10705 Main St B
Bellevue WA 98004
Ignore First Impressions and Ask for Seconds
By: Grant Y
More shack then sheik, the outside of Toy’s Café had the look of a generic Chinese restaurant. This instilled a lot of fears before we stepped through the door. Situated in a strip mall on the outskirts of old Bellevue, images of sweet and sour chicken, Chinese dresses, and horrible elevator music. The flickering neon green sign on the window simply saying “Chinese Food,” didn’t do much to alleviate our worries about the authenticity. So as we took these images into consideration, we mustered the courage in our stomachs and walked in defiance against the instincts of our body.
Fortunately, our instincts were wrong.
The interior of Toy’s Café is nothing like we expected. No sweet and sour chicken on the menu, no Chinese dresses, no horrible elevator music. Much to our surprise, Toy’s had a traditional look of well kept café. The loud noise of the customers, the bustling of the servers, the slightly impersonal service, it was all there. The food served at Toy’s Café is a mix of Szechwan and Mandarin style. This results in a wide range of food to choose from. Dinner combination plates are available for those eating alone, though we recommend opting for family style if you want a little taste of everything.
For the lunch hour, we tried a few items that we shared amongst the group. We opted for the Lover’s rice, the popular Szechwan noodle soup, and the black bean pork chops.
The lover’s fried rice was a curiosity pick for us. We didn’t really know what went into a dish called lover’s rice. Is it meant for lovers? Chef Seattle wanted to know. A lot of the mystery was cleared up as the dish got to our table. Lover’s rice also goes by another name, yin yang rice. Simply imagine a plate served with two different types of fried rice mixed with different colored sauces. On one side of the plate, the rice is made with a tomato-based sauce and slices of chicken, while the other side consists of seafood in a very thick white sauce. The rice is shaped into a yin yang symbol making it a real aesthetic piece that we had to take a picture of before we destroyed it with our forks.
Szechwan beef noodle soup was described as a spicy soup with chunks of beef brisket and bok choy. The term spicy was a bit over exaggerated as it lacks the type of punch we would expect from the “Szechwan” name (meaning really spicy). To ramp up the spice, you’re going to have to add a bit of chili to the soup.
The black bean spare ribs were covered a light black bean sauce and mixed with onions, carrots, and peppers. The meat was a little stubborn as seemed to stick to the bone which became a little bit of a nuisance. The veggies were few and far in between as this was strictly a meat dish.
Overall, Toy’s Café surprised us many ways. We were expecting something pretty awful, but ended up finding something more. Not exactly finding a diamond in the rough, but a far cry from what we expected. In some offbeat way, the fortune cookie was right, we expected a loser but found a decent winner.