One of the great openings of the year in the Chinese-American community of Bellevue is Nai Brother Chinese Sauerkraut Fish, located across from Dick’s in Bellevue. You might have flashbacks long queues when this local burger chain made its Eastside debut last year. The wait can also be long at this Chinese cafe if you’re dining on the weekend from 6-8pm (but it’s easy to score a table if you’re out of hours.)
Sauerkraut Fish soup has been popular in southwest China and other parts of Asia since the 1990s, but the English translation of “fish sauerkraut” baffles some Western diners. It is a fish soup enhanced with fermented umami from pickled green mustard. A few sauerkraut spots have popped up in King County in recent years, but they haven’t been as popular as their counterparts in Richmond, BC. But this new restaurant in the Pacific Village Center seems to have captivated many in the Chinese community. It does not Americanize its menu. Pig ears and chicken feet are on his entree list. (Don’t be that guy who walks in and asks if he has spring rolls.)
On with our roll call of new openings around the Eastside, North End and South End.
The east side
How to order on Nai Brother Chinese Sauerkraut Fish: choose one of the eight broths and a fillet (basa, snakehead or grass carp) for your common bowl. This comes with a side of rice. For starters, I suggest ordering several small snack bowls for your party. The signature sauerkraut fish bowl is bursting with pleasant acidity, layered with allium and bold flavors. But not everyone enjoys this deep, fermented funk. A good bowl for beginners is “green pepper fish”, who has a milder, milder taste with a few Sichuan peppercorns to give the soup a kick. Order each bowl with a different fish. Basa fillet has softer flesh, while grass carp has a denser, chewier bite.
Bobby Moore, the former executive chef of The Barking Frog in Woodinville, takes his second act to Main Street in the Old Bellevue shopping district. He opens his namesake Bar Moorea French-inspired cocktail bar, and he also bought Bis on Main bistro a few doors down. Moore went light-hearted to placate regulars who fear their favorite miso cod from the Bis on Main menu will be replaced by trendy dishes or the dining room will be infiltrated by hipsters. Never fear, Moore said. “I took over an institution… I wanted to honor what was happening there. If I wanted to change everything, I would have just started a new restaurant.
Bis on Main makes arguably the best fries in Bellevue, like McDonald’s but flavored with truffle oil. Moore now serves these truffle fries with a side of roasted garlic dijonnaise. The chef added that there will be little to no changes to the pending dishes: cod with miso, rigatoni bolognese and garlic chicken. As for his own dishes, the chef added seven menu items ranging from egg yolk ravioli to spicy garlic prawns. Moore will give the dining room a facelift after the holidays.
Big news on the dessert front. Not only Bellevue Square marks an outpost of the famous Milk Bar (opening soon)but the mall landed the much sought-after franchise ice monster, known for its fruity, puffy shave ice that’s all the rage among teens these days. (Tomo at White Center, however, makes the undisputed best shaved ice in Puget Sound. We break down the layers of Tomo’s masterpiece here.)
Kirkland gets the steakhouse Botteco Brazilthe bubble tea chain happy lemon and Early bird cafe. Early Bird is not joking. Weekday dim sum ends at 11am and that’s it. If you’re a late riser, head out on the weekends when shrimp dumplings and other dim sum favorites are served until 2 p.m. My colleague, the woman in town, Jackie Varriano dropped her dispatch on Early Bird and a stellar restaurant in Hunan in the Houghton district Last week. (Speaking of Chinese restaurants, look for our review next week on a dim sum parlor we think is the best in Puget Sound.)
Issaquah gets the Drunk cow burger barwhich has a large fanbase for its gourmet burgers.
Woodinville gets Island Blends Acai and Poke.
In Redmond, Los Chilangos, which has a fleet of food trucks that tour farmers markets and gas stations, is expanding with a brick and mortar at the Marbella Retail Center in Redmond and is about a month away from opening a second taqueria in Redmond Ridge. They make excellent carnitas. The local chain is working with a bartender to launch a tequila bar program at both restaurants.
In the south
Burien gets Lowrider cookie company. It was one of the unexpected hits, with long queues at weekends. These chewy s’mores cookies are worth the wait. (Speaking of cookies, you’ll love our November 27 holiday cookie guide from fellow accomplished bakers Taylor Blatchford and Anika Varty.)
Kent gets Pho T&Lwhich belongs to a new owner and features numerous rice and vermicelli noodle dishes as well as its namesake soup.
Des Moines gets Tandoori Slice, which specializes in Indian fusion pizza with chicken tikka and paneer cheese toppings. For the uninitiated, Indian pizza is popular around the Eastside and South End. For more details, check out our roundup of the best Indian pizzas in Puget Sound. here.
In Aubrun, PHOnominal Teriyaki serves Vietnamese staples of beef soup and banh mi with its namesake chicken.
Federal Way, home to some of the best Korean restaurants in the Northwest, gets Chosun Korean BBQ and its glorious array of wagyu beef and USDA prime cuts.
North of Seattle
Alderwood Shopping Centre, which has already landed the North End’s grand opening of the year, Baekjeonghas two more popular Asian restaurants. Kizuki Ramen & Izakaya opens its 10th noodle house in western Washington. It is known for its garlicky tonkotsu ramen with a high-fat broth that borders on sauce. Also Swish Swish Stockpot opens nearby, offering 15 different broths in which to dip your wagyu beef.
Shoreline obtains a branch of Pizza Round Table.
And Mountlake Terrace gets BW Noodle Companywhich specializes in Thai soups, although you can get the basic pad thai to take away.