As I sank into one of the deep, sunken booths at on Redmond Way, it became clear that this Chinese restaurant is a little different.
With a nondescript strip mall awning out in front, it’s not apparent whether hole-in-the-wall delights or sketchy culinary misadventures await, but the décor is immediately enough to tip the scales toward the former.
The dark green walls are covered with orange hand- and footprints, and the variety of beadwork mobiles hanging from the ceiling give the place a distinctive atmosphere. So many Chinese restaurants and their menus are blandly interchangeable, but the markedly unique interior seemed to bode well for Spicy Talk.
That premonition was accurate, as Spicy Talk’s menu of Szechuan cuisine offers a number of uncommon options (dry tea mushroom with spicy chicken, hand shaven noodles and a whole host of lamb dishes) and knows how to deliver with generous portions of flavorful food that satisfy both spicy-loving and mild-mannered palates.
From the appetizer menu, the house special potstickers ($5.50) were steamed to perfection, with the wrapper finding the perfect balance between too firm and too mushy. The delicious accompanying sweet chili oil sauce made me want to drown the little suckers in it (and find a bottle of the stuff to douse future flavorless meals in).
Among the extensive selection of noodle, chicken, beef, pork, lamb, seafood and vegetarian dishes, our table settled on the honey walnut crispy chicken ($12.95) and the wild chili beef ($10.95).
Honey walnut chicken seems to be kind of a staple on Seattle-area Chinese restaurant menus, but I think Spicy Talk’s surpasses any other version of the dish I’ve tried. The breading/meat ratio can be a tough one to get right, but the deep-fried coating here is pleasantly crispy with a melt-in-your-mouth finish, and the chicken is substantial and tender. The sweet, creamy sauce could be a little overpowering, but it’s just right combined with the bed of cabbage the dish sits on or with some steamed rice.
The wild chili beef is a bit more representative of the spicy notes of Szechuan cuisine, with slightly chewy stir-fried beef mingling with the well-contrasted crispness of bok choy, green pepper and celery. The dish rates a level three on the spiciness scale (the menu lists certain dishes from one to five), and has a warm bite that encroaches slowly. Paired with rice, the spiciness is much less noticeable. Steamed rice is served separately from entrees and costs $1.25 per person.
A Wednesday evening meal found the place almost empty. I can only hope that it was an abnormally slow night, because if not, Redmond residents are really missing out.
Spicy Talk is open seven days a week, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday, noon to 9:30 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.