Destination Restaurants

No passport needed for these epicurean adventures.

Clue, Jeopardy-style: Vietnam, Hawaii, and India. Answer (phrased properly in the form of a question, of course): What are three places I didn't go this summer? Correct! What a bummer. Good thing, then, for travel by proxy, otherwise known as eating out. Last Sunday, I visited Monsoon, that gorgeous culinary approximation of Vietnam, where co-owner/co-chef Eric Banh recently convinced his sister, Sophie, that they should add weekend brunch service. Sitting outside in the warm, dappled morning sunlight, I sipped a ridiculously fragrant mimosa made with fresh-pressed green apples—and served in Riedel crystal, no less—and debated whether to go with the colonists, the natives, or the Chinese. You see, along with French-inspired plates (organic eggs en cocotte topped luxuriously with crème fraiche and mixed herbs) and Vietnamese specialties (pho, done exquisitely with Kobe flank steak and rich oxtail broth) there is traditional dim sum. Not bulk dim sum pushed around on a wobbly old cart, mind you, but carefully made, first-class dim sum. As I was weighing these options, Banh rounded the corner into the restaurant's front courtyard looking as if his feet felt as heavy as his eyelids seemed to be. I hadn't expected to see him this early on a Sunday, and after we said hello, he explained that he hadn't necessarily planned to be there. But as part of the bargain he struck with Sophie, who cautioned that brunch would be a lot of work, Eric was pulling the slack for a sick cook. Why lobby so hard for permission to exert extra effort? There is one, universally true answer when asking a question like this of a person like that, which is they do it because they want to create the kind of experience that they crave. Never mind that it'll be a while before he's able to let brunch run itself and actually sit down peacefully behind a few of his favorite dim sum dishes and an order of brioche vanilla French toast; the lotus leaf-wrapped sticky rice will be there when that day comes. In the meantime, I enjoyed Eric's favorite things on his behalf. There were delicately scrambled duck eggs made vivid and wonderfully sharp with shallot and chanterelles; the shrimp inside a steamed dumpling were salty fresh from the sea; pan-fried daikon cakes tasted exponentially more interesting than the hash browns that other brunchers were eating at less imaginative and worldly brunches around town; and the vegetable potstickers (served with a fantastically mysterious, light dipping sauce) weren't greasy or heavy but woodsy, tangy, and just right. Although I hate to make more work for anyone, I do want to suggest that Monsoon's brunch menu include just one more sweet. While I'm being pushy, let me also suggest that it be slices of their banana cake, which is made soft, moist, and perfect with coconut milk. HAWAII? HAVEN'T BEEN there in years, thanks, but now that Thomas and Jessica Price are back at Luau Polynesian Lounge, that's a viable close-enough. The couple sold their Hawaiian-themed restaurant in Wallingford-ish with the hopes of actually moving to Hawaii, but their lawyer warned them to take it slow, and soon enough, it was clear that their buyer was taking the place down the tubes. They repossessed in May, closed for a few months to brighten the place and restore its clean kitsch appeal, and reopened this month unveiling what they call "Seattle's Longest Happy Hour." It runs from noon to 6 p.m. every day. As for the Prices dreams of Hawaii? Ah, maybe later. In the meantime, they're "thrilled" to be back, and the neighborhood is thrilled to have them. Last stop: India. A reader asked about the rumor that Vij, the tony and stylish Vancouver Indian restaurant famous for its lamb popsicles (yes, that is what they're called on the menu), is opening an outpost here in Seattle. Unfortunately, I can't confirm or deny it. If you can, do write in and let us know. If it's true, we could be visiting the various regions of India in the next year or so without even leaving town. lcassidy@seattleweekly.com Monsoon, 615 19th Ave. E., 206-325-2111, www.monsoonseattle.com; Luau, 2253 N. 65th St., 206-633-5828, www.luaupolynesianlounge.com.

 
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