Add flavor to a gray day in the Northwest with the colors and cuisine of Asia

Jenny Cunningham

One of the richest men in America might work down the block, butSeattle's International District is still a far cry fromgentrified.

In the shadow of Paul Allen's steel-and-glass Vulcanheadquarters, the "ID" continues to buzz along - low-tech andfiery, oblivious to any Windows save those that look out onJackson, Main, or King Streets. Multiple waves of immigrants havemade this a pan-Asian neighborhood, but it's especially festivehere in January, when the district is adorned in dragons for theChinese New Year, which falls on February 7. Here's to the Year ofthe Rat.

GETTING THERE

The International District is south of downtown, roughly betweenQwest Field and I-5 along S. Jackson St. Head south from downtownon 2nd Ave., then turn left on S. Jackson.

EAT

Tamarind Tree
An upscale Vietnamese restaurant housed in a strip mall - andthe kind of place foodies prefer to keep to themselves. The waitfor a table is long enough, but the crunchy Tamarind Tree rollsalone are worth it. INFO: $; 1036S. Jackson St., Ste. A; 206/860-1404.

Maneki
Buttery pink amberjack nigiri or steamed salmon in a creamymiso sauce. Our only reservation about this place is that itdoesn't take them. INFO: $; closedMon; 304 6th Ave. S.; 206/622-2631.

Seven Stars Pepper
Probe your Chinese pals for tips on the best food in theInternational District, and this spot always makes the list. INFO: $; 1207S. Jackson St., Ste. 211; 206/568-6446.

SHOP

Uwajimaya
A mega-market with fresh sushi-grade tuna, orchids, and Asianfare. INFO: 600 5th Ave. S.; 206/624-6248.

International Model Toys
Collectors come from all around western Washington in searchof anime. Some of which, parents beware, is racier than Pokémon. INFO: 601 S. King St., 206/682-8534.

Kobo at Higo
Japanese and Northwest fine crafts coexist with 1940sflotsam. INFO: Closed Sun; 604 S. Jackson St.; 206/381-3000.

SIP TEA - AND SLEEP

At Panama Hotel Tea & Coffee House (rooms from $75; 607 S.Main St.; 206/515-4000), rest your feet, soak up Japanese AmericanWWII history, and sip oolong infusions. Upstairs, the shared-bathhotel rooms appeal to history buffs on a budget.

COMING ATTRACTION

The Wing Luke Asian Museum is arguably the International District's most importantcultural draw. In May 2008, after a $23 million restoration, themuseum will reopen in its new home, the historic East Kong YickBuilding (719 S. King St.; 206/623-5124).

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