|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.