BY CARMELA LIM
From the building faÁade to its dining interior, China Gate Restaurant exudes antiquity. Fitting for its name, China Gate’s high red front wall resembles that of an ancient Chinese castle. The restaurant, built in the 1920s, is regarded as one of the ID’s historic buildings. It’s a landmark you cannot miss on Seventh Avenue South in Seattle’s Chinatown/International District.
As you enter the restaurant, you cannot help but notice the old cash register sitting atop the counter on the left. It’s the type of register you would only see in vintage and antique shops, or in movies in the ‘50s. I must admit that until I went to China Gate, I had never seen one in use before in my life. Not more than five seconds would pass until you’d immediately be greeted by owner Sonny Wong, his wife Macky Wong, or one of their helpful staff clad in traditional Chinese clothing. The same regal exterior could be seen in the dining area where the restaurant’s ceiling is beautifully decorated with dragon and ancient Chinese artwork.
But while everything on the surface seems like China Gate may be entrenched in the past, China Gate continues to innovate itself through what matters most — what’s on their menu. I recently visited China Gate to try out the new additions to their menu. Expecting typical, regular dishes, I was surprised to discover extraordinary dishes that were offered on the menu. The first sample of China Gate’s creative ingenuity: Coffee Pork Chop. It may sound a little peculiar at first, but the dish’s rich flavor will make you forget about any doubts you might have. Sonny Wong explains, “My wife and I came up with this dish to see how else we could make use of Seattle’s staple product — coffee. There’s a lot of coffee lovers here in Seattle, and we thought, why not?” There is a slight hint of bitter coffee after taste to it that blends well with the pork chop’s salty flavor. The deep-fried shrimp ball covered in a crunchy layer came with a special dip on the side. The flavor of the shrimp ball with the sauce reminded me of honey walnut prawns, but a little sweeter. The deep-fried crabmeat ball covered in seaweed was chewy in texture — add a touch of soy sauce and the flavor comes to life. My personal favorite is their original spicy chicken red curry. It is quite different from what you will find in Thai restaurants in that China Gate’s style doesn’t come with coconut. It’s also worth to note that it is rare for Chinese restaurants to serve curry dishes.
While China Gate offers regular food dishes such as dim sum, dumpling and sio mai, these special dishes are what set them apart from the other restaurants in the ID. Their novelty and desire to offer something new to the consumers prove that China Gate is anything but out of date.
China Gate is located at 516 Seventh Avenue. (206) 624-1730.