Dinner at Spicy Talk Bistro (Redmond, WA)

Spicy Talk Bistro

After chef Cheng Biao Yang sold Szechwan Chef, foodies in these parts wondered if he was officially retired or would eventually open another restaurant. For whatever reasons, he seems to start new ventures periodically, having started Szechwan Chef in Bellevue after selling the highly-regarded Seven Stars Pepper in Seattle’s Little Saigon district. Luckily for his followers, he opened Spicy Talk Bistro in Redmond earlier this year. The restaurant is much smaller than Szechuan Chef, just as dark, and noisy as heck when it gets full. The menu also has many of the same entrées, but as you might guess from the name, there has been a definite shift toward spicier fare. This is not to say that many dishes at Szechwan Chef weren’t hot, incendiary even, such as the beloved crab piled with cupfuls of dried red chile peppers.

An outstanding appetizer is the cucumber with spicy sauce, cucumber cubes tossed with cilantro, green onions, sesame seeds and a soy-chile sauce that is really refreshing and zingy.

Cucumber with spicy sauce

The Chongqing chicken is the pretty much the same when Yang served it at Szechwan Chef, which should be great news to fans. Bite-sized chicken nuggets are battered and fried, then given a final dusting of salt and Szechwan peppercorns, served with pan-fried green beans and again liberal amounts of sliced green onions and dried red chile peppers. A wonderful dish.

Chongqing chicken

The dry cooked string beans were crispy and flavorful from Szechwan peppercorns and a soy-based sauce.

Dry cooked string beans

Finally, the Szechuan-style soft tofu in spicy gravy looks amazing and burns with fiery heat from dried red chile peppers, simmered in a brown bean sauce. Unfortunately, this dish lacked complex flavors. There are probably other tofu dishes that are better, though this one isn’t bad. Did I mention that it was really hot?

Szechuan-style soft tofu in spicy gravy

Dinnerware includes a shallow, wide bowl instead of dinner plates, which encourages you to scoop rice into them first to be topped with a small amount of entrees.

There was no crab special nor does STB serve hot pot. Daily specials are written on paper banners suspended from the ceiling (the “T” shapes in top photo). One of them was porcini mushrooms with chicken, which was kind of unexpected.

Spicy Talk Bistro
16650 Redmond Way (between N 168th Ave & Cleveland St)
Redmond, WA 98052

Dinner at Monsoon East (Bellevue, WA)

Twice before, we had gone to Monsoon East and enjoyed happy hour. Tonight, we got more serious and ordered from the menu.

We started out with two superb cocktails.

French Pearls Martini – Elderflower liqueur, lillet blanc, champagne, lemon twist and basil seeds that moved up and down with the champagne bubbles
Moondance – blueberry juice, huckleberry vodka, rhubarb bitters and champagne

French pearls martini and Moondance cocktails

The squid appetizer (pictured at the top) was very good—baby squid that were grilled and stuffed with minced duck, basil and jicama. They were “cute,” chubby little tubes that were tender and savory. They sat on a bed of shredded romaine dressed with a vinaigrette and were drizzled with a little green onion oil. Nice flavors.

The half chicken was moist and had a nice charred, crispy skin. The chicken hardly tasted of lemongrass, though it’s probably an indication of a well-balanced marinade. There was a green bean side with very flavorful baby oyster mushrooms. Also accompanying this dish was mashed taro with coconut flavor, a very interesting and, to us, a wonderful concoction.

Bricked lemongrass chicken

The star of the show was without question the catfish dish. It takes a mere 15 minutes over an intense flame to produce this deeply flavored claypot of catfish, onions, and chiles (both dried red and bird’s-eye) in a sweet soy-based sauce. It’s no wonder that it is a regularly featured item at both Monsoon locations.

Caramelized Idaho catfish claypot

The banana cake was kind of like a bread pudding, served as five small cubes, with a thick, salty coconut cream that provided a wonderful contrast to the dessert. There were also three insignificant squirts of a sweet mint syrup.

Banana cake with coconut cream

According to the waiter, other popular dishes are the Dungeness crab (either half or whole) stir-fried in a wok with black pepper and pineapple salad; and luc lac filet mignon with sweet onions, oxtail sauce and watercress.

Monsoon East
10245 Main St.
Bellevue, WA 98004