Last Tuesday night, my family was recuperating from two hard blows–a burglary/break-in the previous night and news that a medical lab had erroneously told my wife that she’d miscarried (when she hadn’t). We all thought it was time to get away from the house for a nice, easy, delicious meal in the neighborhood. I suggested Monsoon. My wife felt that our less than adverturesome three year old wouldn’t find much to eat there. But I persisted because I had a hankering for their cozy, informal cuisine. We’ve been eating at Monsoon almost since it opened. But a few years ago we found that they weren’t changing their menu often enough and that if you ate there too often enough you could become quite jaded with the offerings.
Monsoon is a Capitol Hill restaurant owned by Sophie and Eric Banh. While StarChefs.com describes the cuisine as “Vietnamese,” I think I’d call it Southeast Asia meets the Pacific Northwest. In 2002, Bon Appetit named it among the nation’s Best Neigborhood Restaurants. Check out this link for two of the Banh’s recipes.
So last night we returned after an absence of many months and the menu is not only new (from the last time we were there), but it shines. While several old standbys remain on the menu, much of it is new. We ordered asparagus soup with enoki & lobster. It came in a slightly viscous broth that was delicious. The lobster meat was wonderfully tender. We ordered soft noodles with wild mushrooms, green onion & duck egg. Another wonderful dish. The scallops over crunchy wild rice risotto were quite fine. My favorite style of scallop preparation is to saute them over very high heat. While they’d been prepared this way, they were then doused with a sauce which, while very tasty, caused the scallops to lose that crisp, slightly crunchy exterior texture that is so wonderful. The sticky wild rice risotto is a preparation I’ve never seen before and it was quite good. For dessert, I ordered bannana cake which was soaked in butter and perhaps a liqueur as well. It had a dark, slightly crusty exterior that gave it an unusual flavor. With such a banal dish as this, one needs to change it to relieve its ordinariness and the Banhs have done this well. There are many other dessert offerings which are new to me which I’ll have to return to savor.
I asked the waitress for a recommendation of a white wine and she suggested the Albert Mann Alsatian Pinot Blanc and it did not disappoint. It had a pleasing yellow gold glow and was smooth, complex, and neither too dry nor too sweet.
Our meal made us feel as if we’d become reacquainted with an old friend we hadn’t seen for years.
615 19th Avenue East
Seattle, WA 98112