The Viand Pundit reviews Burien’s King Wha Mandarin Restaurant
The following is a new regular review column by ‘The Viand Pundit,’ our new, anonymous restaurant critic:
King Wha Restaurant Review
by Viand Pundit
605 SW 152nd Street
Burien, Washington 98166
As I walk east on Burien’s SW 152nd street, it is a veritable restaurant row. I can smell the mystical aromas of spices long before I turn the corner.
I have a real love/hate relationship with Asian food, as I really enjoy it, when it is done right. Miss the mark and my love quickly turns to hate.
I place much respect to the mighty King Wha Restaurant as it has been an icon in the Burien area since 1975. “King Wha” does not exist according to an Internet search, except for about 112 places with a similar name. However, The Gojoseon period after the arrival of the Han Chinese sage Gojoseon also known as Gija Joseon (1120–194 BC) in the northwest of Korean peninsula.of Korean history. Therefore “King Wha” was the 35th king of Gija Joseon. He reigned from 361 BC to 342 BC. His true name was Wha. He was succeeded by Ho of Gojoseon. So by namesake they offer Korean, Chinese Szechwan and Mandarin cuisines
As I pass the outdoor sign with the fenestration “A” and open the door, the massive splendor of the restaurant absorbs you into its culture from the Pagoda-shaped “Please wait to be seated” sign and up to the very impressive “tin” ceiling tiles with the ever present dragon with its pearl of wisdom. I wonder if they could be the artwork of Olde Burien and Ernie Eder’s Hi-Line Tin Shop that operated into the 90’s. The washrooms are very clean, bright white. Nicely updated sinks and commode. Looking up again reveals the impressive tin ceiling tiles. The commercial kitchen is always busy with a soft clatter of creativity at work, and I can hear the breath of the dragon in the kitchen’s Mandarin style grill. I am quickly seated in the bench style seating which has been updated from the old sit to the side because of a dip in the seat to a comfortable cool blue with a scenic Przewalski’s Mongolian wild horses running in full gallop on a distinct Asian plain. I also notice that the wait service was actually quite markedly improved. The menu declares “Our goal is to attain a perfect harmony of taste, texture, color and aroma by balancing the delicate principles of Chinese cuisine.” I love it! I read on: “Our chefs are respectful of the culture, traditions and proven methods that are behind the dishes they prepare.”
Tea: It is most important to realize the history of the most humble tea in this cuisine. The introduction of Chinese tea culture by the Buddhist of some of the earliest Buddhist temples in Korea, Bulgapsa has long been an article of trade, compressed bricks of black tea even served as a form of de facto currency in Mongolia, Tibet and Siberia. I have been offered “black tea” in the ever mysterious 32 oz. Winco stainless steel goose neck teapot (how to pour this without dripping?). Now, “black tea” is what it is called here in the west, and “red tea” in Asia, which refers to the color of the oxidized leaves, which is more oxidized than oolong, green and white teas. It is called hongcha. I take great delight in its taste and fragrance. I hunger for delights and start with the appetizers.
Crab Rangoon: These crunchy deep-fried wanton wonders have a warm and creamy inside surprise of garlic, cream cheese, crab and perhaps green onions served with a Worcestershire and soy sauce for dipping.
Egg Roll: Another crunchy deep fried favorite with its steamy vegetable mixture is enjoyed with a sweet red sauce although I prefer the hot chinese mustard.
Barbecue Pork: This tasty treat is usually based on a mixture of red food coloring, soy sauce, honey, ketchup, brown sugar, rice wine, hoisin sauce and Chinese five-spice powder, although the red should come from proper slow smoking techniques.
Enough of the deep fried food, I feel the need to move to start this course with a healthy inside warming bowl of soup.
Egg Flower Soup- Always simple, always elegant with its chicken broth, white pepper, and sesame oil that danced the drizzled egg into a lacy web of satisfying taste.
Seafood Soup: This soup is simply loaded with generous amounts of pink shrimp, and white scallops seafood with vegetables of Bamboo shoots, Mushrooms, pea pods, broccoli in a fish stock, and what could be kaffir lime leaves. Now mind you that Jjamppong is a popular Korean-Chinese spicy noodle and absent was the tamarind, a sweet sour component and the noodles. This version was too mild in taste. I enjoy the balance somewhere between tasting the ocean and the the spices, The body was lacking so I added just a dash of red chili sauce and a splash from my tea pot for it’s tannic acid brought this dish into the zone I enjoy. Wonderful.
I have not tried the Vegetables or Tofu but will return to try the Egg Foo Young, so we move into the main courses.
Curry Beef: Usually and simply thin strips of golden brown steak, potatoes, onion and the curry powder meld with a dash of chili sauce, soy sauce, beef stock, sherry and cornflour for thickening. This version was in line with the standard although, I wish they had other curry dishes as I could eat a mountain of this treat.
Mongolian Beef: This tender sliced beef with green onions, hot peppers served with a side of rice is always a crowd pleaser with the right zing of the chili heat
General Tso’s Chicken: This is my favorite standard I tend to order first. I love the taste of the cooked golden garlic and chilies. sugar, the snap of the ginger, The deep fried batter coating keeps them all in line. This dish screams out for the white meat cut but this version used the dark meat and the greasy component kills the delicate flavors..Not so good.
Chicken Chow Mein- The most simple to prepare dish yet this brought my biggest disappointment. The initial taste was very salty probably from the MSG component.
It’s just chicken in a chicken stock, soy sauce and sesame oil, then toss in the noodles. Again the dark chicken meat was way too greasy and was overwhelming. I’m not in love anymore. Lose the grease and we can maybe talk again someday.
Music: I enjoyed the very soft appropriate ambiance music is heard thru the eclectic musical speaker placement, The speakers may lead back to the intricate Karaoke system in the very nicely refurbished bar area which appears to be decked out with those crazy dancing flowers. Some night when I need a stiff drink that should be a hoot! My impression is that a Friday night of live traditional Asian music or live classical quartet could pack this vast seating restaurant. Although not actually appropriate here, I would go fifty miles out of my way for early Vietnamese 70’s Saigon Rock & Soul music. It is really in it’s own class by itself; but, Back to B-town.
No American style Chinese would be complete without your Fortune Cookie – I always add the term “In Burien” to mine and it read “Be Careful What you wish for, You just might get It” (In Burien).
Thank you for reading my review.