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Monsoon Restaurant

615 19th Ave. E.
Seattle, WA
(206) 325-2111

It would probably be misleading to identify a "best item" at Monsoon because the whole concept of the restaurant is to constantly create new dishes and new taste sensations. The menu changes monthly, and if you have a special request they will do their best to accommodate you.

It is somewhat misleading to even call the restaurant "Vietnamese," since it is really a fusion between Vietnamese, French, and other dishes created by the chefs. It has a definite Vietnamese influence, but the creations and the flavors go to a much higher level than is found at the typical Vietnamese restaurant.

Monsoon purposely creates small dishes that are meant to be shared or eaten "family style." The menu is divided into salads, appetizers, seafood, meats, vegetables and vegetarian entrees, and desserts. A group of people could order a couple of items per person, not break the bank, and have a great meal (I observed that large tables are harder to reserve than small ones).

A side benefit of the small plates, though, is that even one person could have an upscale meal at a reasonable price (even though I marked the cost as $$$$, it is in the low end of the category).

Monsoon is well known for its wine collection, and the staff is expert at combining the right wine with the food being served. The wine is not cheap, but a way to make it affordable is to go with a group of friends or family and share a bottle.

A good way to start seemed to be by ordering the Washington Asparagus and Dungeness Crab Meat Soup, served in a bowl slightly larger than an appetizer, but not big enough to spoil the meal. In fact, this would have been a good meal if it had been slightly larger. Although I am partial to Minnesota asparagus, having practically gorged myself on it when I was there one summer, the Washington asparagus is also fresh and flavorful. It was my first time to try the famous Washington Dungeness Crab, and I did not know what to expect. This ended up going well beyond my expectations, with the experience being similar to eating lobster in Maine or clams in Boston.

Although the menu changes periodically, the Lemongrass Crispy Tofu with Roasted Bell Pepper and Baby Shiitake Mushrooms is always offered, probably because the ingredients are not necessarily seasonal, and because the dish is so good many people order it. I could make a strong case that this was the best tofu dish I had ever eaten, but if I search through my notes and my memories there were probably others that were roughly equal. I detected the taste of fish sauce, indicating that it was prepared using traditional Vietnamese methods, but some may wish to note that this is not strictly a vegetarian dish. For some reason shiitake mushrooms often disagree with me, but the baby mushrooms served in this dish were quite mild, quite flavorful, and quite harmless.

I think of Monsoon as one of the best restaurants in Seattle, yet it is casual and the prices make it accessible to the average person. It is not an ethnic restaurant, yet it has some very upscale Vietnamese dishes. The food is not like any other Vietnamese restaurant I have visited that typically serves noodles, pho, and banh mi sandwiches, but I could definitely imagine some of the dishes here being served in Vietnamese homes, banquets, or upscale restaurants.



Cuisine: Vietnamese
Cost: $$$$
Hours: Open Daily
Accessible: Yes
Additional Location: 10245 Main St. (Bellevue)
Tea: Jasmine & Herbal
Smoking: No Smoking
Alcohol: Wine
Special Features: Dim Sum Sat. & Sun.

Most Recent Visit
Jun. 2, 2006

Number of Visits: 2

Best Items
Asparagus and Dungeness Crab Soup, Lemongrass Tofu

Special Ratings
Asparagus and Dungeness Crab Soup:
Lemongrass Tofu:

Restaurant Web Site

Health Dept. Report
King County