Din Tai Fung (Bellevue) – revisit

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It’s been over 3 years since I last visited Din Tai Fung located at the Lincoln Square in Seattle (Bellevue). Back when it first opened, the restaurant was bustling with long waits, and when S and I visited for lunch on Christmas Eve, it was quite the same. The wait wasn’t half as long though. You can watch the chefs prepare the dumplings and buns through the glass window while you wait. Their waiting system now offers a text to alert you that your table is ready, which is quite convenient. The restaurant is famous all over Asia, but it’s interesting to note that at this location, there are barely any Chinese employees. I guess they cater to the Caucasian population here.

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Juicy Pork Dumplings

After a 20 minute wait, we placed our orders and first up were the Juicy Pork Dumplings. One order comes with 10 dumplings. I liked how the dumpling skin was very thin, but I found that the soup inside cooled down really quickly. I would have preferred it to be still sizzling hot. Nevertheless, they were pretty good or above average.

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Rice & Pork Shao Mai

I suggested we order the Rice & Pork Shao Mai, which is essentially sticky glutinous rice with pork stuffed in the dumpling skin to appear like a shao mai. These were very sticky and rather filling. Not bad. Again, they one order came with 10.

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Chicken Fried Noodles

Lastly, we ordered the Chicken Fried Noodles. A mix of chicken and vegetables along with the thick Shanghai noodles. I liked how the noodles had a good chewy texture to it and the dish wasn’t too oily or salty.

Pros:
– Good quality food at decent prices
– Ambiance is much nicer than your typical Chinese restaurant

Cons:
– Always a queue for a table
– Service was rather slow for us

Price Range: $10-20

1: Terrible 2: Poor 3: Average 4: Good 5: Excellent

Food: 4
Service: 3
Ambiance: 4
Parking: 4
Overall: 4

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Pike Place Market – Beecher’s Handmade Cheese + Pike Place Chowder (Seattle)

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Before starting full time work, I decided to head down to the States for a road trip with my friends. Our destination was Portland, but we decided to stop in Seattle to grab lunch. Of course, we ended up at Pike Place Market. First, stop, we went to Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, which is an artisan cheesemaker and retail shop. Normally, they have huge line ups because tours bring them here, but we arrived early in the morning, so there were no line ups!

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You can purchase cheese here, but also grilled cheese, mac and cheese, and other items. What’s unique about Beecher’s is that they mainly use pasteurized milk, but they also have their own farm and cattle to control their cheese products. You can actually see the cheese being prepared right next to the cafe.

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World’s Best Mac & Cheese – penne pasta combined with Beecher’s award-winning Flagship cheese

We decided to share the World’s Best Mac & Cheese, which was absolutely delicious! It used penne pasta and was drenched in Beecher’s award-winning Flagship cheese which is aged for one year! It was thick and creamy and full of cheesiness. I found it quite pricey though since it was around $9 for a large, which really wasn’t too large.

Beecher's Handmade Cheese on Urbanspoon

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After wandering around the market, we decided to head to Pike Place Chowder. They don’t open until 11:00 am, but by 11:30, there was already a huge line up!

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Pike Place Chowder is famous for their award winning chowders. They serve 8 varieties of chowders, but also sandwiches and salads.

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Sampler (four 5oz cups of any chowder)

I decided to go big and got the Sampler, which comes with four cups of chowders of your choice. Probably a bad choice, because 5 oz is actually a lot! I was basically drinking 20 oz of chowder…and they are quite thick! This would be great to share though. On the top left was the Seared Scallop Chowder, which came with sweet, tender scallops served in a creamy broth and flavoured with dill and lime juice. This was probably my least favourite. I found the broth to be too creamy and the dill was a little off-putting for me. On the top right was the Smoked Salmon Chowder, which came with nova smoked salmon, capers, and cream cheese. This was much lighter and had a strong smoked salmon flavour. Not bad! On the bottom left, was the Market Chowder. That day, it was a crab and oyster chowder, which was probably my favourite out of the four. If you love seafood, this one is perfect! I also loved the strong flavour of oysters. It wasn’t too heavy as well. Lastly, on the bottom right was the Seafood Bisque, which had Pacific cod, Northwest salmon, Oregon bay shrimp and crab. It was seasoned with fresh basil and simmered in a creamy, tomato-based broth. This was also one of my favourites as the bisque was light but full of flavour. I really enjoyed the tomato-based broth as well. Your chowders come with sourdough bread as well, but I was way too full drinking the soups to be dipping the bread in.

