When crafting his signature maritime dishes at KC's Seafood Restaurant, chef and owner KC Lam draws from years of experience as the chef at Chinatown-staple Sea Garden. But mostly, he enjoys the creative control he now wields over his culinary creations, a fact evidenced in each dish’s presentation. An appetizer sampler, for example, features sashimi arranged in concentric circles, encouraging groups of diners to attack the dish from all sides and nosh their way toward the center. Oysters are equally impressive, served on the half shell with sides of soy sauce and wasabi, while entrees win taste buds over with flavorful creations like salt and pepper pork chops, honey walnut shrimp, and a whole fried fish served with a zesty soy sauce.
Bamboo Garden's authentic Sichuan cuisine floods palates with spicy flavor while diners relax in a sleek, bamboo-trimmed dining room. Dinner patrons can follow up hearty servings of dip-friendly green-onion pancakes ($3.99) with popular dishes such as the tongue-scorching spicy basil beef ($10.95) and eggplant swimming in hot garlic sauce ($8.95) and snorkeling between the rocky outcroppings of diners' teeth. On the Wild Side menu, sour-and-spicy jellyfish ($6.95) appeases taste buds looking for an adventure more palatable than hanging out with Lou Reed. Lunch specials include entrees such as chopped-pepper hot chicken ($5.99), which prove appetizingly fiery and capable of swiftly silencing hunger growls.
Facing East’s strip-mall façade bears the legend “Taiwanese Restaurant.” But you could equally call it a burger joint. That doesn’t mean ground beef and ketchup, but rather pork belly topped with pickled veggies, peanuts, and cilantro. The patties are served in pairs, although some diners, such as Seattle Magazine’s reviewers, wish they were sold "by the sackful." Of course, the restaurant also serves an abundance of Taiwanese food, such as pottage stew with squid or pork, sautéed lamb with taiwanese barbecue sauce, and sweet-potato-flour pancakes with oyster, vegetables, and egg. Because of Taiwan's long, tumultuous relationship with China, the cuisine is also full of familiar Chinese flavors, including sweet-and-sour spareribs, fried rice, and stir-fries. Guests gobble down these delicacies among sleek, shiny dark-wood tables, abstract paintings, recessed spotlighting, and screens that partition off the bustle of waiting customers or the howling of hungry wolves outside.
Regent Bakery & Cafe's authentic Chinese flavors couldn't be contained to just one meal. The restaurant started as a bakery specializing in Chinese pastries and cakes. As its popularity grew, so too did its menu—the staff began serving beef-stew and salted-fish hot pies, roast duck, and ma-pao tofu. Regent Bakery & Cafe now sports two full locations; the newest features a full bar that mixes up a selection of adult beverages and bubble teas, served inside a restaurant whose modern decor is lit by chandeliers and neon track lighting.
The Vibe: Canton Wonton House emanates a casual, no-frills vibe with simple tabletops and a few pieces of Chinese artwork on the walls. A long window looks in on the kitchen, so customers can see the chefs at work.
Congee: a thick rice porridge prepared with meat, fish, veggies, and other add-ins.
Bok choy: this vegetable looks like a thick stalk of celery with a white stem and large, green leaves; it's also known as chinese white cabbage.
While You’re in the Neighborhood
Before: Take a stroll through the not-too-distant past at Pink Gorilla (601 S King Street), which specializes in old video games.
After: Get all the essentials for a home-brewed cup of post-meal tea at New Century Tea Gallery (416 Maynard Avenue S).
If You Can’t Make It, Try This: King Noodle (615 S King Street), where you can build your own Chinese soup.
Chinese food has become almost synonymous with those little white takeout containers, but here’s a bit of advice: opt for dine-in service at Tai Tung Chinese Restaurant. Pulling a stool up to the counter here grants diners the opportunity to chat with the chef, servers, and regulars, some of whom have decades worth of stories to tell. Here are a few facts to jumpstart the conversation:
It opened in 1935. That makes it the oldest Chinese restaurant in the International District.
Those decades have been spent mastering Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine. Some of the chef’s specialties include kung pao shrimp, Singapore–style vermicelli, and beef with chinese broccoli.
They also serve wine, beer, and liquor.
One of the servers has been there since the early 1960s. Jimmy Chan walked in for a job when he was a 19-year-old immigrant from Hong Kong. He’s been serving the restaurant’s dishes ever since, and his story was even profiled in The International Examiner.
Some customers have stood out over the years. Jimmy and other regulars might tell you about some of the famous faces who’ve stopped by, including Bruce Lee.