By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News
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THE DYNASTY RESTAURANT of Sequim, owned by Melissa and Kevin Guan, has reopened at 380 E. Washington St. across from Pioneer Park. The restaurant offers lunch, dinner and takeout Tuesday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Dynasty can be reached at 360-683-6511.
“I didn't think he was handsome enough,” Melissa says now, smiling. “But he kept calling.”
Some 25 years hence, Melissa and Kevin Guan, a Laotian refugee and a man from Canton, China, are the couple behind one of Sequim's best-loved restaurants. And with Chinese new year this Friday — the start of the Year of the Horse — the Guans are busy with a new beginning of their own.
The Guans ran Sequim's Dynasty Chinese Restaurant, in the QFC shopping center, from 2004 till 2012, when a misunderstanding with the landlord led to the restaurant's closure, they said.
Dynasty reopened Nov. 12 at the former Islander Pizza location at 380 E. Washington St., to a voluble chorus of well-wishers.
On the restaurant's Facebook page — set up by the Guans' son, Tim — congratulatory, praise-filled comments appeared between September, when plans to reopen were announced, and November, when Dynasty did open its doors.
“I didn't think it would take this long to get back in business,” Melissa said on a recent Monday, her one day off. She and Kevin came into the restaurant in the early afternoon to cook and prepare for the coming week — and Melissa made one mistake.
She parked her car at the front of Dynasty's lot. So while the sign said “CLOSED,” one hungry person after another came to the door to peer in, hoping for lunch.
The Guans had a hard time finding the right location for their place, and then the former pizza parlor had to be remodeled. Dynasty was closed for a year and a half.
“It was tough,” Melissa said. “We have two kids. . . .”
Then her eyes filled with tears.
“It still hits me, every time,” she said.
Ask about her kids, though, and Melissa brightens. Tim, 19, is at the University of Washington, class of 2017. He's interested in a degree in either physical therapy or pharmacy, his mother said.
“I said, 'Pick something that has a job out there,' ” she added.
Tim's sister, Melanie, is a senior, class of 2014, at Sequim High School. A tennis and basketball player, she also works at the restaurant some weekends, but “school comes first,” said Melissa.
Melissa herself came to the United States, to San Francisco where a cousin lived, in 1985. She was 14, and had been living in a Thai refugee camp after fleeing the Communist takeover of Laos. She and her parents spent three years in that camp. It was where she began learning English — but only the basics.
When she entered high school in San Francisco, her learning curve was a steep one.
Melissa and Kevin speak Cantonese to each other now; it's his native language. Melissa learned this in San Francisco, too, while working for Conrad Imports, a maker of handwoven window coverings. Melissa toiled there for eight years, with Chinese co-workers.
Kevin's dream always was to have his own restaurant. He's worked with a business partner, spent a few years in Seattle and then, at last, realized his dream on the North Olympic Peninsula.
The Dynasty Chinese Restaurant in Sequim is his and Melissa's creation — and completely separate from the Dynasty restaurant in Port Angeles.
Back when they arrived some 10 years ago, “we had no idea what Sequim was going to be,” recalled Melissa.
But the couple, who after all have moved across the world, moved from big city to small town, enrolled their children in school — and found this community had an appetite for their brand of Chinese cuisine.
“This place is a treasure,” said Greg Madsen, a well-traveled Blyn resident.
“It's my favorite place to eat, and I love the owners. So glad they're open again,” added Getta Rogers, who comes over from Port Angeles.
At Dynasty, the couple is a powerful team: Kevin in the kitchen and Melissa at the front of the house, darting across the dining room, booth to booth to service counter.
“Every minute counts,” Melissa said.
She wears a small brace on her wrist these days, to protect it from injury as she totes plates back and forth.
On a recent Thursday, the place was packed with people perusing Dynasty's menu of 20 beef dishes, 36 seafood choices, 11 pork options, 29 chicken and duck dishes including “Sequim Chicken,” 16 “Light & Healthy Entrees” and 10 noodle dishes, including those with Kevin's hand-shaved green barley noodles.
Standing over a steaming stove top, he holds a bright-green football of dough, flicking the noodles-to-be into the pot — clearly in his element. These noodles are probably the most popular choice at Dynasty, Melissa said. But they're not Kevin's only specialty. He is a lightning-fast maker of potstickers, she notes. When asked for an estimate, Kevin said his usual is 500 in two hours.
“The Mongolian sauce here is very good, if you like spicy. I like spicy, myself,” Melissa added.
And Dynasty's dishes have their own intrinsic flavors; on just about every page of the menu, the “No MSG” mantra is repeated.
She's proud, too, of the service she gives her customers.
“I pay a lot of attention,” she said, “so I know what they like.”
During the first month after reopening, she saw many of her past patrons.
There were “many hugs . . . and I still remembered what they liked a year and a half ago,” she added, tapping the table with her index finger.
The Guans do employ two part-time waitresses, two bus boys and two kitchen workers, but the couple typically work seven days a week. Melissa shops at Costco in the mornings, and often stays late on many nights at the restaurant with her husband.
She doesn't want him there by himself and adds that if she wasn't there with him, he might just keep on going until the wee hours.
When asked what she does for fun, Melissa, 43, looks a bit puzzled.
She might go to Seattle for dim sum, not something the Guans can afford to offer. They would have to hire another chef for that. But Melissa brightens again when thinking of the forthcoming weekend. Her son Tim called to say he had Monday, Jan. 20, off, so would she want him to come home and work?
“He's a late-night person,” Tim's mom said, “so he'll stay late with Kevin and make the sauce,” using their secret recipe.
“We don't tell anyone, only our son,” said Melissa.
As for their hopes for the new year, the Guans will be concentrating on this place. Melissa expressed gratitude for her customers: those who came in to help her decorate the new place and those who keep coming back for the honey-glazed prawns, Kevin's Hong Kong-style barbecued duck, the “Happy Family” dish of beef, pork, chicken, seafood and vegetables.
“So far,” said Melissa, “so good.”