Dish: Black Bean Sauce Beef Chow Fun
Place: Regent Bakery and Cafe, Capitol Hill
On the plate: The menu doesn't offer any further description of the dish, but you're getting rice noodles with beef, red and green bell peppers, onions, and fermented black bean sauce.
Supporting cast/What to do: Same as with most of these dishes: Ask for chili sauce if you want more spice, and otherwise just dig in. These slippery, flat noodles provide a test of your chopstick skills.Noodling around: Chow means stir-fry and fun are rice noodles. I love wide noodles, which always draws me to this dish. At Regent, you can choose from several types of beef chow fun. For dry beef chow fun ($8.95), the noodles are stir-fried with a little soy sauce, but otherwise cooked "dry" to bring out the wok hei smokiness. Beef chow fun with sauce ($9.95) is wet-fried, so it comes with more of a gravy. A fan of fermented black beans, I went with the black bean sauce beef chow fun as it would offer the stronger flavor. (For a non-beef option, you can get spicy sauce shrimp and BBQ pork chow fun for $8.95.)
This noodle dish has pungent appeal from the black beans, the sauce coating the noodles in slippery fashion. They're soft with the slightest chew, the bell peppers offering a contrast in textures. There's a generous amount of beef on the plate, and I detected underlying flavors of garlic, ginger, and I'd guess sesame oil (traditional ingredients for chow fun).
As Regent is an American-style Chinese restaurant, you'll find other "American" dishes in the noodle section of the menu (Singapore rice noodles and chow mein), as well as in the non-noodle sections (including, yes, General Tso's chicken).
If you want more: There are predictable appetizers like crispy spring rolls (three for $4.95) and Chinese potstickers (six for $5.95), as well as a selection of meat or vegetable skewers ($1.75 each), but why not take advantage of being in a bakery? Select from a wide variety of cake slices, like the luscious chestnut ($3.85). It's spongy with layers of light cream and chestnut, and not nearly as heavy as many Western desserts.
Be aware/beware: Regent Bakery and Cafe just opened its Seattle location (there's also one in Redmond) on Wednesday, and was already drawing good crowds over the weekend. If you don't want a full meal, you can come for a slice of cake (or a whole cake!) with coffee or tea (including bubble tea), or perhaps a pick of Chinese pastries--which are also great to go. Look for hot dog buns, pineapple buns, a variety of croissants, and much more. While you order your cake at the counter, the pastries are self-service. Grab tongs and a tray to collect what you want, then proceed to the cashier.