Maple Leaf Restaurant
707 148th Ave NE
Bellevue WA 98007
Basic Chinese Food at Value Prices
By: Steve G
When our reviewing team goes out to dine, we do our best to be very discreet. Since our anonymity is crucial to getting a fair sampling of data at restaurants, we move like secret agents, trying not to draw attention to ourselves. However, when we were at the Maple Leaf Restaurant, our cover almost got blown with four simple words:
"Are you a photographer?"
We looked at each other as if the jig might be up, but we humored the young hostess, who also turned out (surprisingly, given her youth) to be the owner the restaurant. She continued asking us questions, and we ended up having a chat about cameras with her for some time while we also learned a few tidbits of information about the her.
With its prominent sign and bright red colors, it's hard to miss Maple Leaf sitting on 148th Ave if you're driving near the area. When I was forced to change the route for my commute during the I-5 closures, I kept passing by this restaurant and noticed that every night around 7-8pm, their very spacious parking lot was always jam packed. Not one to ignore a popular local place, I successfully petitioned to check it out.
Both the interior and exterior of the restaurant appeared a little dated, but it did also look like they had put a lot of effort into fine-tuning the Feng Shui of the space by the strategic placement of furniture. They seemed to favor lots of red, which is a sign of good luck and vitality in the Chinese tradition. In addition to simply being a restaurant, Maple Leaf also hosts karaoke a few nights a week which turns the place into a pseudo night spot, which would explain why I had seen the packed parking lot many evenings.
For entres, we tried the Sha-Cha Chicken and the Empress Chicken. Both meals came with a salad, wonton, and choice of soup. The salad was not the most appealing selection. Grant commented that the iceberg lettuce with fried noodles on top was somewhat unappetizing and that the creamy dressing was a little too sweet.
The soups--egg drop and hot and sour-were quite decent. The egg drop soup had an abundance of egg and corn, which dominated the make up of the soup. It had a very gooey consistency that was closer to porridge than soup. Texture-wise, the hot and sour soup was rather starchy; however, the overall taste was up to par.
The Sha Cha Chicken tasted both very sweet and savory, with the flavors balancing nicely. With plenty of chicken, broccoli, peppers, onions, baby corn, mushrooms and snow peas in a salty/sweet glaze, the large assortment of ingredients made for a very filing meal. The fried rice on the side was a little less satisfying, however-composed mostly of egg and rice, it was a bit mushy. The wonton was deep-fried and after my first bite into it, I found it appeared to be made with a lot of fried wrapping and little meat.
If you like battered chicken, the Empress Chicken is right up your alley. Layered with a thick batter, fried, and topped with a thick sweet and sour sauce, we recommend the Empress Chicken for those who like sweet entres. Notably, in this dish the chicken was cooked very well-not too dry and stringy even though the meat was fried thoroughly.
The service was very fast, and even the owner herself kindly checked up on us several times and shared that interesting conversation with us. The quality of food is not the best you can find in the area, but the portions are good if you're looking to grab a quick bite to eat.