photo credit: Makena Yee

China Harbor Restaurant  image

China Harbor Restaurant

ChineseDim Sum

$$$$Perfect For:Wasting Your Time and Money
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Even if you’ve never heard of China Harbor, you’ve seen it. Maybe you thought the massive windowless building covered in black tile and neon was a casino, office building, or historical site—and you wouldn't be wrong. This Westlake restaurant that sits right on Lake Union serves classic Chinese dishes and dim sum. Still, on any given day, there could also be a timeshare presentation or a bachata dance club somewhere in the multi-use space.

But if the iconic image of China Harbor piques your curiosity every time you drive past, just keep driving. The food isn't very good.

With such a long menu, you’ll need a strategy to avoid the worst dishes. Start by staying away from the dim sum. Shrimp dumplings are rock-hard and dry, potstickers taste like they’ve been seared in burnt grease, and oily xiu mai can slip right out of your chopstick grip and roll across the floor. The other plates are easily shareable, though rather plain. There's bok choy covered in minced garlic, honey walnut prawns with chunks of crispy green apple, and fried rice filled with beef, chicken, and, shrimp. Those are fine if you find yourself eating here. But hopefully, you won't get much farther than the entrance— which reeks of stale cigarettes and cooking oil stuck in the carpet.

But then, there’s the view. Through China Harbor’s big glass windows, their vantage point of Lake Union is ironically one of the best in the city. And while other restaurants by the water may have a long wait or require reservations, the service here is quick and straightforward—and the vast dining room has plenty of giant round tables and squeaky plastic-covered chairs that are always available for a group of any size. (Seriously, it’s huge.) 

Let’s be real. We’ll never send you here for the food alone. And yet, we have to admit that China Harbor can fill a niche void that no one talks about, like where to take your in-laws when trying to convince them not to move to Seattle. Or, dare we say, an impromptu post-funeral group meal—because sometimes your great-aunt just died, and you need good-enough fried shrimp, an easy spot to sit down, and to be left alone while you look out onto open water.

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