As I approach my last few months in Seattle, I have complied a list of different eats and drinks that I am set on trying. Some of these eats will be repeated enjoyments, while others are new endeavors. These eats and drinks range from classic Italian dishes to overflowing waffle bars to piled high cupcakes. Every week will bring a new or cherished place to try, and I am willing to represent your taste buds as I go out and test what we all love: food!
Located a bit further up from the insanity of the bars and nightlife of Capitol Hill’s Pike/Pine Corridor, East Mercer Street and 19th Avenue East holds a rare gem, different from the more common New York style slices and Seattle style hot dogs you can find in Capitol Hill. There aren’t many restaurants up in this area—it’s definitely more of a quiet residential street rather than a food haven—but Monsoon is one of those places you just can’t miss.
Eric and Sophie Banh (Eric being formerly the owner of Baguette Box, reviewed here) have been bringing Saigon cuisine with Chinese and European influences to 19th for nearly 16 years. Just this past summer, the renowned restaurant built on an 800-square-foot bar adjacent to the original dining space, which gives the restaurant an extra 40 seats for hungry patrons. And, trust me, once you get even a whiff of some of Monsoon’s offerings, you’ll be ecstatic that the owners were so wise to expand and give you and your family and friends the room to enjoy their masterpieces.
TRY: Chả Giò Chay
I don’t know about you, but whenever I get Chinese food, Vietnamese food or Thai food, I’m always a sucker for egg rolls. It’s become more difficult to find vegetarian egg rolls since I stopped eating meat almost 8 (!) years ago, but the chả giò chay at Monsoon have definitely helped to satisfy my love. For $9 before tax, you receive two adequately sized veggie egg rolls, filled with taro, northwest tofu, carrots and woodear mushrooms. Sure, it may not sound like a good deal for the price, but seriously, even though there are only two egg rolls, they will fill you up—and, as we must remember, they’re just your starter. To get the best experience with this appetizer, wrap the egg rolls in the lettuce leaves they give you, fill them with noodles, dip in your nước chấm and enjoy. You may look like a fool as you shuffle the rolls wrapped in lettuce into your mouth (as I did this past week), but, as we’ve learned time and time again, you just need to eat like nobody’s watching. And you may even end up dancing from how delicious these rolls are.
TRY: The Wokked Lemongrass Tofu Vermicelli Bowl
As you may already know, vermicelli bowls are friggin’ humungous. For Dine Around Seattle, which Monsoon is participating in for the month of March, you are able to get three courses for $18 (awesome deal), but when I was halfway through the vermicelli bowl, I knew that the dessert would need to be taken to go. Like pho, vermicelli bowls are very cool for their price: they’re dense and typically packed with filling veggies, rice or noddles, and a protein, and you can commonly eat half and pack the rest up to go. This was my plan last week—and yet, because of how good all of the elements were of the wokked lemongrass tofu vermicelli bowl, I ended up hitting the bottom of the empty bowl before I could even stop myself. And you know what? That’s completely all right! This vermicelli bowl has everything: cucumbers, bean sprouts, roasted shitake mushrooms, sweet onions, fresh vietnamese herbs, crispy shallots, nước chấm and peanuts. I know, I know, you’re salivating. And, if you’re not, just keep in mind that there are multiple options for the vermicelli bowls: there’s one with chicken, one with grilled shrimp, one with flatiron steak, one with curry chicken and shrimp, and one with Idaho catfish. Hell, bring a whole crew for everyone to try a different one (and hopefully share!). Ranging from $11 to $13, you really will be getting a big bang for your buck.
TRY: Cà Tím Xào
I know, I know: you’re going out to dinner, trying to have a good time, having a few drinks with your friends. Why on earth would you even think to order vegetables—let alone eggplant?! However, hear me out: vegetables are awesome. You need to eat between five and nine fruits and veggies a day, so why not order this tasty dish to get one serving accounted for? In the cà tím xào, you receive asian eggplant cooked with green onion and spicy coconut sauce for a decent price of $12. For the size of the plate you’re getting, you can split this dish between at least 3 people—just try not to fight each other too much for the last few bites. If you’re still not on board with the eggplant idea, check out some of the other vegetable dishes Monsoon offers on its dinner menu, which includes wokked green beans, wokked snap peas, and bok choy.
Because of Monsoon’s distance from my current living space and because of its prices, I have unfortunately been unable to visit Monsoon as much as I’d like. However, I strongly recommend the restaurant for its great dishes to be tried at least once, whether that be for a special occasion or for Dine Around Seattle.
Monsoon is open for lunch Monday through Friday (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.), dinner all week (Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 5 to 11:30 p.m.), and for dim sum brunch on the weekend (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.). If the prices are still intimidating to you, visit during their varied happy hours (2 every day, in the afternoon and late night), or check them out this month for Dine Around Seattle. Find more info about the specials offered for lunch and dinner at Monsoon this month here.
To find more of what Monsoon typically offers, visit their website—and enjoy!