At China Harbor, an iconic Seattle restaurant gets a refresh

Even people who have by no means stepped foot inside the enormous, shiny black developing that looms around the western side of Lake Union immediately figure out it in conversation. But most who do know China Harbor know the inside of the large banquet corridor on the 2nd ground: from weddings, salsa dancing, political fundraisers, 500-man or woman mega-events, or “Gung Haggis Extra fat Choy,” the blend Burns Evening and Chinese New Calendar year celebration it hosted for far more than a decade.

Comparatively much less folks dropped in for a casual evening meal. “In the previous, so quite a few people complained about the foodstuff,” states chef Danna Hwang, who joined the team of the 27-12 months-aged place this summer months, “They’re frightened to wander in mainly because the previous administration was dirty.”

Thomson Zhao ordered the cafe significantly less than a 12 months right before the pandemic shut down occasions, cutting off China Harbor’s main organization resource. As he appeared for techniques to revive the legendary room, he turned to his close friend, Hwang, the former chef of Bellevue’s Peony Kitchen, to assistance him out. Now, with situations coming back again and the roomy area with the panoramic look at of Lake Union once more greeting clients, her updates to the menu provide in a new crowd hunting for a flavor of her inventive cooking.

Hwang’s version of honey-walnut prawns, lightened with the tart chunk of diced green apple chopping by the sweetness, rises superior off the plate, matching just the sort of spectacular but borderline about-the-top aesthetics of China Harbor’s eating place. Originally, Zhao had employed Hwang to work on an future new job, but as it ran into pandemic-relevant delays, he questioned her to aid out part-time at China Harbor, where he experienced just introduced a dim sum menu.

China Harbor

Naomi Tomky, Specific to the Seattle PI

Hwang grew up in Guangzhou, thought of by lots of to be the birthplace of dim sum, ahead of shifting to Seattle, in which she completed superior faculty and fell in adore with the area. She acquired married and elevated her sons in Seattle. “After they went to university, I experienced absolutely nothing to do but look at Meals Channel,” she laughs. But she practiced cooking what she saw, and at some point it grew into a catering business. Then she teamed up with restaurateur Paul Choi at Peony, which include spending a 12 months of touring and exploring to produce the menu ahead of the upscale Bellevue spot opened.

In contrast, when she advised buddies she was commencing at China Harbor, they were shocked and known as her brave. “It’s an aged position and nobody will want to go,” they explained to her. But she desired to try out, indicating “You in no way know!” As occasions ramped again up, Zhao required her help as considerably as possible, and Hwang preferred to give the eating place a new name, to make guaranteed persons realized that this was not the China Harbor they bear in mind from their uncle’s marriage 20 years in the past.


“I want prospects to have the new really feel, to walk in and have confidence in us,” states Hwang. Though the event business keeps them hectic, she keeps adding her possess touches to the menu. Some of the menu items will be familiar to Peony shoppers — she began organizing the menu from Zhao’s possess like of the food items there.

The Forbidden duck arrives out hunting not compared with the Peony variation of regular Peking duck — the exact same glass-like skin, shiny and shatteringly crisp, laid out over the tender meat. But below, it comes with fluffy buns in its place of slim pancakes, and extra impressively, detours from the vintage presentation with a two-tone sesame paste sauce and grilled lemons intended to stand up to the richness of the duck, served by an array of herbs and sliced watermelon radishes.

China Harbor

China Harbor

Naomi Tomky, Specific to the Seattle PI

On the dim sum menu, she included black truffle paste to the best of the xiu mai, the form of showy addition that usually appears to be excessive and highly-priced, with no substantially reason for it. But the generous dollop, positioned submit-steaming, only bumps the selling price from $5.99 to $9 a low cost thrill. For a more substantial dose of luxurious, she also tends to make a variation of the typical deep-fried taro ball, changing the meaty heart with abalone. Even on humbler dishes, Hwang gets flashy: her pan-fried chive dumplings are the dimensions of a flat hand, with a crisp, frilly skirt extending outside of. She likes robust flavors, introducing Szechuan peppercorn variations of the crab and lobster previously on the menu, and lemongrass butter with garlic to the shrimp. It all slides in very easily to the rest of the menu at China Harbor, her crispy pork tummy in shrimp sauce fitting well next to the classic 2 times-cooked pork, but on the plate, it stands out.

Hwang’s style leans fresh new and modern — she bolstered the seafood solutions with oyster pancakes created from contemporary-shucked oysters and extra a stir-fried kale with garlic sauce to the greens. It matches with Hwang’s very own passions, which include things like fishing, climbing, and spending time outdoors –— section of why she loves Seattle so a lot.

On her Instagram, she posts shots with local dignitaries at the cafe along with the salmon she caught, interspersed with movies of cooking rice on the banking companies of a river in close proximity to Cle Elum with her mother and son. “I really don’t have a big intention,” she claims, just to spend time with her spouse and children and prepare dinner the foods that would make individuals joyful — and she appreciates she can do that at China Harbor, if individuals give her a prospect. “People will wait an hour and a half in line for bubble tea,” she states, but then she will get issues if they have to hold out 45 minutes for their food stuff.

These that do wait around are addressed to the food stuff that matches up to the watch out the wall of windows that run from down below the tables to the ceiling, framing the drinking water. The developing will come from a time when it was alright to be ostentatious without the need of miring it in irony, and Hwang’s meals brims with identical showmanship. She appears to be close to the space and down at her personal foodstuff and smiles, “You just cannot get any of this, anywhere.”



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