The Sampler is a good deal if you’re looking to share, since you will actually get really full from a 5 oz cup if you’re looking for a snack. However, their chowders are still quite pricey at around $6 for an 8 oz cup.

Pike Place Chowder on Urbanspoon

Old Country Buffet

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I go to Seattle pretty much every year just to do some shopping. Finally, I got my passport back from applying for a Visa, and I could go down south! On a random weekday, K, E, and I decided to do a day trip just to Bellis Fair. We got there at around lunch time, and wanted to grab some cheap food. We’ve been to Bellis Fair multiple times, and we always pass by Old Country Buffet. Honestly, it reminds me of Uncle Willy on the outside. Never really dared looking in or even checking out the menu. For some reason, we just impulsively decided to just go try it out. Lunch is until 3:30, so make sure to get there before that time, or you will be paying the dinner price. Lunch is around $8 and drinks are an additional $2. Your total comes to around $10 a person for lunch. Honestly, the $2 for drinks is a stretch for me, since I can’t even finish a full cup of soda usually. I definitely should’ve stuck with a glass of water for free.

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After you pay, you basically find your own seat wherever you want. Don’t expect any service whatsoever, other than someone coming to take away your dirty plates. I didn’t really get any close ups of any of the food in the warmers, since there were people all around me, and I also didn’t have any hands to hold my camera with a plate in the other hand.

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But as you can see, they have multiple bars with different categories, like vegetables, salads, meats, and desserts. They even had an area to make your own taco with everything you would need from salsa to sour cream. They only had hard shell tacos though, which was fine since they were surprisingly crispy. I would’ve loved a soft tortilla though, since it’s not as messy to eat.

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The variety of food is quite good for the price you pay. There is also a stir fry section where you can get a server to add the ingredients of your choice to make a stir fry immediately. I didn’t try it out though, since I assumed the stir fry wouldn’t be even comparable to actual Chinese stir fry.

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This is my first round. Definitely not very presentable, since I just pile my food on top. I had some ribs, a seafood pancake, sweet and sour pork, some pasta, and caesar salad. Pretty typical food, and I wouldn’t say anything was amazing, but it wasn’t terrible.

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K got the freshly baked pizza, which was apparently quite good.

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E’s plate.

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My round two consisted of more caesar salad. My poorly put together taco is also in the back. I also got some mac and cheese, which was pretty good! It was super cheesy. I also got a piece of fried chicken drumstick, and it was actually fried quite nicely. You could easily get your money’s worth just by eating fried chicken. (I hear that’s what people do at buffets, don’t they?)

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I only have two rounds of actual food, and I got excited to move to desserts. However, I was utterly disappointed. Look at the pictures! None of the desserts looked appetizing…

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Maybe the cookies or brownies? But they looked really sweet…

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The pies and custards also looked overly sweet.

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But I found a soft-serve ice cream machine! They had chocolate, vanilla, and even a swirl! I was definitely impressed with the swirl machine they had. Not many buffets have this.

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But they also had orange sorbet, so I went for that instead. I can pretty much guarantee you it’s artificial flavouring though. I liked how they also had a variety of toppings and sauces you could add to your sundae. Perfect for the kids.

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And last but not least, I was amazed at their slurpee machine. Okay, maybe I get amazed pretty easily. Our buffets in Vancouver don’t have this stuff! Or at least not at such a low price! I tried the blueberry fanta, and it made my tongue blue. Definitely artificial. Tasted sort of weird too… They have a bunch of other soft drinks, coffee, and lemonade as well though.

Overall, I can’t say Old Country Buffet is amazing, but it also isn’t terrible. I guess for the price you pay, it’s decent and you get a wide variety of food. I always feel ripped off at buffets since I can’t eat a lot, but at this price, I feel like I can eat my money’s worth of food. I hear they also offer breakfasts at a really cheap price, but I wonder what they serve.

