Adam: Hey! A New York Times writer who wrote a book about Chinese food in America is going to be at Elliot Bay Books in a few weeks.
Emmett: Yeah. I saw her on Colbert. Her middle name is a number.
Adam: That's her, Jennifer 8 Lee.
Geary: That's the kind of VIP we need lunching with MSG150. Let's see if she'd be up for it. Adam, pour on the charm.
Well, long story short, we somehow tricked her into joining us. She was filming a TV talk show in the morning and had an interview in the afternoon followed by a book signing, but she still managed to have lunch free to eat with MSG150. It seemed a shame for her to come all the way out to Seattle on her whirl-wind book tour and be subjected to some random lunch spot in the ID. Shouldn't we take her to one of our favorite spots? Sorry, no. We have rules. The next spot on our list was Sun Ya, a large Dim Sum restaurant that was somehow completely unknown to us. Jennifer would meet us there.
BTW, I was able to read the first chapter of her book, The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, before our lunch. Unfortunately, I didn't have it with me to get it signed. ("To a really great guy. Stay real. Jenny 8.") It's a fun read so far, and not at all like The Chronicles of Narnia or even The Chronicles of Riddick. She brings together her personal history as a second generation Chinese American with actual real facts and stories (unlike the kind you get here) to explore Chinese food in America. It reminds me a bit of one of my favorite books, Swallowing Clouds, by A. Zee.
Sun Ya, like Four Seas and House of Hong, has its own parking and even a parking attendant. When we arrived today, just after noon, the lot was full and the attendant was juggling double parked cars to get more in. I don't recall ever seeing the lot even close to full before. Maybe I didn't look on the right day. Luckily, we were able to walk right in and grab the last large table in the back. Jennifer had written to let us know that she had some other friends of hers joining us. They showed up first and we chatted a bit until Jennifer arrived. It turns out that Larry is a fan of Sun Ya and has been a regular for years. OK Sun Ya show us what you're made of.
Family Style Dishes
- 2 x Fried Squid
- 2 x Roast Duck
- Roast Chicken
- 2 x Honey Walnut Prawns
- Chicken Feet
- 2 x Pot Stickers
- Shrimp on Green Pepper
- 2 x Shu Mai
- Chow Mien
- BBQ Pork
- Chinese Broccoli in Oyster Sauce
- Shrimp Ball (Ha Gow)
- Shrimp Stuffed Eggplant
- Fried Tofu
- 2 x Lemon Custard
- Sesame Ball (Gin Duey)
Luncher: GearyLunch: Family Style - $17.00
Fortune: The more you learn, the more you realize how little you know.
Right off the bat Sun Ya passed two key litmus tests for dim sum: no large red dragons or other gaudy decor and lots of Chinese customers. The place was packed. Jennifer told her friends to look for the white guys and they picked us out right away based on that alone. They didn't even see my "I <3 Jennifer 8" lapel pin. The carts seemed to be flying around and we never had to wait long for another to pass by. We grabbed lots of the usual dim sum staples as they went by plus lots of the specials. We really went all out on the specials. We had multiple orders of squid, roast duck, and honey walnut prawns.
All of the food was good, but nothing really stood out. The squid were tasty, if not a little greasy. The shu mai and other dumplings weren't as flavorful as some I've had nearby. It was also on the spendy side. It ended up over $15 a person, which is twice what we usually spend at Jade Garden.
So far, my stack ranking of the Dim Sum spots is as follows:
Luncher: AdamLunch: Family Style - $17.00
Fortune: Exercising now will cut your medical bills later.
Ahh... the dim sum. We were meeting Jennifer 8. Lee and some of her friends at the restaurant. Jennifer said: "they'll be the group of white guys." Are we that transparent? Anyways, we had quite the spread of food-- I liked that they had more of a selection than other Dim Sum places we've been to.
I didn't feel like anything was tastier or noticeably better than other Dim Sum places, and even though the place was packed... we kept getting luke warm food. The duck was a welcome option, and I devoured several pieces... although I think it still could have been a bit more flavorful. Fried Calamari was good. Then a popular dim sum dish that I've never had before: fried chickens' feet. They're just like fried chicken drummettes but with less meat. Its pure skin, batter, and sauce. It's OK, but nothing to write home about.
Some of the reviews of this place on Yelp! were way off base. This is definitely a decent place for some dim sum, and they're doing enough traffic that you know the food is pretty fresh. But, having negative reviews keeps the riff-raff out. Thats probably why Rob wussed out on this trip-- typical vegetarian.
Behind Jade Garden and Vegetarian Bistro... this place falls right into line for good dim sum.
And its worth noting that Jenny 8 brought us fortune cookies filled with fortunes she wrote.
Luncher: EmmettLunch: Family Style - $17.00
Fortune: The best way to prepare for life is to begin to live.
Like Four Seas, this place has a parking lot, which is incredible. The interior: average. We were seated at a large table. Being Mariner's Opening Day, I was a little bit excited for game day street meat, but these are the things we do for the cause. My buddy Sam spoke highly of this place, saying it was his favorite after Jade Garden. We had guests again! It was a beautiful Seattle day!
