Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Monsoon is a Vietnamese restaurant in the Capitol Hill district of Seattle. It's got a high-end look and sensibility to it, with a cool minimalist interior with lots of blonde wood, white walls, and a semi-open kitchen, and an interesting menu that combines traditional Vietnamese flavors with local produce and regional products. We had dinner there for the first time last night, and liked it a lot.

We started out with Beef with La Lot Leaves, which is a common item on a lot of Vietnamese menus. In this variation, the beef was wrapped around a stick of jicama, which gave it a nice crunch. I've seen beef wrapped around onions, where the onions squirt out as soon as you bite them, but this worked a lot better. La lot leaves are hard to describe. They stay fairly strong (in terms of shear strength) when cooked, and have an interesting flavor that's not quite minty but not quite something else. There were also some pickled shallots, which not too many Vietnamese restaurants in this area seem to serve, which is too bad because they're tasty. We also started with green papaya salad with grilled tiger prawns and rau ram. It was excellent. The prawns were not highly spiced, and were more of an undertone to the dish.

For entrees, we shared seared diver scallops, which were served with some rice and shallot nuoc mam (fish sauce). The sauce was somewhat sweet. This was a really good dish, great flavors.

We also had wokked venison with yellow curry, peanuts, and wood ear mushrooms. It was served mixed in with rice glass noodles. This was a good dish, maybe not as good as the scallops, but quite tasty, and the yellow curry was subtle but had a nice flavor and kick.

For dessert we shared a warm banana cake served with a coconut cream. The coconut cream was not sweet, but was instead salty, which was a nice contrast with the warm, sweet banana cake.

The wine list is pretty amazing. I never quite know what I'll like with this kind of food. They had a gruner veltliner available by the glass, which we both had, and it worked really well with the food.

It was full when we got there (7:30pm on a Monday night) so I was glad we made reservations.