3004 N. Monroe
(Note: I'm cleaning out the old Making Flippy Floppy Archives, so I'll be resurrecting some old reviews that will never make the paper but that I didn't want to lose forever. This one is from May, 2005. I haven't been back to King Yen since, but I've heard it's still worth a visit.)
It was a tough call: should we indulge at our old favorite Peking Palace or should we branch out and experiment. We opted for the latter, leaving the Value Village parking lot on Boone and deciding to hit whatever random Chinese restaurant happened to just pop up. We headed north on Monroe and stumbled upon the King Yen Restaurant. We only found it because we were looking really, really close and paying attention, otherwise we would've slipped past this nondescript little grey brick building without a thought. I was leery, but there were quite a few cars in the lot, and that's always a good sign.
The May sun beat down hard, and across the street a sweaty, ultra-skinny, shirtless and be-mulleted Spokanite weed-wacked his way around piles of rotting garbage. Despite this, we held tight to our appetites and made our way in. A cool breeze hit us as we made our way into the foyer of one of the most absolutely starkest Chinese joints I have ever seen. It looks like they remodeled a while back, then forgot to put everything back up. Only a simple red lantern hanging in the corner and a framed print of the great wall indicate what type of cuisine you might end up with. In fact, if they were forced to switch genres and become a Jewish deli, it would take them about ten minutes to make the switch.
Aisles of forest green chairs and tables gathered in a flat, open space with crisp white walls and overhead fluorescent lights create a cafeteria style atmosphere. Very clean, albeit quite boring. Bonus points for the inclusion of real plants rather than the usual dust-gathering plastic palms. Also a nice touch was the Chinese bubblegum pop music on the soundsystem, beamed mysteriously in from the other side of the globe. Unfortunately, the ample windows also provided a clear shot of the yard-working Spokanite, a disturbing fact that I somehow managed to tune out since I was so extrordinarily hungry.
From the looks on the faces of other diners, we were in for something fine. The menu (online here) here is mindbendingly expansive for those looking beyond the usual combination platter. Not I. I picked the Number C, ripe with the promise of Lemon Chicken, Egg Roll, Combo Fried Rice and Soup. Here they offer the option of Egg FlowerHot and Sour, a rarity here in the great Northwest, and something I love. Naturally I had to try the Hot and Sour.
Our lovely waitress never made it very far into her English lessons, but that's what pointing is for, I guess. Apparently unfamiliar with the phrase "Fried WonTons", I actually had to open the menu and refer to the Chinese text, making little frying-and-eating triangular motions with my hands until she began nodding with understanding. "Ah! Fly-uh Wah-Tah. OK!" Fried WonTons are different everywhere and King Yen has some of the best. Perfectly sizzled in hot oil and filled with a cream cheese filling, these were just the thing to whet our appetites, all drizzled in the sweet red sauce they were served with.
The Hot and Sour Soup was equally impressive. I thought the heat was adequate, but Lou had to jazz his up with a small scoop of hot chili sauce. Ouch. I thought it was odd that each item in our combination dinners arrived on a separate plate, family style, but that turned out OK because we just decided to share each other's main dishes. The glaze on my Lemon Chicken was fine, and served with real lemon wedges, but nothing to scream and moan over. The chicken itself was a bit overcooked, sadly, making it a little on the chewy side. Lou's Schezuan Beef was better, strips of medium beef with chunky green onions and chili peppers, just the right amount of spiciness in the potentially addictive sauce. The egg roll was good, and served with its own plum dipping sauce and with a very thin, crisp shell, vietnamese style.
Our timing was superb, because just as we were served, in walked a family-reunion style group of about forty hungry Asian-types, all yammering away in an undetermined language, complete with screaming kids. Suddenly the tranquil atmosphere was shatterered and we struggled to finish our meal as fast as possible and get the heck out of there.
As I dumped my poor never-to-be-finished chicken into a Styrofoam to-go container, Lou swiftly paid the $17 tab (not bad!) and we left the brightly lit King Yen chaos behind, waving goodbye to Mr. Mullet as we sped off. Overall, the food was decent for a good price, and they could certainly use your business so they can afford to splurge on some more decor.