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Capitol Hill food+drink | Zhu Dang ready to mix tradition with new flavors on E Olive Way



Artist Kofie and owner Cheng at work inside Zhu Dang (Image: Zhu Dang)

Last week, CHS broke the news about Lionhead, a Sichuan-focused Chinese restaurant and bar being planned by Broadway chef Jerry Traunfeld. You’ll have to wait months to see the story play out. But another story of Chinese cuisine on Capitol Hill is coming to its big climax this week as Zhu Dang is planned to open in a transformed space on E Olive Way.

“We want to expose people to the original flavors,” first-time restauranteur and former Capitol Hill resident Steve Cheng tells CHS. “I hope it’s a great introduction but also meets expectations of people who like it authentic.”

The official opening date is Tuesday, December 16th.

Zhu Dang joins a wave of global-flavored restaurants like recent examples Mamnoon, Stateside, and Trove sweeping through Capitol Hill’s fine food and drink scene. “It’s a  reflection of the way to the American palate has changed,” Cheng said. He hopes Zhu Dang will also succeed thanks to not just changing but truly global tastes. “I walk around on Broadway, I’m hearing Mandarin,” Cheng said. He’s hoping Zhu Dang can appeal to those international students at Seattle Central looking for a taste of home as well as their Capitol Hill neighbors.

Cheng said his goal was to be open by Christmas to begin what he hopes will become a tradition on Capitol Hill with locals reveling in the classic cliche — a Christmas dinner at the local Chinese restaurant.

It’s been a full year since CHS broke the news on the E Olive Way venture in the former home of failed nightclub The Social.

“I’ve definitely learned a lot,” Cheng said. “Getting started and getting this team together, it really clicked and created something new.”

Cheng says Zhu Dang — pronounced “Zoo Don” not “Zoo Dang” and translating to Pig Party to evoke a kind of fantasy progressive political party that Cheng just “liked the sound of” — will be the product of his initial vision to create a forward looking menu while remaining “true to the Chinese palate” mixed with the new ingredients of two executive chefs from different points in the spectrum.

“One chef comes more from the New American dining scene,” Cheng said. “One chef is more traditional.” Dumpling master Ken Lee will team with Pat Chang, previously with Coterie Room, Campagne and Joule, to achieve the mix.

They will produce a voluminous menu that evokes a sort of fantasy version of the most mysterious Lazy Susan-without-Lazy-Susan-style Chinese restaurant you’ve ever been in: kung pao frog legs, duck noodle soup with fried shallots, mustard greens, shiitake and dates, kabocha squash doughnuts, braised pork shank with tea smoked egg.

“It should feel like a Chinese restaurant at its core,” Cheng said adding that each dish was created in the spirit that everything is meant to be eaten only with soup spoons and chopsticks.

Dishes are planned to be served family-style but Cheng said there are plenty of items on the menu appropriate for a family of one. Prices will range from around $10 to $22 per entree. Nope — no plans, currently, for dim sum.

Zhu Dang will produce many of its ingredients in-house including curing their own bacon and making sausages, noodles, and chili jam.

It will do all of this inside the 8,000 square-foot club space now completely taken overhauled with an improved kitchen and redone patio. Neighboring condo dwellers will hopefully be much happier with the new life for the space. Cheng said he hopes diners will also feel the “good energy” of the work put into the new space that he wants filled with fun, a De La Soul soundtrack and a giant mural from artist Augustine Kofie.

“The building had so much natural history and character already,” Cheng said. “The first goal was to restore. A lot of that character still shows through. Now it’s a balance between letting the building speak for itself and letting artists put their signatures on it.”

Zhu Dang opens officially next Tuesday, December 16th at 1715 E Olive Way but keep your eyes peeled if you’re the early adopter type. You can learn more at

Capitol Hill food+drink notes

  • 10451726_410873632396461_2562164663860262520_n

    (Image: Suika)

    Also doing the soft opening thing — wander by, we dare you — Vancouver BC-born izakaya bar Suika. You’ll find it in the former E Pine home of 611 Supreme.

