QQ Bites brings Seattle up to speed in Taiwanese cuisine.
by Jay Friedman
July 26, 2018
The crowds at Facing East can be a bit daunting. Groups of young, predominantly Chinese patrons always await entry to this popular Taiwanese restaurant, creating long lines and making one wonder whether it’s worth rolling the dice on a trip to Bellevue.
Good news for Seattleites: Earlier this year, sister restaurant QQ Taiwanese Bites opened in the Denny Triangle area, serving up some highlights of the Facing East menu and more. Note, though, that QQ also offers a very different dining experience than Facing East. While Facing East is a full-service restaurant, QQ offers counter service.
Walk into the somewhat industrial chic yet sterile space (white with some orange accents) and you’ll face a menu board of mostly made-to-order items on the left, and a showcase of pre-prepared foods to the right. Aside from a handful of round tables, there’s a long communal table plus some seating that stares out to the street.
QQ seems suited to the young grab-and-go workers and residents of the area. The pre-prepared foods range from cold small plates like pig ear salad and braised tofu sheets to mains like mapo tofu and sweet & sour spare ribs. There are also dumpling and noodle offerings like steamed BBQ pork bao and Taiwanese rice vermicelli, with the packaging providing heating instructions when necessary. Drink choices include milk tea with boba (the chewy texture of the tapioca balls in bubble tea epitomize the meaning of QQ), bottles of house-made organic soybean milk with maple syrup, and “Qq special juice” with white mushroom, red dates, and longan berries.
From the menu board but ready-made are crispy sesame flatbread sandwiches (sao bing). They’re flaky and a little unwieldy; my sandwich with braised matsutake mushrooms and tofu sheets was dry, wanting for some sauce. You might have better luck with one of the other sandwiches, such as BBQ pork with pickled cucumber and ginger sesame sauce, or slow-cooked pulled beef brisket with cucumber, cilantro, green onions and hoisin sauce.
A better bet is the hallmark guaw bao pork burger. The braised pork belly is moist, and the steamed bun also includes pickled mustard greens, cilantro, roasted sugared peanuts, and sweet & sour sauce— all combining to contribute contrasting textures and flavors. Those pickled mustard greens are also a key ingredient in QQ/Facing East’s version of beef noodle soup, made with beef shank and bok choy, and a fine representation of Taiwan’s national dish.