Monsoon is tucked between a few office buildings and complexes at 19th and Roy, the only shop on its side of the block. When you enter, your eyes get drawn to the open kitchen in the back, away from the concrete flooring and simple wood tables and chairs. A few photos of Vietnamese life scenes and nón lá, the conical Vietnamese hats, grace the walls as the main decor. The light streaming through the glass front of the restaurant brought an openness to the space, and the friendly staff had the front door open to let in the cool breeze. It was refined yet relaxed, intimate.
For Dine Around Seattle, I ordered a three for $28 dinner set: Carlton Farm pork spare ribs, pea vines and bok choi, and a coconut creme caramel. (Monsoon offers a set of vegetarian and non-vegetarian main course options for SRW. Those who order the vegetarian main course receive two dishes instead of one.)
The spare ribs had a great balance of smoky meat and sweetness from the sauce, with the meat well cooked and juicy. The jicama and carrot slices on the plate were more garnish than anything else, but the jicama was lightly pickled and crunchy. Chris wasn’t a fan, so I stole his share.
Both the main course plates were flavorful – and giant. I could have shared them with 1-2 other people and probably still had leftovers. The bok choi’s flavor was dominated by the earthy richness of the wood’s ear mushrooms. The flavor grew on me, a hearty dish more than the delicate flavor I associate with bok choi. The pea vines, wokked with garlic and caramelized shallots, tasted of spring greenness with a satisfying crunch.
The coconut creme caramel, which came with rave reviews from our waitress, was spot on – the creme caramel itself was soft set, with a delicate, masterfully nearly burnt caramel topping. The coconut flavor was present but not overwhelming, with small pieces of shredded coconut in the custard. I would come back just for that dessert.
Our waitress quietly brought us a large bag of our leftovers, and we walked home. A commercial was being filmed nearby, it was a pleasant night out, and we had a fantastic lunch for the next day. It finally feels like summer is coming, and Monsoon reminded me to stop and enjoy spring.