Looking for chai, and finding a great meal | Arts & Appetite

By Maria Montalvo | Mar 23, 2018

Looking for Chai Taiwanese Kitchen – that’s the name – sits around the corner from the 99 Ranch Market (a place I have always referred to incorrectly as Ranch 99). A good friend who grew up eating Taiwanese food had suggested we try this restaurant, so we convinced her to accompany us for this phenomenal meal.

I did not know the distinction of traditional food from Taiwan, and although I still don’t know much, I know I like it. Taiwanese food is generally associated with styles of cooking in central and southern China, but also reflects the indigenous people of Taiwan and some influences from Japan (from the 50 years that Taiwan was under Japanese rule).

Our friend said you will always get “a hint of sweetness” in a Taiwanese dish, and it has very mild spice.

The Taiwanese Pork Burger ($7.25) is a delicious version of a pork bun, with braised pork garnished with peanuts, cilantro and pickled vegetables on a white bun (bao).

The crunch of the peanuts and veggies contrasts with the soft bun and tender pork. We could have ordered several more, even though they come two to an order. Our other appetizer was the popcorn chicken ($5.95), a large cup filled with crispy fried chicken pieces, perfectly tender on the inside.

For dinner, we shared the Taiwanese Sizzling Chicken Platter ($12.95), the Haaka-Style Tofu with Pork Belly and Squid ($10.95), and a special that day, the Pea Vines in Garlic Sauce ($12.95). We ordered an Oyster Pancake ($6.95) on the side to try, as well.

Each dish competed for “favorite” status during dinner, although the rice noodles and vegetables soaking up the flavor from the sizzling chicken were outstanding. The pea vines were tender and fresh, while the Haaka-style tofu dish featured a variety of textures with celery mixed with the tofu, pork, and squid.

I was also struck by the perfection in the crispness of the chicken skin and the delicacy of the garlic sauce. The menu is filled with tempting sounding plates that cannot be any less satisfying based on the level of service and quality of the food we tried.

As my other dinner companion said, “I’d eat here again tomorrow.”

Looking for Chai also has an impressive tea menu, special hand-shaken teas with a huge variety of fruits and juices or served hot or cold with milk. I would be remiss if I did not mention the pleasant, welcoming, modern design of the restaurant, with a long banquette with a white leather back opposite stylish, but comfortable, chairs and tables.

The bright and cheerful special and menu boards entice you to try something different. The service was impeccable, professional but also kind and attentive, and the freshly prepared dishes came out in quick succession.

Before heading home, we decided to stop for the #1 Grass Jelly dessert in Taiwan at Blackball Edmonds. This international chain started in Taiwan, and now has shops across Southeast Asia and Australia, and all the way here to the United States.

The grass jelly is something you have to try—a soft jello, for lack of a better description, served with cream, yam and taro balls and boba. They have a variety of drinks and warm desserts, as well as the Taiwanese version of what we know as Hawaiian shave ice that towers in a triangle shape from the plate.

The space is hip and well-designed, full of mostly college-aged people taking advantage of the free Wi-Fi and sweet desserts.

Looking for Chai is located at 22511 Highway 99, #100, in Edmonds (at the 99 Ranch Market center) and is open every day but Tuesday for lunch and dinner. Blackball Edmonds is located north on Highway 99 at 22001 Highway 99, and is open seven days a week from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.

 

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