At China Harbor, an iconic Seattle restaurant receives a refresh

Georgann Dolfay

Even those who have hardly ever stepped foot within the enormous, shiny black building that looms above the western facet of Lake Union right away understand it in conversation. But most who do know China Harbor know the within of the substantial banquet hall on the next flooring: from weddings, […]

Even those who have hardly ever stepped foot within the enormous, shiny black building that looms above the western facet of Lake Union right away understand it in conversation. But most who do know China Harbor know the within of the substantial banquet hall on the next flooring: from weddings, salsa dancing, political fundraisers, 500-particular person mega-functions, or “Gung Haggis Body fat Choy,” the blend Burns Evening and Chinese New Calendar year celebration it hosted for a lot more than a 10 years.

Relatively fewer persons dropped in for a casual evening meal. “In the past, so numerous men and women complained about the foodstuff,” states chef Danna Hwang, who joined the team of the 27-calendar year-outdated place this summer time, “They’re frightened to stroll in simply because the previous administration was dirty.”

Thomson Zhao ordered the restaurant fewer than a year before the pandemic shut down activities, chopping off China Harbor’s most important organization resource. As he looked for strategies to revive the legendary space, he turned to his mate, Hwang, the former chef of Bellevue’s Peony Kitchen area, to assistance him out. Now, with gatherings coming again and the roomy home with the panoramic watch of Lake Union yet again greeting shoppers, her updates to the menu bring in a new group seeking for a taste of her artistic cooking.

Hwang’s version of honey-walnut prawns, lightened with the tart chunk of diced eco-friendly apple cutting via the sweetness, rises large off the plate, matching just the kind of amazing but borderline above-the-prime aesthetics of China Harbor’s dining area. Initially, Zhao experienced hired Hwang to perform on an forthcoming new undertaking, but as it ran into pandemic-relevant delays, he asked her to support out portion-time at China Harbor, where he had just introduced a dim sum menu.

China Harbor

Naomi Tomky, Particular to the Seattle PI

Hwang grew up in Guangzhou, regarded by quite a few to be the birthplace of dim sum, right before relocating to Seattle, exactly where she completed high university and fell in appreciate with the area. She obtained married and elevated her sons in Seattle. “After they went to school, I had nothing at all to do but enjoy Meals Channel,” she laughs. But she practiced cooking what she saw, and finally it grew into a catering business. Then she teamed up with restaurateur Paul Choi at Peony, like spending a year of touring and researching to create the menu prior to the upscale Bellevue place opened.

In contrast, when she instructed mates she was starting at China Harbor, they had been astonished and named her brave. “It’s an old position and no one will want to go,” they instructed her. But she preferred to try, stating “You by no means know!” As situations ramped back up, Zhao wanted her assistance as significantly as doable, and Hwang preferred to give the eating home a new name, to make guaranteed persons knew that this was not the China Harbor they try to remember from their uncle’s marriage 20 a long time ago.


“I want shoppers to have the new feel, to stroll in and have faith in us,” states Hwang. Although the party business retains them active, she keeps introducing her possess touches to the menu. Some of the menu products will be familiar to Peony customers — she began preparing the menu from Zhao’s own love of the food stuff there.

The Forbidden duck comes out on the lookout not contrary to the Peony model of standard Peking duck — the very same glass-like pores and skin, shiny and shatteringly crisp, laid out over the tender meat. But right here, it comes with fluffy buns alternatively of slender pancakes, and a lot more impressively, detours from the classic presentation with a two-tone sesame paste sauce and grilled lemons created to stand up to the richness of the duck, assisted by an array of herbs and sliced watermelon radishes.

China Harbor

China Harbor

Naomi Tomky, Particular to the Seattle PI

On the dim sum menu, she added black truffle paste to the top rated of the xiu mai, the kind of showy addition that typically appears excessive and costly, without having much purpose for it. But the generous dollop, positioned submit-steaming, only bumps the price from $5.99 to $9 a low-priced thrill. For a larger dose of luxurious, she also helps make a variation of the traditional deep-fried taro ball, replacing the meaty center 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 beyond. She likes sturdy flavors, incorporating Szechuan peppercorn versions of the crab and lobster by now on the menu, and lemongrass butter with garlic to the shrimp. It all slides in easily to the relaxation of the menu at China Harbor, her crispy pork belly in shrimp sauce fitting very well next to the vintage twice-cooked pork, but on the plate, it stands out.

Hwang’s design and style leans clean and present day — she bolstered the seafood selections with oyster pancakes produced from fresh-shucked oysters and included a stir-fried kale with garlic sauce to the greens. It suits with Hwang’s personal interests, which involve fishing, hiking, and investing time outside –— element of why she enjoys Seattle so a great deal.

On her Instagram, she posts pics with area dignitaries at the cafe together with the salmon she caught, interspersed with videos of cooking rice on the financial institutions of a river in close proximity to Cle Elum with her mother and son. “I really don’t have a massive goal,” she claims, just to expend time with her relatives and cook dinner the foods that helps make folks pleased — and she is aware of she can do that at China Harbor, if men and women give her a probability. “People will wait around an hour and a 50 % in line for bubble tea,” she says, but then she will get problems if they have to wait 45 minutes for their food.

Those people that do wait are addressed to the food stuff that matches up to the watch out the wall of windows that run from below the tables to the ceiling, framing the drinking water. The setting up comes from a time when it was alright to be ostentatious with no miring it in irony, and Hwang’s food items brims with equivalent showmanship. She seems to be about the space and down at her own meals and smiles, “You just can’t get any of this, any place.”



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