The brainchild of iconic Chef Jeem Han Locke, Wild Ginger has been one of Seattle’s best restaurants for over 20 years. What does it take to maintain a fanatic following for decades in an era when new restaurants pop up on a daily basis and people’s attention spans are fleeting? It takes the perfect execution of stellar teamwork, upholding of high standards on a daily basis, consistently delicious food and detail-oriented service.
Situated on a corner, just blocks away from Pike’s Place, Wild Ginger is a massive restaurant by today’s standards. Two floors of contemporary sophistication host plenty of seating that ranges from more casual booths to intimate, white linen dressed tables for two that encourage romance overlooking the bustling first floor. It’s a versatile restaurant- serving as the go to hotspot for family birthdays to business lunches to romantic dinners. Everybody in Seattle loves Wild Ginger.
The Vietnamese Chicken Wings are a must-try. Imagine the best chicken wings you’ve ever had; these are those on steroids. Crispy, crunchy, sticky, sweet and savory- Wild Ginger’s chicken wings are worth a cross country trip all their own. You wonder how to maintain some sense of cleanliness while eating with your hands in a lovely restaurant but have no fear- the staff brings around warm wet hand towels (real towels, not the flimsy, faux towelettes in little packages), reminiscent of traveling on Singapore Airlines.
For anyone who loves noodle soups, the Laksa (rice noodles in a coconut broth with seafood) is best in America. It’s a bold statement coming from a food critic and chef who has traveled all of America in search of great Laksa but yes, Wild Ginger’s Laksa is indeed all that Laksa should be. Upon first sip, I actually closed my eyes (a clichéd thing I almost never do when tasting food) and felt like I was in Malaysia or Singapore at a grandma’s house. Fearlessly seasoned, this Laksa was laden with fresh, tender mussels, bright pink prawns and delicate slices of calamari. But the win was in the broth. While coconut milk is the star attraction of the broth, it didn’t taste or feel oily. The swirls of garlic, lemongrass and turmeric were bold just as the use of salt was not timid, a very welcome attribute when so many restaurants are terrified of serving food with flavor.
The Rama Setu is a dish that proves once and for all that going without meat can be not only painless but rewarding. Luscious chunks of eggplant, tofu and comforting sweet potato are stewed in a rich yellow curry with fresh pungent curry leaves. A meal in itself, this curry makes you completely forget that you’re feasting on vegetables and protein that is good for you.
Always among a full Seattle crowd regardless of whether it’s lunch or dinner time, a meal at Wild Ginger is to be savored as slowly as possible, every tantalizing, familiar morsel comforting and exhilarating all at once. If you want to impress a date, a business partner or visitor, enchant them with a restaurant that has withstood the test of time through good old fashioned hard work, dedicated service and consistently excellent cuisine. Now, if only Chef Locke would return…