A great new find in Chinatown ID
Special to The Seattle Times
Green Leaf, a new Vietnamese restaurant in the Chinatown International District, serves a variety of rice dishes, noodles, soups and salads, all at reasonable prices. Of course, you could say the same about most neighborhood Vietnamese restaurants in town. But Green Leaf is special: It sets a new standard.
Green Leaf's street presence is nothing more than a tall sign with a green leaf on it, but step inside, and you'll feel instantly welcomed.
The small dining room, comfortably bustling, is decorated with tons of bamboo and has those snazzy, black reflective tables. The service is friendly and watchful. Empty platters seem to disappear of their own accord, and everything I ordered arrived quickly.
418 Eighth Ave. S.; Seattle; 206-340-1388
Hours: 10 a.m.-10 p.m. daily.
Beer and wine / credit cards: MC, V / no obstacles to access.
What really sets Green Leaf apart, however, is the food. The pickled carrots and daikon, which come with nearly every dish, are crunchy and plentiful. The herbs that accompany vermicelli plates and other entrees feature perfectly fresh rau ram (Vietnamese cilantro). The nuoc cham (dipping sauce or dressing of lime juice, fish sauce and sugar) is delicious, if mild. The presentation is attractive but never too formal or embellished.
The full menu is available at lunch or dinner, but by all means warm up with a bowl of fragrant pho ($5.95) while the weather is still chilly.
There's no single factor that makes Green Leaf great. It's an accumulation of minor victories: The stealthy plate clearing, the smiles, the addictive pickles. If you need a regular destination for Vietnamese — and who doesn't? — Green Leaf deserves an audition.
Banh Xeo (Vietnamese pancake): I've never had a better one than at Green Leaf. This crispy rice-flour crepe, which looks like an omelette, is filled with pork, shrimp and an overly generous portion of bean sprouts. Tear off a chunk, wrap it in lettuce and dip it in nuoc cham.
Goi Xoai (green mango salad): Shredded unripe mango with pickled vegetables and grilled shrimp come with nuoc cham on the side. The shrimp are served on skewers with heads still on. Eat the heads, shell and all, and enjoy the fattiest and tastiest part of the shrimp.
Mi Vit Tiem (duck soup): This big bowl of broth, with noodles and bone-in pieces of duck, lacked the spicy or sour elements that made the rest of the meal seem so alive. Luckily, this soup came with a jar of pickled jalapeños, which I applied liberally.
Banh Nep Chuoi Nuong (grilled banana cake): Anything with sweetened coconut milk and sticky rice is fine by me; wrapping the rice around a piece of banana and grilling it is just gravy.
Tamarind soda: This is sweetened tamarind pulp mixed with soda water. Totally satisfying and refreshing.
Itemized bill, meal for two
Banh Xeo $6.95
Goi Xoai $5.95
Mi Vit Tiem $6.50
Banh Nep Chuoi Nuong $2.50
Tamarind soda $2.00
Matthew Amster-Burton: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company