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Bottega Italiana

Pistachio Gelato, Watermelon & Pineapple Gelato

Last food stop for the Seattle adventure! Of course dessert, and it’s my favourite – ice cream! We actually walked by Bottega Italiana on our way to Thoa’s, and we had a look around the market for other ice cream shops, but we decided this one was the one. Well actually, Bottega Italiana isn’t an ice cream shop, since it’s a gelato shop! Gelato has around 60% less fat and calories than American ice cream, so I like to think of it as a pretty healthy dessert…

Anyways, they let us try flavours, but I was mostly interested in the Pistachio Gelato, so I got a sample, and decided to get it right away. It was smooth and very strong in pistachio flavour. Maybe a little too strong actually. J got two scoops and got Watermelon and Pineapple. These were amazing! The Pineapple flavoured gelato was especially good. They were totally opposite from the creamy gelato I had, and was not at all creamy or milky. It was almost like eating pineapple slush, but not to that extent of iciness. It was still gelato, but without the cream. They were also made with fresh fruit since there were pieces of pineapple pulp inside. The watermelon flavoured gelato was also great, but not as good as the pineapple. I kind of regretted not getting one of the fresh fruit gelatos instead, since they had a variety of flavours.

Overall, great place to grab gelato around the market place, and the fresh fruit gelatos are a must try! Forget the normal gelato!

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Piroshky Piroshky

Beef & Cheese Piroshky

Off we continue with our Seattle foodie adventure. So after lunch at Thoa’s, we decided to head back to the Pike Place Market to explore. Still full of people, but most of the lineups at the food shops had definitely died down. On our way to Thoa’s, we had actually walked by a bakery. We actually didn’t spot the place originally, but the aroma was so strong that it attracted us to walk closer. And then we knew it was of course a bakery! A bakery named Piroshky Piroshky that had a massive line up too… Since we were starving, we obviously didn’t wait, but luckily, the line had shrunk by the time we got back after lunch! Okay, we were still pretty full to be honest, but hey, this place must have some good stuff with that long line up from before! So we lined up behind the others, excited to try a “piroshky”. So what exactly is a piroshky? I honestly had no idea, and was still pretty clueless after eating it.

We were quite full from lunch, so we decided to just share one piroshky, since they were quite large. So many choices! But a Beef & Cheese Piroshky seemed pretty safe. It was a bun filled with beef, cheese and some spices. The dough was soft and warm, and the filling inside was not overflowing or too little. Just the perfect amount. It actually sort of reminded me of a curry beef bun you can get in Asian bakeries, so I didn’t think it was THAT amazing. Maybe I had just expected much more seeing those line ups. They’re decent, but I didn’t find them too special. Perhaps next time, I would try some of their other unique fillings.

For those of you who want to know more about piroshkys, I went home and googled them up. So they are basically Russian baked goods – usually in the form of a baked stuffed bun. They are usually filled with meat and vegetables, (usually onions), so the meat and cheese piroshky was actually quite close to the traditional piroshkys! Other variations include savory fillings, such as fish, and also sweet fillings, such as apples. These were all offered at the shop as well!

Piroshky Piroshky on Urbanspoon

Thoa’s Restaurant & Lounge

Mango Fizz

Strawberry Lemonade

Chicken Pad Thai – Traditional Thai styled rice noodles pan-fried with chicken, bean sprout, cilantro, crushed peanuts, lime and onions in tamarind paprika sauce

Chicken Curry Fried Rice – Chicken, rice, eggs, carrots, pineapple, coconut milk,
hint of yellow curry & onions

Recently J and I decided to go explore downtown Seattle and check out the Pike Place Market. I had this feeling that I came here when I was really young, but I really had no memory of it. We got there around lunch time and we were starving, so of course we decided to look for food. I had checked out some popular spots in the market beforehand, but since it was lunch time, line ups were everywhere. What a busy area! We were way too hungry to wait, so we walked beyond the market, more into the downtown area, but still near the waterfront. We finally found Thoa’s Restaurant & Lounge, which seemed to be a pretty nice, modern-looking Vietnamese restaurant. We were starving, and saw no line up, so we didn’t care anymore! We just wanted food! Thoa’s was definitely not as busy compared to those popular shops in the marketplace, but it was still roughly half occupied.

I decided to get the Strawberry Lemonade, while J got the Mango Fizz. I found my lemonade a little sour, but it was alright. It was a hot, sunny day, so the drink was greatly appreciated. As for food, I got the Chicken Pad Thai. I found the noodles a little overcooked, as they were pretty soggy and clumping together. It was also pretty bland, and lacking flavour. I’ve definitely had better pad thai back in Vancouver, so I was not too impressed. I tried a bit of J’s Chicken Curry Fried Rice, and it was also just mediocre. We both agreed that we’ve had better versions of these dishes. Service was also not that great. We weren’t greeted right away when we walked in, and the server also gave us no utensils until I asked for them. The mood seemed pretty “dead’ in there, even though it was all decorated to fit the cuisine’s culture. Overall, not bad, but probably wouldn’t revisit again.

