It’s no secret that Seattle has a thriving international district. With hubs like Uwajimaya centrally located downtown, and a teriyaki stand or sushi joint on nearly every corner, the city is a haven for those with an appreciation for Asian cuisine.
But while the hotspots downtown are relatively well-known, where should you go to get your fix if you live north of the light rail? As it turns out, Northgate has a smattering of Asian food offerings — with the added benefit that aside from delicious, authentic meals, most of these spots have parking — a commodity that any true Seattlelite will appreciate as much as the perfect bowl of pho.
Pho Country House
Zesty, comforting and oh-so-filling, is there anything better than a hot bowl of pho to warm up a rainy Seattle day? The Vietnamese noodle soup dish has been making a splash in recent years, with new pho stands opening every day. But the true disciples of this dish know that the best pho often comes from the most unassuming places.
Located just off Aurora Avenue in Northgate, Pho Country House beckons customers with a creamy yellow exterior and a sign proudly declaring “No MSG.” Despite the cars racing past outside, the divey interior is cool and quiet — the perfect place to enjoy some local flavor and watch the world pass you by.
The service is quick and friendly, and whether you want to become a regular at this pho establishment or get your goods to go, the dish holds up well over a short car ride. If you get your meal to go, the restaurant thoughtfully separates the salty, filling broth base from the fresh ingredients which include your meat or protein of choice, rice noodles, bean sprouts, fresh-cut onions, jalapeños, cilantro and basil. This separation is key because it keeps the soup ingredients fresh before you’re ready to chow down.
While it has widely appealing offerings such as beef brisket, meatball and chicken pho, Pho Country House also has something for the adventurous or die-hard pho lovers with its tripe, tendon and oxtail pho. The salty, flavorful soup base will be masterfully complimented by whatever toppings you choose, and a stop by Pho Country House is certainly a time-honored pick-me-up on a gray Seattle day.
Kizuki Ramen and Izakaya
On the subject of noodle dishes, Japan offers its own cultural contribution in the form of salty, fatty and delectable ramen. But let’s be clear: This is not your average college student’s ramen. Traditional Japanese ramen is an experience, incorporating layered flavors and a variety of ingredients to elevate the dish into something worth going out for.
With this in mind, Kizuki Ramen and Izakaya should be everyone’s go-to spot for an authentic ramen experience. Though it is a national chain, with restaurants in Washington, Oregon, Illinois and Indiana, the majority of Kizuki’s locations are here in the Evergreen State, and one in particular is across the street from the former Northgate Mall.
The suave, Japanese-inspired interior belies the indulgent nature of Kizuki’s ramen, adding an element of flair to what can otherwise be a somewhat messy dish. The ramen itself is impeccable, with the bowls including traditional ingredients like seaweed, bean sprouts, soft-boiled egg, fishcake, bamboo and your choice of protein. While many visitors will choose something familiar such as chicken or pork, Kizuki’s pork chashu (pork belly) adds a richness and depth of flavor that is easily worth the $3 add-on.
In addition to this, Kizuki’s ramen broth alone is worth a visit. The establishment offers the basic varieties of broth, including shio (salt flavored), shoyu (soy sauce), miso and tonkatsu (pork-based). Each is masterfully done, creating a full umami flavor with a unique balance of acid, saltiness and fat depending on your choice. As with all authentic ramen dishes, the broth is just as important as the toppings — a fact Kizuki fully understands as they create an eminently-sippable broth for all of their dishes.
Finally, for those looking for something a little more familiar, Kizuki’s chicken karaage rivals anything KFC can dish out. The traditional Japanese deep-fried chicken can be purchased as an appetizer with dipping sauce, or enjoyed as a meal in its own right on a bed of rice. Crunchy and savory, it’s a guarantee that anyone who visits will find something to enjoy at Kizuki Ramen.
Another cuisine that has exploded in popularity recently is poké — a traditionally Hawaiian dish that has gained a following in many Pacific island cultures and communities. With raw fish as the main ingredient, poké appeals to fans of sushi, though the two should not be confused. Typical poké includes fish (most often tuna or salmon), seaweed, cucumber and crab salad over a bed of rice, greens or both. Different establishments may offer various sauces or mix-ins, making each poké experience truly unique.
Located on Northgate Way in the same outlet as Target, Poké Café is an ideal location if you’re looking for a quick bite while you’re out shopping. The cheery, bright yellow exterior is hard to miss, and its central location is hard to beat. The cafe casts a wide net in terms of food, offering poké bowls, traditional báhn mì, rice bowls and boba tea — all at a reasonable price.
While it may not have an extensive array of ingredients and mix-ins for the poké, Poké Café’s fish is well-marinated, and its rice is piping hot and cooked perfectly. The result is a decent restaurant that has something for everyone, perfect if you’re craving something a little tropical in the midst of your shopping.
With a bright neon sign to light up the night sky, crisp white tablecloths and an expansive selection of wine, beer and spirits, Saffron Grill is not your typical Indian joint.
Though the restaurant is relatively new, the owner, Mohammed Bhatti, has over 20 years of experience bringing highly-rated Indian and Mediterranean cuisine to diners. Bhatti’s approach is simple: Give them a taste of everything. Rather than limiting his cuisine to one region of the Indian subcontinent, Bhatti’s menu is enormous, with pages of curry, tandoori, Mediterranean dishes, a wide selection of naan and even a few American standbys (picky eaters — what are you going to do?) to choose from.
For those feeling lost flipping through the massive menu, you can never go wrong with Saffron Grill’s specialty, butter chicken. Simmered in a savory tomato butter-cream sauce, the dish is completed with aromatic saffron basmati rice. Some naan for the table makes it easy to soak up every drop of sauce left on your plate — an irresistible temptation once you’ve sampled the meal.
While Saffron Grill certainly has an upscale vibe that Western diners will recognize, its portions do not reflect this. The generous serving sizes typically feed at least two people, and the waitstaff is quick to offer to-go boxes and extra rice to take home with you to enjoy the rest of the sumptuous meal later.
Though you wouldn’t expect such an impeccable establishment on Northgate Way, Saffron Grill is the perfect place to impress the in-laws or treat your special someone to a night out on the town.
Try Asian Cuisine in Northgate
No matter what your personal preferences, Northgate has a surprising array of Asian restaurants, representing many regions of the continent. The best way to find your new personal favorite is to live a little adventurously — try a new cuisine or ingredient, and discover why so many people have come to treasure the varied flavors of this region.