Facing East Taiwanese

When Goose first moved down to Seattle, particularly Redmond, for employment in the high-tech industry, Asian food was only an afterthought. I remember him taking me to Noble Court for Dim Sum in 1999 and it was completely forgettable. To be fair, I was trying to hold up Vancouver standards for Asian food in a completely non-Asian place. Fast forward over 10 years later and the Asian food scene in Seattle, specifically in Bellevue has improved dramatically. With more and more Asians moving into the Emerald City and its suburbs, there are more legit places to go for Asian food. Hey, even the world-renowned Din Tai Fung decided to put a location at Bellevue Square. So after a relatively decent noodle experience at Boom Noodle (honestly, it was not bad with all things considered), I set my sights on Facing East Taiwanese Restaurant. That's right. Not only was I going for Chinese food in Bellevue, I was aiming for a specific type of Chinese cuisine. With all the Taiwanese joints available in the GVRD, you'd think it would be nuts for me to head to Bellevue for such food.

Well, I went in with an open mind and considering all the great reviews it gets, I did have high expectations. First of all, we had to try their drinks. Bubble tea and Taiwanese cuisine seem to go hand-in-hand. Well, just like what others have said, the drinks were very good. Rather than substituting sugar for flavour, the drinks here tasted like its description. For instance, the Mango Slush was like drinking a mango, while the Pineapple Slush was the same. The drinks were blended until smooth; yet there were still desirable chunks of pineapple in our slush. As for the Red Bean drink, I didn't ask Goose about it. Besides, I'm not a huge red bean fan (LOL). According to many of the reviews, the "must have" item was the Pork Burger. Reminiscent of many modern takes on an Asian pork belly slider, this was the real deal. Encased within a soft mantou was a large piece of melt-in-your mouth braised pork belly. There was a little of everything in there to tickle the tastebuds including white sugar, ground peanuts, pickled mustard greens, cilantro and a touch of sweet hot sauce. Combined with the inherent flavours of five-spice, soy and ginger from the pork belly, it was a veritable flavour explosion. This is really a must order. The next dish might seem odd to some people - Silky Tofu with Aged Duck Egg and Dried Pork Floss. What? Well, for the uninitiated, the preserved duck egg is indeed the black thing on top. The whole dish is finished with dried pork fluff and a thick sweet sauce. The result is something that is very tasty. The silky tofu acted as a blank canvas for the other flavours. The preserved egg has a unique sweet umaminess to it and when combined with the sweet sauce and saltiness of the pork floss, it created another flavour explosion.

Another suggested dish was the 5 Spice Fried Chicken with Basil. This is somewhat similar to salty peppery chicken except for the obvious addition of 5 spice powder. There was still some salty, peppery and spicy thing going on except with the addition of more flavours and of course basil. In this case, they used breast meat which made for slightly drier chicken and less flavourful in my opinion. This was probably one of the more average items we had at the table. Another appie was the 5 Spice Beef Wrap. In this version, it was really a wrap as the menu description implies. It was almost like a cone with thin slices of beef shank, onions and cilantro. I found that there was an overwhelming amount of cilantro and onion, where that was all I tasted. The pancake itself was very thin and crisp. Again, this was only okay for us. When at a Taiwanese restaurant, I guess the Beef Noodle is mandatory. So yes we got a large order with thick noodles. It arrived it a really large bowl with lots of beef broth. I found it to be pretty decent with some meat flavour, somewhat sweet and a small hint of spice. The noodles were al dente while the beef and tendons were super tender.

While reading up on Yelp, another one of the recommended dishes was the Spiced Pork Stew over Rice. I got the large order and it was a fair-sized portion for $4.95. In fact, most of the items on the menu are priced reasonably. This was a pretty solid dish. In fact, my son ate it, so it must've been good. I found the rice to have a good texture whereby it was soft while not being wet. The stewed pork was super moist and flavourful and when mixed into the rice, there was just the right amount of seasoning. Of course, the familiar taste of soy, 5-spice, rock sugar, ginger and garlic were quite apparent. For some strange reason, I added the Pork Chop on Rice even though we already had a pork and rice dish. We universally agreed that it was unnecessary since there was more than enough food already and the fact it was quite "meh". The pork chop was not really all that moist or tender. Furthermore, it was not really all that flavourful either. It exhibited some of the same spices as the stewed pork; but there was not enough to make the rice tasty. Served on the side was pickled mustard greens, half a tea egg and Shanghai bak choy.

For our requisite veggie dish, we had the Four Seasons Green Beans. Despite the appearance of very little ingredients and lack of colour, the beans were seasoned properly. Lots of garlic, onions, salt, sugar and a touch of spice made up for the lack of flavour from the pork chop. The beans could've stood to be a bit less cooked since they were slightly soft. At least we made use of the plain rice with this. In fact, the 3 Cup Chicken was another dish that went well with the plain rice. These were some of the largest pieces of chicken I've had with this type of dish. Consequently, the chicken was moist and tender. As for the seasoning, there was a good balance of flavours including a good amount of zing from the Shao Xing wine and aromatics provided by the whole cloves of garlic and fresh basil leaves.

As we were finishing up our meal, it was quite obvious there would be plenty of leftovers. I guess I forgot we only had 4 adults eating along with 3 kiddies. However, we kept eying the endless stream of the Fresh Mango with Shaved Ice passing by us to literally every table. Well, when in Rome... So we ended up with a small order, which was still plenty for us. The large is just plain massive. Atop a big pile of shaved ice was big chunks of ripe mangoes topped by mango juice and condensed milk. Despite its appearance, it was not very sweet. Rather, it was a refreshing end to a surprisingly good meal. We went in with high expectations and Facing East mostly lived up to it. Of course it isn't a mind-blowing experience (rarely anything is); but it was solid and considering the location, it is both authentic and a good value.

The Good:
- It can give Vancouver Taiwanese restaurants a run for the money
- Reasonably-priced
- Good portions

The Bad:
- Service is hurried
- Long, long lineups
- If you thinking parking lots in Richmond are insufficient, you haven't seen nothing yet

Facing East Taiwanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

6 comments:

Kevin | 604 Foodtography said...

Do you see a stick man in your pork chop or is it just me?

LotusRapper said...

I see an inuksuk, Kevin :-D

Lisa said...

I'm really impressed with the amount of preparation and research that you put into each restaurant beforehand.

thefridaylunch said...

Great. Just had a big lunch and now I'm jonesing for Taiwanese. Thanks.

Sherman said...

@Kevin The pork chop had the consistency of a stick man or as LR stated, an Inuksuk.

@Lisa Thanks for the kind comment!

@Karl Go eat something!

fortwoplz said...

Wow that pork burger looks delicious! Wish there is also a decent Taiwanese restaurant in Calgary...