  • The Starbucks Reserve Roastery is open: 15,000 square feet, two roasters, 100 employees, 32 baristas, eight ways to brew, an $8 cup of coffee, one Tom Douglas pizza joint. And it cost somewhere north of $20 million.
  • The team working to take over Chop Suey are from Los Angeles — and make a mean hamburger.
  • Stevie Wonder ate at Plum.
  • Jamie Boudreau is putting together The Canon Cocktail Book.
  • Mezcaleria Oaxaca has a new happy hour.
  • Jody is celebrating a birthday by taking a swipe at the declaration that cupcakes are dead. Happy 11th birthday Cupcake Royale. Have a dance party:unnamed (8)
    Join the continuing coronation of Cupcake Royale’s sweetness as Seattle’s original Cupcakery turns 11 this month with a party fit for a Queen! Join the jubilation at all six Cupcake Royale locations on Thursday, December 11 throughout the day. Here’s what’s happening:· Receive a FREE Babycake with any purchase.· 25% off of ANY Cupcake Royale Merchandise including brand new line wares of God Save the Cupcakes, Legalize Frostitution and Does a Booty Good. Shop Local, Save Money, Look Good.· Of course – what’s an anniversary celebration without a Dance Party? Come one, come all to Capitol Hill (1111 East Pike) from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. to shake your booty to DJ Damaged Goods and do the happy dance. There will be prizes from Cupcake Royale, Stumptown Coffee and bubbles to share.
  • Linda is celebrating a few birthdays…unnamed (7)
    • Tallulah’s turns 1:
      We are celebrating our very first birthday on December 26th and would like to invite our neighbors and friends to join us for an evening of merriment.
      Throughout the evening, we will be distributing charming party favors and running some of our very favorite specials from the last year.
      We will also be dishing up free slices of OMG Chocolate Cake for each table throughout the evening…because no birthday party would be complete without cake. We have enjoyed our first year in the neighborhood and are looking forward to sharing many more of them with you.
    • Bait Shop turns 2:
      Break out your dad’s snappiest holiday tie and prance on over to Bait Shop on Monday, December 15th for a swell night of surf-rock caroling and swell sustenance to turn the stodgiest Scrooge’s frown upside down. We’ll have $2 tacos to please your peckish palate and our outstandingly awesome Painkillers will be just $6 all night. Bring your dancing shoes (or elf slippers) because Seattle’s self-described Number One Holiday Surfing Band will be providing celebratory cheer! Our frozen drink machines will be teeming with a special-edition frozen birthday cake beverage topped with sprinkles and whipped cream and a candle! Huzzah! SO MANY EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!! So sprinkle a little holiday cheer into your Whiskey Ginger Beer and come celebrate Bait Shop’s second year!
  • Also in progress: Outer Planet Brewing coming soon on 12th Ave:


    They can make beer in that! Yay! (Image: Outer Craft via Facebook)

  • UPDATE: Breaking news from the Wandering Goose:


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11 thoughts on “Capitol Hill food+drink | Zhu Dang ready to mix tradition with new flavors on E Olive Way

  1. They rebuild has taken a very long time. I pass by daily and work seemed to happen at a snails pace. Glad to see it’s finally opening next week. I look forward to checking them out. Hopefully the food is great and they have lasting success!

  2. I also saw someone filming around Analog Coffee this morning around 7:15 AM. They also had a boom mic and a small camera on a tripod. Might be the same show that was at Wandering Goose.

  3. Looking forward to eating there. It adds a lot the area. The Social was travesty that tortured it’s neighbors. This is very much welcomed!

  4. I caught a glimpse inside of it the other day when it had I guess some sort of preview for friends/investors/whoever, and it looked great. Definitely a welcome addition!

  5. I’ll be interested in trying it out as well. I’m just happy it doesn’t appear to be a loud douche bag club like what its predecessor became at the end.

  6. And Kudos to Artful Dodger Tattoo and Comics located beneath them for patiently enduring the commotion and loss of business for the 2nd time!

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