Seattle’s hot pot craze continues. Today, an intriguing new Sichuanese spot called Chengdu Memory is scheduled to open in the old Red Lantern location on Jackson Street in the Chinatown International District. Featuring large tables with recessed areas and fiery bowls of broth, the menu offers a single soup base or a combination of two. Chengdu Spicy is the main base (most indicative of the hot-pot-loving Chinese capital), but others include pork bone, mushroom, tomato, and a Sichuan pepper with pickled cabbage that provides a ma la (numbing and spicy) experience. There’s also the option of adding a bear figurine made of beef tallow for a richer flavor.
Typical of the Seattle area’s burgeoning hot pot scene (especially in Bellevue), Chengdu Memory’s menu includes a variety of meat selections, fish balls, vegetables, tofu, and mushrooms that diners can order a la carte or in combination platters to customize their hot pot experience. House specialties include deep-fried pork, cumin lamb, shrimp paste, and square bamboo shoots, while patrons also have the option to toss pork brain, beef aorta, and duck intestines (presented like prosciutto on a rack) into their boiling cauldrons. Diners can then fish out the cooked items from the flavorful broth and eat as-is, or dip into a self-made concoction from the sauce bar, with ingredients including sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and cilantro.
Owners Ryan Wu and Laura Luo are eager to share the cuisine and culture of Chengdu with the Seattle community. Wu, originally from Guangdong province, fell in love with Sichuan cuisine when his wife (and Chengdu native) Luo introduced it to his Cantonese palate. As in Chengdu, the restaurant will offer late-night dining — with current plans to be open until midnight daily, extending to 2am on Friday and Saturday nights. For lunch, Chengdu Memory offers the option of smaller but still hearty individual hot pots. With red accents highlighting two dining rooms full of art and stone features, the restaurant has ample seating and a relaxed atmosphere.
Chengdu Memory seems to be part of a second wave of Sichuan cuisine coming to Seattle. It joins Chuan on Capitol Hill, serving dry pot in contrast to Chengdu Memory’s hot pot, as one of the recent openings, while the renowned Chengdu Taste looks to be on the way to CID in the near future. It also continues the broadening out of regional representation of Chinese cuisine beyond Cantonese in the area, with recent provincial expansions including Shaanxi food (Qin, Xi’an Noodles), Guizhou (Qian Noodle), Guangxi (Luosifen), and Yunnan (with the inclusion of “crossing the bridge” noodles at Taste Rice Noodle).