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China Harbor or Seven Stars Pepper?

In a town run rampant with teriyaki and phở, it’s hard to find good Chinese food. Hell, Chinese food in general. And by good Chinese food I mean a decent general tso or spicy orange chicken, so by good Chinese I mean good Szechuan, but I guess I really mean American-Chinese. Teriyaki shacks are on every corner, and the phở joints are as common as coffee shacks.

But the General Tso, he’s scarce.

China Harbor is located on Westlake Avenue on Lake Union and is less than two miles from my house. I’ve only been there about half a dozen times, but the last time I went there we had a pretty good experience so I thought I’d tell you about it. I had the Jing dinner ($12) which is general tso and the typical trimmings (soup, spring roll, rice, pork), and James had the Hai ($11), same thing except the entree is Mongolian beef. I have zero idea what the difference is with Sczechuan beef and Mongolian beef, but I’m sure there’s a good explanation somewhere that involves somebody’s Aunt Trudy.

The views at China Harbor are pretty cool. If you like looking out at boats and overpopulated hillsides.

Starting out with a nice cup of tea is always, well, nice.

A little bit of egg flower soup. The broth wasn’t as chicken-flavored as I normally like, but tasty.

Mmm, condiments.

Mongolian beef. Spicy and delicious.

I know I should eat healthier foods, but every.single.time I’m ordering the spicy and sweet chicken dish. This General Tso’s at China Harbor is very very good. I love it. The slices of pork, not so much. And as it turns out? I don’t need to feel bad about the dangers of eating bad foods.

The cookie tells all.

The other Chinese spot we visit frequently is Seven Stars Pepper. I’d link to the place, but it appears they’re so good, they don’t need a website.

Seven Stars is located on 12th and Jackson in the International District and parking is a nightmare. If you can’t find it right away, well neither could I. It’s on the second floor of the shopping center at the right end of the building.

Nice cuppa tea, now there’s a dear.

I could say that it was for the science of comparisons that we ordered the same dishes, but we generally always order similar dishes, so it’s no happy little accident that it happened that we ordered the Szechuan beef and the Mandarin chicken. Same dishes, different names.

The beef at Seven Stars is spicier, but not as flavorful as China Harbor. They’re both good stuff.

The chicken dishes at both places were equally good to me, as long as I didn’t get a whole chili in my mouth at any one time.

Overall the food in both places is pretty similar, with China Harbor’s being more pleasing to James. It seems to depend on the day that you go to either place, in my opinion. Some days the chicken is tastier at China Harbor, others, it seems like the sauce was just mixed and the flavors didn’t have time to mingle.

Honestly, I could eat at either place. Seven Stars Peppers is pricier than China Harbor–the entrees are a la carte, and average about $10 each. Rice, spring rolls, and soup are all extra, which amounted to a pricer bill. And though the staff at China Harbor are polite, Seven Stars Peppers has treated us like family from the time we’ve been. In fact, the last time we were there it was a late Friday night and close to closing time. As were paying our bill, I saw one of the owners setting the table for the staff’s dinner. I asked her what they were having.

The white dish at the top is a steamed egg dish, and to the left is pork intestines (yep, chitlins), then fish and green beans, and vermicelli. A little too exotic for me, but it looked good. Earlier I’d noticed another table having a good time with their noodle cooking, and they very nicely allowed me to photograph the procedure.

Looks like a good time, as I like an interactive meal, but maybe too exotic for my lame taste buds. Then again, the fortune cookie may be telling me something.

I think this post is proof that I can find tame food in exotic places.

So which is better? The food at both are good, but for a fast meal at better prices, go to China Harbor. For a more authentic Chinese experience with great ambiance and service, along with really crappy parking, visit the Seven Stars. Maybe I haven’t been diligent enough in my search for good Chinese, but these two are about as good as it gets in Seattle. Unless somebody out there knows something I don’t, in which case, please share the wealth.

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