What: Something off the Chinese menu
Where: Yea's Wok, 6969 Coal Creek Pkwy SE, Newcastle, 425-644-5546.
How much? Somewhere in between $10 and $14 (couldn't read the receipt)
Would I order it again? Oh, yes.
Official tasting notes: For two years now I've been hearing about the Taiwanese food at Yea's Wok, a strip-mall restaurant close to Factoria. When I drove up, though, the sign said it served Szechuan, Hunan, and Mandarin (read: Chinese-American) cuisines. I took a buzzer from the host -- apparently, the waits can be long -- and picked up the English menu. Barely any Taiwanese dishes, but lots of the beef with broccoli/Hunan chicken kind. I asked the host whether the Chinese menu was different. "Oh, yes," she replied. Was there a translation? "No. But maybe you can get the waiter to help you with it."
Luckily, our waiter did help us out, selling us on the classic three-cup chicken (cooked in soy, rice wine, and sesame oil, with ginger and basil), which was great, and this dish above, tofu strips tossed with mustard greens, fresh soybeans, and mushrooms. I didn't realize until it arrived that I had eaten the dish a number of times before in the Bay Area, and Yea's version had the best balance of pungent greens, silky tofu, and meaty mushrooms of any I've tried.
Our server also sold us on one dish that you can find on the English menu: clams in black bean sauce, pictured above. (Well, the waiter first brought us clams in basil, which we sent back, and then they reappeared 60 seconds later with most of the basil leaves picked out and some fermented black beans tossed in -- they were still so tasty, though, I had no right to complain.)
All in all, a good meal, but I'm baffled: After being in business for more than a decade, Yea's Wok's bilingual staff can't write up one page translating its Taiwanese specialties into English? It's not just for white people. I've gone out to dinner with a number of second-generation Americans who, even if they understand Mandarin or Cantonese, can't read Chinese characters that well.
Grumble, grumble. If you know of any other top-secret dishes I should be ordering when I go back to Yea's Wok, clue me in.