In praise of Uwajimaya
I've just moved from Vancouver (BC) and am setting up my kitchen with the usual essentials - so naturally my errands took me to the international district to check things out. And I have to say, Uwajimaya was *awesome* for selection, variety and breadth of cultures/cuisines covered in one space.
Better than anything in Vancouver, in fact.
Now, obviously I could go to Richmond and find everything available at Uwajimaya (and more, I'm sure), but it's a bit of a trek for someone living closer to downtown. Standard grocery stores in YVR barely carry fish sauce, and TNT downtown is *ok* - but the SE Asian selection is sparse and it's overall probably 30% smaller. I'd go to TNT expecting to not be able to find what I needed. I'd have to buy a pre-packaged galangal instead of sort through to pick the size I needed. And the way Vancouver's set up, you have to go to the Vietnamese store for SE Asian stuff, Japanese for Japanese stuff, and TNT or another Chinatown shop for various Chinese cuisines.
So with Uwajimaya I was really impressed by how many different options I found for what I was looking for, that pretty much all cuisines were well and reasonably equally covered, and that there was a great range of good quality, higher end and the cheap versions. And that it's so accessible to downtown! (Price-wise I'm sure I can find cheaper with a bit more familiarity with the area, but after living in Canada most things look very cheap to me at the moment.)
After the negative things I've heard about Seattle's Chinatown/Asian selection compared with Vancouver, I thought I'd drop in to let you know how impressed I was. Looking forward to trying Jade Garden today, and steeling myself for fainting with excitement at PFI.
Ranging only from about 4th to Boren/Rainier and Main to Dearborn, every inch of Chinatown can be strolled in an afternoon. I recommend it, though the place has history (wah mee et al) and always leaves me wondering what goes on in those odd quiet storefronts.
You've named some of my favorite places: Uwajimaya, Jade Garden and PFI. Our routine is dim sum at Jade Garden, then a few blocks (validated parking with minimum purchasees) to Uwa. Let's see, I think I spent $90 there :) Then onto to PFI for another $50 or so. We visit Seattle a couple of times a year to visit our daughter and her family. If I lived in SEA, those three would be a regular rotation for us. You're gonna love it!