Sunday, May 17, 2009

Beyond pho

There are all sorts of fantastic ethnic foods obtainable in the Seattle area: Thai, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, Ethiopian, Italian, French, Greek, Brazilian, Caribbean, and that doesn’t even cover them all. We have access to food from a huge number of regions, and it’s fun to take a gastronomical tour around the world. One of my most oft-visited stops on the tour is Vietnamese cuisine and I’m here to tell you, it’s not just about pho. Some of my favorites:

There is a pocket of the International District chock full of Vietnamese restaurants, and Green Leaf is one of the best. It offers a representative selection of appetizers, salads, and noodle soups, and many reviews I’ve read praise it for the freshness of ingredients used. Two of my go-to choices include the fresh spring rolls with shrimp and fried tofu, and the vermicelli bowl with a combination of egg roll, pork, and a perfectly sweet sauce poured over all.

Tamarind Tree is the slightly more upscale International District neighbor to Green Leaf. Getting through the enormous menu requires some perseverance, but you will be rewarded with finds like the steamed daikon prawn wrap and the Tamarind Tree crepe (scallops, prawns, pork slices, shiitake mushroom, bean sprouts, and mung beans in fried rice batter topped with coconut milk – yum!).

Monsoon on Capitol Hill is a delicious pairing of Northwest and Vietnamese cuisine. It’s certainly the fashionista of this bunch, with menu items like grilled cervena venison with curry and glass noodles, and grilled Monterey squid stuffed with duck meat and dried shiitake mushrooms. They recently branched out and opened an eastside location, though I confess that I’m probably more likely to drop by Monsoon’s little brother, Baguette Box, either in Fremont or Capitol Hill.

Although I came late to the pho craze, having been introduced to Than Brothers I’m now a huge fan. Multiple locations + lightening quick service + consistently good chicken pho = I'm sold.

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