From architects to restaurateurs: Hunan’s new café arrives in Kirkland


You don’t often hear about architects making careers in the restaurant industry, but according to Sheng Zhao, an architect who did just that, it’s pretty common in his native China. He and his wife Ling Liu (also an architect) just opened Fan Tang Café, an Asian restaurant in Kirkland Houghton, earlier this month.

The idea for the restaurant is over two years old. They started planning in 2019, hoping for a 2020. First the deal failed, then Covid and the shutdown took place. The couple revamped their plan and began to develop their menu from a commissary in Tukwila.

“Of course, it’s scary to start a business during a pandemic,” Zhao said.

But he’s confident that the large, airy space, easy computerized ordering system, and takeaway window of their Kirkland brick and mortar will bring customers to enjoy their recipes, both traditional Chinese (especially from the province). of Hunan) and those with a Northwest Turn. Some of the ideas come straight from his and his wife’s family, and their time at Tukwila’s Commissary has proven to be something special.

Hunan is Liu’s home region, and Hunan-style recipes are spicy – considered spicier than even Sichuan food.

“When we go to other restaurants, she always asks if they have 10 stars [on a spiciness scale]Zhao laughed.

The couple have two children, their self-appointed tasters. Zhao says they’re picky eaters in general, but they love crispy chicken bites. On the other hand, he favors the sweet and sour pork tenderloin, or – a nod to the Northwest – the bowl of rice with salmon.

Eventually, he hopes to add some homemade bubble teas – none of the blends for him – but it’s a labor-intensive operation that they have to work on.

The space was designed by architects who were neither Zhao nor Liu. While it is said that doctors make the worst patients, Zhao says he enjoyed working with another professional to develop the appearance of the space. When I visited a few days before opening, the space was still waiting for some finishing touches, but the lighting, which looks like origami shapes floating in the air, was remarkable. Local Seattle artist Robert Williamson has done the colorful mural in the kitchen and control area, and he will be painting another on a dining room wall in the first two weeks after opening.

For now, service will be limited to dinner, Tuesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Later he says there is a possibility of traditional Chinese style breakfast or brunch.

The restaurant is located next to the Metropolitan Market at 10615 NW 68th St. It is also always actively recruiting for positions in the front and back of the house.


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