1075 Bellevue Way NE
Bellevue WA 98004
Little Known Taiwanese Restaurant on the Eastside
By: Steve G
I should confess now that my knowledge of Taiwanese food is limited, though a small Eastside restaurant in Bellevue called Facing East may help change that.
When you enter Facing East, you'll notice subtle nuances that set it aside from your typical Chinese cafe. The restaurant is clean cut and sparse, portraying a minimalist look along with subtle Asian designs. An open kitchen gives you a clear view of busy chefs at work, while the Shinto-inspired seating that nods to functionality over style.
Items on the menu at Facing East are mostly standard fare for a Chinese restaurant: chow mein, vermicelli noodles, salt and pepper shrimp, etc.. Other items however, like the three cups chicken and the sweet potato flour pancake are distinctly Taiwanese, and can only be found in a restaurant specializing in Taiwanese cuisine.
For our review, Grant and I ordered the Sweet Potato Pancake with Oyster, Three Cups Chicken, Taiwanese Style Chow Mein and Taiwanese Pork Burger.
The Taiwanese Pork Burger was the first dish to arrive. Served in a steamed bun with tender pieces of pork belly marinated in sweet chili oil, cilantro and chopped nuts, these Asian style sliders are meant to be devoured - and we did so happily. In fact, though each plate came with two burgers, we were almost compelled to order a few more on the company card for good measure.
Unfortunately, the high bar set by the pork burger set the scene for the failure of the chow mein. While the dish had no glaring problems - perhaps a bit too much oil - it didn't stand out in any particular fashion than generic chow mein at most Chinese restaurants, other than having a different set of ingredients. In comparison with restaurants such as Chiang's Gourmet or Yea's Wok which make various fresh hand noodles, Facing East finds itself against tough completion.
One area where Facing East faces no competition is with their sweet potato flour pancake. By the description, we expected a dish similar to the famous green onion or thousand layer pancake. Instead, what arrived was something that resembled slimy, ectoplasmic goop. Even Grant, who has an extensive experience in Chinese cuisine, was a bit taken back, as this dish absolutely looked nothing like what we ordered. In fact, we double-checked with the waiter to make sure we had the right dish delivered.
The "pancake" was a mix of sweet jelly-fish like jello, bits of oyster and egg. It made for a chewy affair that was even impossible to attack with utensils. It's hard to describe the taste, as the slimy texture is so pronounced in this dish, but if you can imagine chewing gummi worms while shooting a face full of oysters, you'll be within the taste bud ballpark.
According to Grant, three cup chicken is a famous Taiwanese dish made with a cup of rice wine, sesame oil, and soy sauce, in addition to cups of garlic, basil and green onion - hence the "three cups". Served in covered cast iron pot filled with sizzling aromatic chicken, this dish literally smelled like a winner even before consuming. This was easily my most favorite dish, though Grant was still fonder of the pork burgers.
In the end, it was a mixed bag of sorts eating at Facing East. We thought highly of the Pork Burger and the Three Cups Chicken, but other dishes like the Taiwanese Style Chow Mein and the Sweet Potato Flour Pancake were unimpressive and little too odd for our palates. Rocking Wok still holds our spot as the best Taiwanese restaurant in Seattle, but if you're on the Eastside and are looking for a close alternative, Facing East still offers some savory bites.
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