” I said firmly with a smile. “We want our relatives to have a memorable meal.”
I had no clue the war was a factor. I should have known that the red king crab is found between the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. The giant crab can grow over five feet long and weigh as much as 28 pounds. It is the largest species of king crab.
Never mind what the news said. When we arrived, Ho Ho Restaurant showed us a live red crab with its claws stretching out, ready to strike on the holder. I found one the other day at Uwajimaya, too.
We were delighted. I had not eaten that crab in four years. The giant crab would be too much for three people. But our family reunion was attended by big eaters.
We had a small debate about how to cook the real thing. Finally, we decided that the crab would be big enough to be cooked into three separate entrees. It was so gigantic that it was enough to feed eight people, including five hungry men (my nephews, son, and husband).
The first dish was steamed crab with garlic and noodles under the crab meat. The noodles absorbed all the juices from the crab and the juices were great for my palate. The second one was cream sauce with crab, and the third one was crab fried rice. The crab fried rice was a hit.
The surprise was, my grand nephews refused to eat the crab. The 4-year-old took one perplexed glance at the crab served on the table. When the crab meat was chopsticked out from the shell on his plate, he shook his head, “I don’t want it.” The 2-year-old followed his brother’s example. Their junk food, mini crackers, were perceived as more yummy. When will they find out what they had missed on that night? I wondered.
Then, there was my brother and sister-in-law from Texas who visited me two weeks ago. It didn’t matter how many times he had visited Seattle and how many restaurants I took him to, he doesn’t remember any of them except one. He is so fond of Mike’s Noodle House that he wouldn’t leave Seattle without eating there.
“The wonton noodle restaurant next to your office, the noodles taste great,” he said.
My son, John, suggested the family try a new restaurant on Mercer Island. He picked Vivienne’s Bistro. It’s not that new. It has been open for nine months. But I cherish restaurants which can create unique cuisines from the East and West.
The first impression was its presentation. Every dish was art. We ordered a duck, beef brisket, and mu shu chicken, and two other cuisines for our family of five. All were big servings. The duck looks similar to Peking duck with buns, and its flavor was just as delicious.
Vivienne’s is definitely not a typical Chinese restaurant. Its flavors were tasty, and not greasy. That’s important to me. If dishes arrive at the table with layers of oil on top, it ruins my appetite. Its seasonings are meticulous in blending all kinds of spices. The chef did her research and demonstrated the best use of various ingredients through her studies and experiments.
Dough Zone and Fuji Sushi
Our niece from New Jersey was visiting. What would be some cuisine that she rarely has a chance to eat?
When she came last week, it was a cold day. We figured that something spicy and hot like steamed dumplings and spicy hot wonton would warm the stomach. That would be Chinatown’s Dough Zone Restaurant. Dan Dan noodles, Q buns, and onion pancakes would also be terrific. We found the right place because she said, “None of the cuisine could be found in my neighborhood.” She loved them all and even sent selfies to her in-laws in Hong Kong about the lunch and dinner.
At night, we took her and her son, our grand nephew, to Fuji Sushi for Japanese food. Instantly, our young relative noticed the sashimi roll was not the typical ones found in other Japanese restaurants. The fish was large on top and the rice under the roll was small. That’s the way he wanted it. Hey, that’s how I wanted it, too. White rice has too many carbohydrates and it’s filling.
My friend, Carolyn, gave us a gift certificate to order food to celebrate our first family reunion with my son Jason since the pandemic. We picked a downtown restaurant, Daniel’s Broiler. On time, the server brought us lamb chop, filet mignon strips, crab and clam chowder, crab legs, and a complimentary fried artichoke.
All delicious. I made an apple, black beans, avocado, and nuts salad to go with the food. I hadn’t devoured so much meat for a long time. It was satisfying that I still had fond memories of the meal we had together as a family.
This wasn’t part of my family reunion meals. However, it was worth mentioning. In mid-October, I gave a Chinatown-International District (CID) tour to my fellow Rotarians and shared the CID’s recent struggles with Sound Transit and the proposed Sodo homeless shelter.
After the tour, we went to Tai Tung for dinner. Prior to the tour, I told owner Harry Chan that I like to have onions and pan-fried beef rib steak. I prefer to eat beef with bones rather than just a plain piece of beef.
“If you don’t have beef ribs, I can buy them for you,” I offered. And I did.
The beef dish was fine, but the Peking duck was splendid. There was too much food for 14 people. I thought about taking some leftover duck home. But I was wrong. Before I did that, a friend at my table spooned up everything into take-out boxes, including every piece of duck, my favorite dish that night. I’m happy that I moved slow and tried to be gracious or else my friend would be disappointed that he didn’t get to clean out every plate.
“That’s quite a dinner,” he said. What a compliment as I was the host who put together the menu.
Assunta can be reached at email@example.com.