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Originally published Friday, February 29, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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At Watercress Asian Bistro, the décor is modern, but the food is classic

Watercress Asian Bistro certainly knows how to do a Chinese restaurant, Eastside style. Smooth jazz background music. Earth-tone color scheme scheme...

Seattle Times staff reporter

Chinese $$ Watercress Asian Bistro

16505 Redmond Way, in Cleveland Square, Redmond, 425-284-3188, watercressasianbistro.com

Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Mondays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 4-9 p.m. Sundays.

Drinks: Beer, wine and hard alcohol.

Credit cards: Major cards accepted.

Access: No obstacles.

Rating: Recommended.

Watercress Asian Bistro certainly knows how to do a Chinese restaurant, Eastside style. Smooth jazz background music. Earth-tone color scheme. And a wine bar, too.

In the past three years, Chinese restaurants have been popping up in record numbers on the Eastside, mostly to take advantage of the large, affluent Chinese communities and high-tech work force in Bellevue and Redmond. Watercress Bistro, on Redmond Way in Cleveland Square, is among the latest, drawing crowds for its $10 lunch specials.

Watercress isn't your traditional Chinese-banquet restaurant, nor is it your modest noodle house. It's more middle-of-the road, with good service, ambience and food.

Here, most entrees range from $11 to $13 (the $18 Fragrant Crispy Duck is the most expensive offering) and the dining tables and chairs aren't cobbled together like your neighborhood Chinese joint.

Watercress serves cuisines from several regions in China, with a few other Asian dishes sprinkled in.

Still, the bistro plays it safe with pretty basic dishes. Highlights include spicy salt-and-pepper chicken or shrimp ($13); lettuce wraps with chicken and hoisin sauce ($8); and Xiao Li signature noodles ($13), shrimp, scallops and chicken stir-fried with egg noodles.

The large lunch specials ($10-$12) feature several of the bistro's specialties, including honey salmon and tilapia with black bean sauce. They are served with rice, egg roll and a soup (won ton, chicken egg drop or hot and sour), though neither the egg roll nor the soups were memorable.

There is a certain charm to a Chinese dive. But it's nice to stroll into a place like this and get the full restaurant treatment.

Tilapia in Black Bean Sauce: A fish once shunned by mainstream chefs has gained popularity in the past two years. This is one of the best dishes here. The crispy, mild-flavored tilapia works well with the spicy, salty black bean sauce and comes with stir-fried red bell peppers and onions over rice.

Savory Honey Salmon: A bit fishy. Chunks of salmon (some undermarinated, others too sweet) were served over a bed of perfectly cooked broccoli and bok choy — crunchy but not raw.

Potstickers: Chewy dough with pork filling — lightly pan-fried and not greasy — balances nicely with a ginger chili sauce.

Itemized bill, meal for two

Tilapia in Black Bean Sauce $12

Savory Honey Salmon $12

Potstickers with Ginger Chili Sauce $6

Tax $2.82

Total $32.82

Tan Vinh: 206-515-5656 or tvinh@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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