Monday, November 2, 2009

FoodTrek: Fall/Winter Preview Night at Monsoon East

An opportunity to sample the fall/winter menu from a local acclaimed restaurant? By all means -- head East, young Wasabi, to Monsoon East in Bellevue! I've had the pleasure of visiting the newer Eastside kin of Seattle's Capitol Hill longtime favorite, as shown in a previous post. It's always a treat, as it's in the small and charming Main Street area of downtown Bellevue, full of several neighborhood darlings. Sibling founders Eric and Sophie Banh have done a wonderful job transplanting the hospitality and dining experience of Vietnam into the Emerald City. This night in particular was special, as a birthday was being celebrated --Monsoon East's own!

Cheers to you, Monsoon East! Deadly Nightshade, indeed, as I could drink these all evening - photo by Wasabi Prime

Along with the occasion of the restaurant's first annivesary in its Eastside locale, it was to celebrate their new membership with the Bellevue Downtown Association. Local business owners gathered for an open house, in the cozy setting of Monsoon's private dining area. Nestled amongst the solid wood walls and the gauzy fabric panels, the party was a comfortable, relaxing place to meet and chat with neighbors.

Guests were greeted with what I have to say was my favorite cocktail of the night, the beautiful Nightshade, a Halloween-appropriate femme fatale of a drink, served in a petite cordial glass with a storm of movement lurking behind its dusky color. Sweet, fragrant and bubbly, basil seeds are added to the cocktail and the fizz makes the ethereal pods dance in the light. Flavored with the lilac-colored liqueur, parfait amour, the drink is blessed with the delicate and beautiful vanilla, orange and rose flavors of the liqueur, as well as the lightly crunchy texture of the seeds.

Plates of bite-sized menu items were placed on the table, one after the other. The chill of winter may be upon us, but the bright colors and flavors suggested otherwise as guests were treated to a wide array of tastes. Spicy and fresh papaya spring rolls, smoky shrimp skewered with snow peas, and one of my previous favorites, their creamy tuna tartare on a crisp taro chip -- I wish I could say I remember all the wonderful nibbles, but I confess to being overwhelmed by the endless parade of dishes and just let the flavors carry me off to Happy Food Coma Land. This is why I'd make for a lousy restaurant reviewer -- I stop taking notes halfway through and just get lost in the garden of edible delights!

Savory and sweet, so wonderful to eat! - Photos by Wasabi Prime

Just like the food, it's easy to become swept away by Monsoon's hospitality. They provided cocktails with each wave of menu samplings. Continuing their nod to Halloween, the Nightshade was followed with the sloe gin and orange flavored Satan's Whiskers, a masculine-looking cocktail that could easily steal one's soul for a night. A tart, deeply-flavored plum cocktail followed, with a white chocolate dessert drink that went beautifully with Monsoon's signature banana cake. Served with a basil syrup, the cake was a reminder that herbs, when properly coaxed, can be as much of an ally to sweet as they are savory dishes. I was told that owner Sophie Banh is the gatekeeper of the restaurants' distinctive library of sauces, and that they are a valuable and beloved family secret, ensuring the hand-crafted touch of the owners across their menu.

In many cultures around the world, the keepers of knowledge are regarded as living treasures, so both sides of Lake Washington can consider themselves amongst the lucky and thankful to have such dining treasures as the Banh family sharing their dining and hospitality with both Seattle and Bellevue.

Happy Birthday, Monsoon East! Wishing you many more years of luck and delicious success.

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  1. Great post Denise! Wish I could have stayed longer that evening. Agreed, the Deadly Nightshade cocktails were to die for! :)

  2. if only i lived in wa...great photos!!

  3. basil seeds in a cocktail- pure genius! and so beautiful too, looks like i'm going to have to schlep my booty across the water and check out M east before too long- there are always subtle differences from the original and it looks like in this case the differences are a good thing. great post!

  4. I love that basil seed drink. In Thailand we add them to syrup, crushed ice, corn kernels etc, and eat them as dessert. Sometime the basil seeds were used for weight control too. Only a pinch of the seed would expand quite a bit when wet. Keep you full with very few calories.

  5. I agree with CheapAppetite! That basil seed cocktail is so creative! It's so amazing what you can do with some random ingredients and creativity...

  6. Hello, you have a very nice blog, and your photos are very beautiful, I wish a nice day, Radka.

  7. Great post. Love that nightshade cocktail. You have some wonderful foods as well and they're making me hungry at 11pm.

  8. What a gorgeous drink! All those sweet and savory bites look so tempting - my favorite way to eat.

  9. The deadly Nighshade cocktail looks really tempting! Never try it before but would love to... But I think I prefer the food better. hahaha.....


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