A common conversation amongst Jefferson County residents is about food: restaurants, bakeries, coffee shops; old standbys, newly opened, recently closed, newly re-opened. This semi-regular Rainshadow column is to highlight those that may be off your radar.
Four Season’s Chinese Restaurant
The Four Season’s was opened in December 2021 by a local Chinese family that also owns an established restaurant in Port Angeles. Their stated goal is to “let people taste the food from our hometown/culture and spread joy.” After one visit and a take-out order, I and my dining companions feel they met this high mark.
Rainshadow’s first restaurant review honors the long history of Chinese immigrants to the Olympic Peninsula. Immigrants began arriving as early as the 1860s and by 1889, despite the Chinese Exclusion Act, Port Townsend’s Chinatown spanned two blocks of downtown Port Townsend. The remnants of this community have been discovered underground along Water Street.
Although I come from Northern European roots, my parents loved spicy food, including Szechuan (Sichuan) from the Sichuan province, a cuisine known for a complex mix of spicy, flowery, sour, and smoky notes. My mother, always looking to expand her culinary horizons, took Chinese/Sichuan cooking classes while I was in high school. My role was to fold the jiaozi (dumplings), or fan the noodles for cold noodle salad. I was looking forward to seeing what the Four Season’s had to offer.
Early one rainy Tuesday evening, I arrived with two friends at the Four Season’s just after 5:00. As there was only one other occupied table, we experienced that common anxiety in Port Townsend that the restaurant might close before people get a chance to visit. Not to worry! As soon as we took our seats in the comfortable booth, a steady stream of customers, many obvious regulars, came in for take-out and within the hour, the place was half full. Whew.
The Four Season’s was clean, inviting, with a pleasant dusky rose interior. The extensive menu included appetizers, soups, noodles, all kinds of proteins, vegetarian options, a number of House Specialties, four sets of Combination Dinners, and a wide variety of lunch specials. For the uninitiated, the menu was a bit overwhelming. Because of my love of spicy food, my eye immediately went to the items noted with a little red pepper.
We started out with dumpling appetizer that came out hot and crispy, with the expected ground pork filling and a soy-based dipping sauce. So far so good. We selected three entrees to share: Ma Po Tofu, Prawns with Black Bean Sauce and one of the specialties, Basil Chicken Taiwan style. After ordering, the food arrived relatively quickly. We were provided with our own little bowl of steamed rice. All of the dishes were fresh, the vegetables were bright in color and cooked to crisp-tender. None had the glutinous, overly corn-starched appearance common to all-you-can-eat Asian buffets where the food has been left to sit too long in warming bins.
Of the three entrees, we most enjoyed the chicken. Basil Chicken is traditionally a Thai dish, but the chef has put their own spin on it. The dish had juicy chicken chunks rather than minced or diced, with the same garlic, ginger and herby basil flavors, but not spicy. (They will add spice upon request!). We would all go back again for that one.
Ma Po Tofu was the Szechuan-influenced dish with a heat option; we selected two of five stars. It had lovely silky tofu in a sauce that had a just-right spiciness, palatable even to my friend with limited heat tolerance. The sauce was tasty, if sparse, but perhaps because it was a vegetarian version (most include pork), the sauce lacked the complexity I love in Szechuan dishes.
The rich, dark black bean sauce that came with the prawns had depth and the right salt balance, although the shrimp was overcooked and a bit chewy. I also ordered some Hot and Sour Soup to go, and it was spicy and satisfying for a meal the next day.
The choice of drinks was disappointing. I love a good ale to contrast spicy food, but alas, the menu included only Asian beers (Tsing Tao, Sapporo), and one Mexican one (Corona). There was a very limited wine menu, several of which were not available. The availability of beer and wine is relatively new, so perhaps they will expand this list to include some our great locally brewed quaffs. One friend ordered and enjoyed hot saki; the second ordered green tea and proclaimed it “mezza mezza.”
The experience of the family owners of the Four Season’s shows in their food and service. The prices were reasonable – most entrees were between $15-20. The portions were generous, as we ended up taking home some of every dish. If you like Asian food, I recommend giving the Four Season’s a try. I will definitely be back to try more House Specialties, either for an in-house visit or better yet, take-out so I can enjoy the food at home with my own beer.
Four Season’s Chinese Restaurant
1111 Water Street, Port Townsend
(Near where Swain’s used to be)
Closed on Monday
Winter Business Hours may vary, so check or call ahead
Rainbow Rating (out of 4): 🌈 🌈 🌈