Cha:n Is a Cute Little Place with Little, Little Dishes

Dish: Buckwheat Noodle Salad

Place: Cha:n, Downtown

Price: $9.00

In the bowl: From the menu: "buck wheat noodle salad with mixed vegetables, hardboiled egg and spicy vinaigrette." Those vegetables include shredded cabbage, red onion, cucumber, bean sprouts, kaiware (daikon sprouts), and maybe some microgreens.

Supporting cast/What to do: Some of the dishes at Cha:n, like the bibimbap and grilled short rib, come with a runny egg, requiring a mix of what's in the bowl before eating. That's not the case with the buckwheat salad, which is ready to roll.

Noodling around: This cold noodle salad is light and refreshing, and particularly appealing as a dish to enjoy during warm weather. Buckwheat noodles are a healthy choice for many reasons. For example, they contain a nutrient called rutin, an antioxidant that protects against high blood pressure and cholesterol. They're also an excellent source of magnesium, providing further cardiovascular benefits.

Part of the lightness of this dish is that there simply aren't a lot of noodles. But the greens are good, and the sesame seeded egg halves add substance. The vinaigrette has slight bite to it, but isn't especially spicy.

Word is that the owner is going for a more Westernized, fusioned version of Korean food, mellow on the spice level, as he doesn't want to scare people away from Korean food. While I appreciate the local ingredients and clean flavors, the food doesn't pack the punch that I typically enjoy about Korean food.

So Cha:n is not going for spiciness, and not going for authentic. As a result, I predict that most Korean food lovers are not going to Cha:n. My tablemates said they'll continue to go north to Shoreline and Lynnwood or south to Federal Way to find bolder Korean food.

If you want more: The question is not "If?" You'll want more. Portion sizes at Cha:n are small.

I would normally recommend the banchan sampler of assorted vegetables ($3). But the plate startled me. Banchan is free at most other Korean restaurants (typically with free refills), while here you pay for dollhouse portions. (BCD Tofu House, for example, gives a half-dozen or more banchan dishes, including a whole fried fish.) The shishito peppers are a nice touch, but the other items are slim pickings.

Having parked in front of Le Pichet, I was tempted to stop in for a rich chocolate chaud before leaving downtown.

Be aware/beware: This is the second restaurant in recent months to include a colon in its four-letter name. U:Don's colon creates a smile. Cha:n's creates a question mark.

The jewel-box space is beautiful, and the location is ideal for people looking for a place to go while near Pike Place Market. But Cha:n seems better framed as a bar than a restaurant, as the small plates are more like accompaniments for cocktails and other liquid consumables than components of a dining destination. In this sense, I'd include Cha:n as a Korean entry to my concern about new Asian restaurants in Seattle.

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