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Friday, May 19, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Dining Deals

Yum yum dim sum

Special to The Seattle Times

One of my daughter's favorite board books, "Yum Yum Dim Sum" by Amy Wilson Sanger, features classic dim-sum offerings like har gau, stuffed tofu, shu mai and barbecue pork buns. Sentosa, a Chinese restaurant in downtown Kirkland, brought the book to life. It's a dim-sum greatest-hits collection, never challenging but often homey and delicious.

Housed in a high-ceilinged room in the heart of downtown Kirkland, Sentosa has the white-tablecloth look of a Chinese banquet hall, without any gaudy bright-red accents. Its large tables are oddly devoid of lazy Susans, which meant lots of passing dishes around.

Sentosa isn't only for large groups; there were singles and couples dining as well, and the place was buzzing on a Saturday morning.

Service at Sentosa is friendly but spotty. Naturally there was a parade of dim-sum plates (some are offered from carts, but most dishes are walked around on platters), but when I asked for dessert from the case in front, they seemed perplexed about how to deliver it.

Sentosa Asian Cuisine and Bakery


107 Lake St., Kirkland; 425-822-9082

Chinese

$$

Hours: 11 a.m.- 10 p.m. Mondays-Fridays; 9:30 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; dim sum until 3 p.m. daily.

Beer and wine / credit cards: V, MC / no obstacles to access.

Aside from dim sum, which is served every day until 3 p.m., Sentosa offers a full lunch and dinner menu of mostly standard Chinese fare, with some intriguing items like Pea Leaves in High-Grade Soup Sauce ($10.95). There's a lunch special that runs from the standard (General Tso's Chicken, $5.95) to the exotic (Stir-Fried Malaysian Fish Cake, $7.95).

I wouldn't drive a long way to go to Sentosa, but if it's your dim-sum local, consider yourself lucky.

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Various dim-sum items:The best plate was pan-fried seafood buns with greens, which was fresh-tasting and perfectly cooked. Fried items were less greasy than at an average dim-sum parlor. Chinese broccoli was too crisp and could have steamed for a minute longer. But the shu mai and har gau were oversteamed, to the point where they were no longer tender. Potstickers had excellent flavor and suffered just slightly from the "meatball effect" where the filling is more chewy than smooth.

Overall, though, a satisfying collection.

Cream puff: Sentosa's dessert case is beautiful but soulless, consisting largely of bland American desserts like this cream puff, dry pastry filled with overwhipped cream. The pastry was cut to look like a swan, so at least it was cute.

Itemized bill, meal for two

Various dim-sum items $24

Cream puff $1.95

Tax $2.41

Total $28.36

Matthew Amster-Burton: matthew.reviews@gmail.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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