Lionhead, Seattle WA

I was feeling restless last night so I decided to splurge on dinner out. I’d heard good things about Lionhead from a chef friend and always enjoy trying to melt my face off with spicy cuisines, so went there. Cute room, small and packed with tables (maybe 30-40 seats?) with a bar at the back.

http://www.lionheadseattle.com/

Now I’ll admit that if I had really wanted to try all of the spiciest dishes I could have asked for direction, instead I took my chances in trying to find a good assortment of smaller plates including some spice.

My favorite dish was the Dan Dan Mian, ($6 for a small bowl) “wheat noodles with pork and hot-numbing sauce” because it was the most intensely seasoned. It was not overwhelmingly hot or numbing and I found the starchy thickness of the sauce a bit odd but overall it was satisfying. It didn’t melt anything but it was very flavorful.

Second favorite was the Silky Eggplant Salad with sesame and mature-vinegar dressing, $7. It was a huge pile of eggplant, silky as promised, with a nice savory balance of sesame and vinegar. Light but well put together.

There were two less impressive dishes: the Smashed Cucumber and Radish Salad with garlic and Sichuan pepper dressing, $7. It was just kind of bland, there was garlic here and there but I didn’t get any numbing Sichuan pepper or even much spice from the radish. Also the Tendon Bao steamed bun filled with spiced braised beef tendon, $4. It was a fluffy bun with tender filling but again not deeply flavored. The server caught me looking around for condiments and brought over some chili flake in oil, which helped. Are steamed buns meant to be eaten without condiments? I always like some chili and/or soy or hot mustard with mine. Everything was nicely executed in a technical sense, just not as deeply flavored or spiced as I was desiring.

I left full, with some of each of the salads to enjoy later today. But all in all, I remain skeptical of Asian restaurants run by Caucasians (Kraken Congee was even more Meh). I’ll go to Sichuanese Cuisine in the ID next time I want my lips to tingle.

I went for my first visit a few weeks ago and tried the Dan Dan Noodles (a favorite dish in general) as well as the Meatballs with clams and cellophane noodles. The meat sauce in the Dan Dan was better than expected but the actual noodle itself threw me off… I think I had pictured something firmer and al dente, whereas what I got seemed limp and didn’t complement the sauce as well as it could, in my mind. I’m enamored by Jia Jiang Mian from San Gabriel Valley in LA, and the Dan Dan from Dough Zone… the Dan Dan sauce saved the dish for me and I’d probably go back for it, although not in a rush anytime soon.

On the other hand, the meatballs just wasn’t my cup of tea. The only flavor in it came from five spice powder that was so overwhelming that it gave off a bit of a chemical aftertaste.

“Food is a pretty good prism through which to view humanity.”

― Jonathan Gold