Huy Tat already had two Chinese noodle restaurants in Kent and Seattle, but he wanted more.
In summer 2014, the owner of Hue Ky Mi Gia was working on three new restaurants. First, there was the Hue Ky Mi Gia stand at CenturyLink, which he opened that year.
Next, there was a new restaurant concept— far different from his family’s Chinese noodle house. He opened Salted Sea Seafood and Raw Bar in summer 2015 in Seattle’s Columbia City neighborhood.
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Third, there was the Tacoma restaurant. He thought he’d have that location of Hue Ky Mi Gia serving Chinese noodles to the Lincoln neighborhood by fall 2014.
Nearly 18 months and a very expensive plumbing upgrade later, he’s finally opening his restaurant Sunday, as long as everything goes as planned.
And so far, nothing has.
The first inkling of a problem in Tacoma was finding that he’d need to upgrade the building’s grease trap to a higher-capacity grease interceptor. That’s a fancy term for a device that captures grease, keeping it out of the waste water disposal system.
And he couldn’t even call a landlord to plead for repairs. Because Tat bought the Tacoma building, the repairs were on his time — and dime.
So he pushed the opening out — by a lot.
“We’re a small business and we crunch the numbers. It was one thing after another,” said Tat, who is quite good-humored about spending $20,000 on the interceptor. “We got over it,” he said. The money, he said, is a good investment in what he thinks will be a popular neighborhood destination.
With an affordable menu of Chinese noodles — and some of the best chicken wings I’ve ever eaten — I’m betting he’ll have a warm reception from a neighborhood that has a plethora of Vietnamese, but is short on the Chinese-style noodles for which Tat’s family is known.
The Lincoln restaurant will be the southernmost outpost for his noodle shop, with a menu divided into several styles of noodles (egg, chow mein, vermicelli) served either as a soup or “dry” style with broth on the side. Roasted duck and pork are featured heavily as noodle add-ins.
A gem hides on the appetizer menu. Garlic butter chicken wings, which I’ve eaten at both the Kent and Seattle Hue Ky Mi Gia locations, are addicting.
There’s so little grease clinging to the chicken wings ($8), I wonder if they’re cooked in a hot air popper. The crunchy jacket, which breaks to steamy hot chicken with a salty tang, carries a seasoning that’s rich with butter, mildly spicy with chiles and pervasively garlic. It’s served with a Thai-style sweet chili sauce.
If you order any of the noodle dishes on a first visit, it should be the roasted duck egg noodles ($8.50) or barbecue pork rice noodle soup ($7.50).
Tat’s first restaurant opened in the International District in 2009. Two years later, he opened his location at the Great Wall Shopping Mall.
His restaurants are named after the restaurant of his Chinese-born grandfather, who began operating the original Hue Ky Mi Gia Chinese noodle cart in 1959, after he moved to Vietnam. Tat describes the cuisine as Chinese comfort food.
“Our food is very homey and very comforting,” he explained. “It’s Chinese-influenced, in a Vietnamese way. Our food is very low on oil. We care about those things. We keep our ingredients as fresh as we can,” he said. He described a broth made with free-range chicken.
Tat, who grew up in Bremerton, said he’s had his eye on Tacoma for expansion for some time. “We’ve always had our eye on that neighborhood. When we grew up in Bremerton, it was the little International District of Tacoma. We (always) wanted to go there.”
Hue Ky Mi Gia Tacoma
Contact: 711 S. 38th St., Tacoma; 253-272-1268.
Opening: Sunday, if all goes as planned.