Szechuan 99: My new favorite Chinese restaurant

Kung Hei Fat Choi! Next Monday is Chinese New Year, and as we start the year of the Ox, I’ll shine a light on a great little Chinese food spot you may want to celebrate the New Year with. I love Chinese food. Of all the world’s great cuisines, food from China is arguably my favorite. I attribute this to my Dad. Dim sum, Cantonese, Szechuan – he loved everything Chinese and this sense of nostalgia stays with me today when I remember hanging out with my Dad eating great food.

In my opinion, Seattle does have strong options for Chinese food. From the dim sum at Jade Garden, the bbq pork at Kau Kau, the ginger chicken at Tai Tung, and the dumplings at Judy Fu’s – we do have great Chinese food throughout our city. All of these restaurants have specialties that are a favorite for a reason, but it wasn’t until I went to Lynnwood to a place that could rival them and become my new choice pick. Say hello to Szechuan 99.

In fact, I didn’t even know it was a new, cool restaurant until a good food friend suggested it. Always loving the idea of trying new Chinese restaurants, I had to give it a shot. Being that Szechuan 99 is in Lynnwood, I took the recommendation for granted and never visited until recently. A Friday earlier in the month would’ve been my dad’s birthday and we wanted to celebrate him by visiting a Chinese restaurant, I’m glad we did.

On first impression of the dining space, you won’t be wowed with decor and ambiance, but you will enjoy the delightfully retro (without trying to be so) vibe of the place. When you get the menu you’ll notice all sorts of stuff that you don’t normally see at most other places. Szechuan cuisine is the big show at Szechuan 99 and it provides for some interesting stuff to try.

The story of the place is pretty cool. Apparently, the owner, Mr. Huang, was a restaurant owner in Beijing and has worked as a head chef in New York, Houston and San Francisco. Word off the street is that he was looking for space only along 99, and when this spot opened up, Szechuan 99 was born. Food fans of South Snohomish and North King County appreciate. His background was Szechuan cuisine, so we knew we would be in for a spicy good time. And with new interesting menu items, we stepped outside ourselves a bit and decided to go out of our comfort zone.

Right off the bat we had to order the housemade bean curd in Hot Special Sauce. This was recommended by our friend Benson, big ups go to him as this was tasty. Tofu isn’t usually my thing, but it is the perfect vehicle for flavor and this was a good example of that. The texture was something I hadn’t tasted before; it was warm and silken, while holding up to the heat of the chile oil that was surrounding the bean curd. I’m by no means an expert of tofu or bean curd, but I did enjoy this dish and made me open my eyes to how tofu is malleable. Like clay, it’s up to the artist to mold it to their vision. The dish was a house speciality and underlines the theme of Szechuan food, that heat and spice are chief characteristics. And for under six bucks you get a good starter.

Other great things from the menu:

  • Princess Pork Buns – This was something that my brother was sprung on, and it was good. It’s not a steamed bun that most are used to. I’d say it’s closer to a dumpling, but semantics aside, it is a little jewel of flavor. The wrapper for the bun was chewy, while the crunch of the seared side with the soft pork on the inside played really well with each other.
  • Stir-fried Hand Shaven Noodles – This is one of the items on the menu that had us swooning. The noodles were bursting with flavor from the treatment they got. Tossed with chicken, the noodles had a surprisingly great chicken flavor. Couple this with the texture (firm and great chewiness), this noodle dish is one of the best from a Chinese restaurant in our area. I thought Judy Fu’s and Hing Loon were my favorite places to grab noodles, but something about the shaven noodles at Szechuan 99 really had me going. Order this.
  • Szechuan 99 Smoking Pork – We were so glad this dish was nothing like we expected. The pork was instead tea smoked bacon sauteed with zuccini and scallions, so tasty – especially when combined with rice. Order this for something different.
  • Red Pepper Chicken – This was recommended by our server and we’re glad we ordered it. This was the dish that was our tipping point towards loving S99. It was so different than most things I’ve had before. From the crunch, flavor, and the ingredients – it was so familiar, but so different from what I expected. I’m glad I was surprised by this dish. It was truly Szechuan in execution; spicy with loads of heat. For this dish, it was jampacked with garlic, pepper flakes, and dried chile peppers. These were all tossed with the chicken and lightly fried with green beans. All these elements were perfect together and I’ll sing the praises of this dish to all who will listen. Order this too.

I love the fact that Lynnwood finally has a great restaurant that isn’t a chain or big-box place. Lynnwood now has a food place that I’ll be more than happy to visit again and again. When friends I grew up with come back home to Lynnwood, we always end up in Seattle for dinner, now that we can go out for dinner in our old neighborhood for some really great eats.

I’ll be coming back to Szechuan 99 for a number of reasons. The great food, the super-friendly staff, and my love for Chinese food; all of these things all combine for a great place that is my new favorite. I’ll more than look forward to the 30 minute drive north. You should too.

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