It’s easy to argue that all the good Chinese food in the area is on the Eastside. Szechuan Chef (in this case, Cheng Biao Yang) is instructional in that argument.
Despite its foreboding strip mall location, this is far from the typical overly fluorescent lit, drab Chinese restaurant. Colorful walls, touches of greenery, and faux-bamboo dividers give the place an almost-elegant appeal. An extensive menu and quality at price point make this worth the trek from Seattle.
At press time, Yang had moved on to open Spicy Talk in Redmond, so it will be interesting to see how Szechuan Chef survives his absence. This “upscale” (for Chinese) restaurant packs ‘em in, even on weeknights, with predominantly Asian diners, many chewing intestines from hot pots while chatting well into the night.
Forego Honey Walnut “Anything” and opt instead for more fiery selections, denoted by chili pepper ratings (1-5) on the menu. Favorites include the aformentioned hot pots (from mixed mushrooms to pork intestines), dry-cooked fish fillet with hot pepper, and dan dan noodles.
If you’re a Caucasian diner, expect strange looks and surprised reactions if you order anything like intestines. (Your server will likely ask, “Can you really eat that?”) But while the restaurant does a decent job with a few of the more “mainstream” dishes, it’s the more exotic fare where Szechuan Chef is at its finest. Insist on authenticity, but know full well that when this restaurant uses Szechuan in its name, you can expect true Szechuan spiciness as a result.
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