I’m happy to have Tio Wally (long-time Me So Hungry reader) aboard to send in his eating adventures from across America. Here he is in Kent, Washington.

Greetings from Kent, Washington
N 47° 24.7214’ W 122° 13.636’ Elev. 30 ft.

I came here often years ago. Kent is notorious for being a heavy shipping area with virtually no parking for anything larger than a Checker Special, and even it can’t be parked on a street. As a result, it’s nearly impossible to get anything to eat.

Long ago I had a favorite teriyaki place here. It was a favorite because there was street parking and the food was pretty good. Then Kent nixed the street parking … just as a new “For Lease” warehouse was completed directly across the street. But alas, that parking became verboten once occupants moved in. And so it goes with life aboard a land yacht.

On this trip, however, I really scored. I delivered to a place that not only had parking but is located in a complex with multiple warehouses. That means I could park there without getting run off because nobody knows what business I’m going to. Oh, the ecstasy!

After checking in, the lady in the receiving office said I would have time to go eat if I wanted. So off I hoofed … and found Saya, an amazing Japanese/Thai restaurant about a half-block away.

Saya has a very diverse menu. Although it’s mainly Japanese and Thai, it also features a sampling of other Asian cuisines, from Phở to Mongolian Beef. It’s as if the owner left Thailand, made his way up the east coast of Asia and hopped over to Japan before heading to Seattle, picking up recipes all along the way.

The first time I went into Saya I asked the guy at the counter what was more fun, the Spicy Katsu (“Katsu pork or chicken cooked in Supreme sauce, onions, mushroom”; $9.95) or the Pad See Ewe (“Stir-fried fresh wide noodles with choice of meat, broccoli, carrots, sprouts, cabbage and sweet soy sauce”)?

“It depends on what you’re in the mood for,” he said. Umm, okay then …. l’ll have the Pad See Ewe with pork ($7.95).

08 Saya_Pad sSee Ewe

This dish is fantastic! Thin, tender slices of pork and rice noodles about the size of lasagna noodles, along with the aforementioned vegetables. The sauce has a flavor similar to the taste of Pad Thai. I ordered it Two Stars (on a 1-5 scale). At first I didn’t it was spicy at all … then my nose started running; always a good sign. And it was a lot of food.

After delivering I went to the next port o’ call to learn they hadn’t yet unpacked the shipping containers (those big metal trailer-size boxes that are occasionally lost off the decks of ships, often washing ashore vast riches of consumer goods to delight John Frum cargo cults the world over) that were fresh off a boat from China. Because of the delay, and I could drop my box (trailer), I decided to hit Saya again.

This time I went in and told the young lady at the counter that I wanted Swimming Rama (“Spinach or steam broccoli with choice of meat or tofu. Top with peanut sauce”; $8.95). My thinking was that it would be similar to the Param Chicken from Thai Classic in San Luis Obispo that I love so much.

Before she could put my order in I heard a woman say “Hello. So nice to see you again.” I wasn’t sure where the voice was coming from at first, but I could tell it was directed at me. I looked around to see an Asian woman of indeterminate nationality smiling at me from the kitchen. She turned out to be the owner’s wife, Denise, who is also the cook. She remembered me from my earlier visit, telling me that she had cooked my Pad See Ewe.

I told her how much I loved it, and that I wanted something with peanut sauce this time, the Swimming Rama. “Okay,” she said, “but I don’t have any spinach. I don’t carry it in the summer because it just doesn’t keep well. It gets soggy, wilt-y, you know?”

As we discussed what other peanut-sauce dish I might have she put this great looking bowl of food up in the window. What’s that? I asked. “That’s Katsu Don.” Ooh, I said, I want that!

Sayeth the menu: “Katsu Don (pork) Oyaku Don (chicken) served on rice. Deep fried pork or chicken cutlet cooked in sauce with egg, and white onions.” ($7.50 lunch; $8.25 dinner.).

Denise explained it was a Japanese dish. I ordered the Katsu Don so she took a deep-fried pork cutlet and chopped it into strips. She then sautéed the cutlet with white onion, adding some sort of sauce to it. After the onions were wilted she added beaten egg, covering it with a lid. “Like an omelet,” she said.

After the egg was cooked she slid the contents of the pan over a bed of rice she had previously dressed with a bit of sauce and pepper flakes, adding a generous garnish of chopped green onion atop.

The Katsu Don was quite good. The pork cutlet was tender yet retained the integrity of the crust. I’m not sure how this was accomplished; all logic says the crust should fall off during the sautée. I also couldn’t really determine what the overall flavor was. I guess it was probably too subtle for my slum kid palette. I do know that it didn’t set the boat a-rockin’ like the Pad See Ewe.

As I was leaving with my second bag of booty, Denise said something that really bummed me out. I’d told her about the food blogging — she didn’t know what a food blog was so the young lady at the counter ‘splained it — and how I’d found a new secret parking spot nearby, and she said:

“Oh. Well the next time you come you have to have the …”. I can’t remember what she called it. I do know it involved marinated chicken, curry and coconut milk, though. “It’s been our signature dish for 22 years!” she crowed. “You’ll love it!”

So now she tells me.

Denise is very engaging, very much (as the young lady at the counter described her) “a people person.” She even had the young lady throw in a side of peanut sauce; “Don’t charge him,” she instructed. I guess I warranted it.

Denise was such a delight that I again forgot to ask a question I’d meant to ask the first time I was in: What the hell is Bubble Tea?

I’ve since Googled the Bubble Tea and, as long as it doesn’t taste remotely like Thai iced tea, which I find abominably gross, it doesn’t sound too bad. The Bubble Tea sign and poster looked great anyway.

Honestly, I find anything flavored with hazelnut, like Thai iced tea, so sickening that I truly believe that flavor would gag a maggot! Indeed, I suspect even a desperate, starving congress of vultures would turn up their fetid-flesh-shredding beaks at any carrion that had consumed hazelnuts; even buzzards have standards, you know.

That said, I can’t wait to try Saya’s signature dish and, perhaps, some Bubble Tea. Next time.

And so we roll.

Saya Restaurant, 8455 S. 212th St., Kent, Washington

Tio Wally pilots the 75-foot, 40-ton(max) land yacht SS Me So Hungry. He reports on road food from around the country whenever parking and InterTube connections permit.

About The Author

Tio Wally

Tio Wally is pilot emeritus of the 75-foot, 40-ton land yacht SS Me So Hungry. Now a committed landlubber, he reports on food wherever he is whenever his fancy strikes.

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