By the time I sat down, there were about 15 options already on the table. Highlights were the duck, pork, pot stickers, greens. The noodles were okay, as were the Chicken Feet I tried! Years ago in Taiwan I got suckered into eating Chicken Butt. Now the feet. I think I need to get some beak and I'll have that whole friggin bird covered. The shrimp buns were alright, but a little on the doughy side. Everything had a nice flavor, my one complaint would be that the food was slightly cold. Service was excellent.
We got to show our guests the unfortunate fortune cookies at the Fortune Cookie Factory! I also learned that they sell Ginger, Apple, and Pina Colada fortune cookies by the door. They look like normal fortune cookies, but there's a little label on the bag indicating the flavor. We tried some of the strawberry in our unfortunate bag and they were a real treat.
I liked Sun Ya. I teetered on 3 vs 4. Their selection and service break the tie. I'll be back.
VIP Luncher: Jennifer 8. Lee from Fortune Cookie ChroniclesLunch: Family Style - $17.00
Jennifer 8. Lee's Review
VIP Luncher: Tig & Serena from Adventures in RemuddlingLunch: Family Style - $17.00
Fortune: Tig: You will make a life-altering decision soon. Serena: You should accept the next invitation that comes your way
Tig & Serena's Review
Knowing the table was filled with mostly young westerners, the dimsum cart lady was a little pushy with pork buns and other popular dishes. Vegetables were in slim supply with only an order of chinese broccoli at our table. The roasted duck was middle of the road, flavorful but lukewarm and the skin was a little soggy. Given that the restaurant filled pretty quickly, I expected the food to turn over more and be hotter off the cart. The fried sesame ball is my ultimate barometer for dim sum quality - not entirely a fair benchmark since the sesame ball is a dessert, but that's my favorite dish. The sesame ball was visually very pretty and symmetrical with a light golden color. No sagging of the sides which means it was relatively fresh. The inside was airy and half filled with a smooth sweet red bean paste. The only quip is that I think it should have been fried a little bit longer. Overall very good and quite tasty, thus bringing the overall rating up from 2 chopsticks to 3 chopsticks.
Luncher: EricaLunch: Family Style - $17.00
Fortune: Crossing a bridge will bring you closer to what you seek.
My dim sum needs are quite simple to meet, really. Tasty pot stickers, some sort of fried delight (chicken or shrimp, I am not too picky), and a satisfactory sesame ball or egg custard. However, if these needs are not met, Erica will not be happy. I am pleased to say that Sun Ya delivered satisfaction on my trifecta of dim sum demands.
In addition, there was a wide array of well done other options, such as delicious roasted chicken, a generous portion of lean yet flavorful bbq pork, and even duck. The quality of their meat was high, and the items were never greasy (not that I really would mind).
What prevented Sun Ya from going over the top for me was the temperature of the food, which even when first delivered, was luke warm. Sun Ya, you have such a good thing going – who knows what you could be capable of with the retention of more heat!
Furthermore, though the basics like the honey walnut prawns and steamed pork pot stickers were enjoyable, none of these blew me away with their succulence, and believe me friends, this happens a lot to me. However, the delightful surprises of the various meat dishes, combined with the lack of failure on any item, would bring me back to Sun Ya many times over.
VIP Luncher: Larry from WaMuLunch: Family Style - $17.00
Fortune: You will receive an important telephone call.
My overall dining experience was great. I not only got to catch up with an old friend after 10 years, but also crash the MSG150 Crew's table for lunch. If you are contemplating a dining experience with this hardcore Crew, you should know that they appear to be open, talkative (in a good way), and optimistic that each restaurant experience will deliver good food. I had a great time. Thanks!
So here's my actual review: Sun Ya's pan-fried dumplings and duck were okay. Come to think of it, I don't recall any dim sum dishes. Well...I believe that speaks for itself. Lately, I've been easy to please. In terms of cleanliness, I did not see any cockroaches so ~ Great job, Sun Ya.
Luncher: JaredLunch: Family Style - $17.00
Fortune: You will receive an important telephone call.
Luncher: MichaelLunch: Family Style - $17.00
Fortune: Patience is a skill that can be learned.
Fantastic. This is where the crazy practice of visiting every single spot in the ID pays off. I don't think we ever would have stumbled on this place if we hadn't started this crazy road trip. Now we can get down to the serious business of arguing about what the best dim sum in Seattle is: Jade Garden or Sun Ya? The answer of course is neither. The best dim sum in Seattle is still 3 hours to the north in Richland/Vancouver.
At the risk of never being able to lunch with Geary and Adam again I suggest that Sun Ya is very nearly equal to or even better than Jade Garden. I propose we settle this question once and for all by going back and forth between Jade Garden and Sun Ya every day for at least a week. We need more data... and more shaomai.
The only thing I didn't see at Sun Ya was that goofy Sticky Rice thing that Geary always orders. I love that stuff, but its so heavy that it's nearly a meal in itself. Sun Ya did have awesome shrimp stuffed green peppers. Possibly the least popular item on the table. Which is good, because it leaves more for me.
The most important criteria: The Egg Tarts were pretty darn good. Maybe not burn your mouth fresh out of the oven ultra-awesomeness, but easily worth eating at least two.
Sun Ya PhotosSun Ya
BBQ Chicken (or Duck)
BBQ Duck (or Chicken)
Fried Squid remainders
Chicken Feet and spread
Honey Walnut Shrimp & Shrimp Stuffed Peppers
MSG150 & Guests
Jennifer 8 chocolate fortune cookies
04/17/08 - Added Larry's Review