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Posts Tagged ‘restaurant week’

After three-years of talking about it, my wife and I finally took advantage of Seattle Restaurant Week this year. Seeing this as an opportunity to venture out of our comfort zone and try something outside Asian food (Chinese, Filipino, Japanese) … we took a giant leap in a different direction – Vietnamese… baby steps right? Monsoon Seattle is located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood right smack in the middle of a residential street. It looks like it was a  garage, once upon a time… well that’s because it was! My initial impression when stepping into the restaurant was, “I like it!” The interior design has a very modern and simplistic feel, evident by the dark monochromatic colors and little to no art/decorations. The table settings consisted of the bare essentials; water glass, cloth napkin and chopsticks – what else does one need?! We were immediately seated and presented our menu. Our server did a great job explaining how the a la carte menu differed from the “Restaurant Week” menu and also shared the nightly dinner special.

The Food:

barbecued carlton farm pork spare ribs with ginger, hoisin and five spice

grilled monterey squid stuffed with duck, basil and jicama

wokked grass fed flat iron steak, fresh ginger, green onions 

crispy organic tofu, lemongrass, sweet onions, roasted shiitake mushrooms

wokked soft noodles, oyster mushrooms, duck egg, green onions

banana cake with savory coconut sauce

chocolate ganache with toasted coconut and a caramel peanut sauce

The Review:

When I bit into the spare rib, I was immediately hit with a flavor explosion! The sweetness of the hoisin and boldness of five spice really hit hard – almost a little too hard for my taste. After the initial flavor blast, I immediately noticed the off-the-bone tenderness of the pork. There was no question that I used hands in devouring these tender ribs, but I could have definitely pulled the meat off the bone with my chopsticks! The pickled jicama and carrots added a nice contrast to the plate – bringing my taste buds down from orbit.

The grilled stuffed squid was the ying to the porks yang. It had a much more subtle flavoring. The squid was grilled nicely with some good char and each bite put me in textural bliss. The crunch of the jicama stood out great against the soft duck and tender squid. The four squid rested atop a bed of shredded lettuce with some sort of rice wine vinaigrette over it all. Everything in this dish came together like Tetris pieces – perfectly.

The steak was perfectly cooked – juicy and tender throughout with good medium rare pink in the middle. Shaved ginger and red onion added a nice kick to each bite as well. If I were to rank the three dishes, this would be #3. Good but not great.

Visually and taste wise, this was my favorite dish. All the ingredients came together and tasted wonderfully! On top of that, it was pleasing to the eye – the reds, greens, browns purples exploding like fireworks on the Fourth of July. Usually when I picture mushrooms, I picture the dry, shriveled and unappealing things you find atop a pizza, but these shiitake mushrooms were the exact opposite. They tasted almost like calamari, very tender robust and even juicy!

The noodles were the least visually appealing of the three, but it had very good flavor. Not as firm as semolina pasta, the soft noodles did a good job absorbing the sauce – which tasted like a sesame paste. The oyster mushrooms and green onions added decent texture and flavor to the plate while the duck egg, visually there, was masked behind the other flavors.

I’ve had banana nut bread before but never banana cake… and after this dessert, I don’t think I can go back! The cake was super moist and soft and the slices of banana baked into the batter was perfect! The coconut sauce added a nice savory balance to the sweetness of the cake. After a few bites, Cherry stated, “This is the best dessert I’ve ever had!”

The chocolate ganache was a much richer and sweeter desert. It tasted almost like a huge Hersey kiss – except this kiss had toasted coconut shavings on top and rested between a peanut caramel sauce! The coconut shavings added good crunch and bite to the dish, almost like the rice bits of a crunch bar. The caramel and peanut sauce cut the richness of the chocolate nicely, by adding a subtle creamy texture and flavor.

My Conclusion:

Monsoon hit it out of the park on all fronts. Every course, from start to finish, was exceptionally prepared and tasted just as great. My wife and I walked out happy and full… and our pockets weren’t burning on the way out either! One dilemma someone might face during Seattle Restaurant Week is deciding on which restaurant(s) to go to. There’s always that voice in the back of my head saying, “I wonder what such and such restaurant would be like…” But by the end of the night, there was no question we made the right choice.

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