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The Local Yolk Cafe

Fresh Orange Juice

Our Famous Combos – French Toast, Sausage Links and Three Country Eggs

One Pancake – with two eggs and two slice of bacon

Eggs Benedict – English Muffin, Slice of Ham, Hollandaise Sauce and Hashbrowns

My family had stayed in Lynnwood since we booked our hotel last minute, and everywhere in Bellevue was full, or at a ridiculous price. We got up early to start our day of more shopping, and we decided to head out to grab some breakfast. I really wanted to try these KFC chicken bites that were new, but we were 30 minutes too early, and it wasn’t opened yet. We decided to go to Denny’s which was in close proximity, but we ended up passing by The Local Yolk, which seemed to be a local breakfast place. So hey, why not give it a try. The parking lot had a few cars, so we thought it couldn’t be too bad.

It seemed to be a family run business, and surprisingly it was quite packed on a Sunday morning. The prices were the typical breakfast prices, around $10-$15. My sister and I shared the Eggs Benedict, which was quite large, and consisted of 3 English muffins. The hashbrowns were also really tasty with some crispy edges to them! I also enjoyed their Fresh Orange Juice, which consisted of pulp, so you knew it was freshly squeezed – at least I hope it was!

By the time we left, the parking lot was jam packed, so I guess people really do like coming here for breakfast. Much better than Denny’s for sure in my opinion.

The Local Yolk on Urbanspoon

Cheesecake Factory (Bellevue)

Tropical Iced Tea

Complimentary Bread

Grilled Rib-Eye Steak served with Mashed Potatoes and Onion Rings

Petite Filet served with Fries and Onion Rings– a smaller version of Filet Mignon

Bistro Shrimp Pasta – crispy battered shrimp, fresh mushrooms, tomato and arugula tossed with spaghettini and a basil-garlic lemon cream sauce

Lemon Raspberry Cream Cheesecake – raspberry-vanilla cake, creamy lemon cheesecake, raspberry lady fingers and lemon mousse

It seems that my family always ends up going to The Cheesecake Factory whenever we’re in Seattle. Perhaps it’s because it’s the perfect place to go to after a long day of shopping at Bellevue Mall. Cheesecake Factory is always packed around dinner time, so we had to wait for roughly 30 minutes before we got seated. I decided to get the Tropical Iced Tea, but I didn’t realize that American Iced Teas were unsweetened! And so I was left with a rather bland iced tea with hints of fruitiness to it. My parents both got steaks, and the Petit Filet Mignon was exceptional. I stole a bite, and the meat was extremely tender. I also tried an onion ring, and loved the outer batter as it was thin and crispy. And I forgot to mention, that Cheesecake Factory’s portions are absolutely huge, and it is almost impossible for me to finish a plate by myself. And so of course, I decided to share a plate with my sister, who doesn’t eat a lot either. We got the Bistro Shrimp Pasta, which was extremely delicious. I loved the spaghetinni, as it was thinner than normal spaghetti, and the shrimp also had a lovely texture since it was coated with a light batter. The sauce was light and not too creamy, which I liked. My whole family was extremely full by the end of dinner, but who goes to the Cheesecake Factory without getting a slice of cheesecake! Most tables had their cheesecake to go, but since we still had a long ride back to our hotel, and the weather was quite hot, we decided to just stuff ourselves and eat it at the restaurant. We chose a lighter cheesecake since we could not go for something extremely rich at that point, so we got the Lemon Raspberry Cream Cheesecake. The lemon and raspberry gave the cheesecake a lighter taste to it, with its hint of tangy flavour. I especially love their whipped cream, since it’s super light and airy. You can barely even taste the cream in it! So delicious!

I do want to mention, however, that our waitress, Kelly, was one of the worst servers I’ve had. She came by at the beginning to take our orders, dropped off our drinks and food, and asked how our food was tasting once throughout our whole dinner. I’m not the type that likes to be bothered while eating, but it’s a common gesture to come by more than once throughout the dinner. Not to mention, that I asked for a straw for my drink, and she said she would be right back, but no straw ever came back. My parents also had to remind her to bring them steak knives, which was highly unprofessional. It was almost like we had to chase her down to get her attention. But that’s just our server. I’ve definitely had better servers in the past here, so I guess this is just an exception.

Cheesecake Factory (Bellevue Square) on Urbanspoon