Calva Café is a tiny family-run Chinese restaurant offering Mandarin Chinese basics and a solid sushi selection atop Queen Anne Hill.

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The blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Calva Café is just the kind of tiny family-run Chinese restaurant that rewards a walk around Seattle’s Chinatown International District.

But this delicious find is square atop Queen Anne Hill, surrounded by cafes with higher pretensions. With seating for just a dozen and an open kitchen crammed with supplies, Calva Café compensates for ambience with delicious Mandarin Chinese basics and a solid sushi selection.

The menu: The husband-wife owners, Frank Fang and Valentina Chen, got their start in sushi, branching out to Chinese staples when they opened Calva Café about five years ago in the heart of Queen Anne’s shopping district. There are few surprises on the menu, but sauces have a made-from-scratch feel that will satisfy a quest for Chinese comfort food.

What to write home about: I am a fool for hot and sour soup, and Calva’s version ($1.50), with a bite of tomato, was a generous serving of savory, slightly spicy love. The Rainbow sampler roll ($11.95) includes albacore, salmon, eel and yellow tail.

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The chef’s special Happy Family ($15.95) was a family-sized dish of beef and butterflied shrimp coated in a tangy ginger-garlic sauce. The octopus sashimi ($5.50) was so fresh you could almost taste saltwater.

What to skip: The spicy tuna roll ($5.95) was a surprisingly bland goo of blended tuna purée.

The setting: Calva Café is primarily takeout, with a loyal neighborhood following. The cramped dining room and counter abut the kitchen, so you can pretend Chen is your long-lost grandmother, whipping up dinner in puffs of steam.

Summing up: A ridiculously big dinner for two — soup, sushi sampler, chef’s special and an extra roll — was $51.83 including tax and tip, but you could order lighter and still leave a Happy Family.

Jonathan Martin: 206-464-2605 or

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