fish sauce2.jpg lime image.jpg

 

Photo Credits: www.importfood.com and jumainejones.wordpress.com

What : Vietnamese Soul Food Dinner Featuring Grüner Veltliner
Where : Monsoon Restaurant , 615 19th Ave E., 325-2111,

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I Ate This: Vietnamese Soul Food Wine Dinner

Vietnamese Flavors Paired with Austrian White Wines

fish sauce2.jpglime image.jpg

 

Photo Credits: www.importfood.com and jumainejones.wordpress.com

What: Vietnamese Soul Food Dinner Featuring Grüner Veltliner
Where: Monsoon Restaurant, 615 19th Ave E., 325-2111,

When: last Wednesday evening, 8:30 p.m.
Cost: $50 a head, not including tax and tip (not bad for four courses with wine pairings)

Official Tasting Notes
: This four-course Monsoon dinner, part of a series of dinners Monsoon is holding to showcase cult wines and traditional foods, paired uncommon Vietnamese dishes with grüner veltliner, an Austrian white wine.

We began with a pan-roasted, whole Columbia River sardine (yes a sardine, nearly a foot in length) that was fishy and salty and sweet. The server showed us how to filet the fish by delicately removing the spine and head with a pair of spoons.

Next came a sweet, sushi-like appetizer, soft shell crab (with fried crab legs peeking out) and eel wrapped in cucumber. The sweet, soy-based sauce that dressed this delectable morsel was reminiscent of the traditional Japanese barbeque sauce that accompanies unagi. We licked it off of our fingers. The next course was a study in threes: a whitefish-shrimp mousse stuffed into tofu, jalapeno peppers, and eggplant. Just OK.

Insider Tip: If you go to one of these special dinners, dress up. For a Wednesday in Seattle, the crowd was formally attired (suits, cocktail dresses), and my companion and I were more informally dressed than most. Our attire didn't dim Banh's attentions, but we noticed that the host kept pouring our wine after everyone else in the room. Ah, well.
 
After the sardine, easily my favorite dish was the Ha Noi bun cha, or pork three ways: pork belly, pork sausage, and grilled pork over rice vermicelli dressed in fish sauce and lime juice.  Simply delicious. "There would be no Vietnamese food," the chef explained, "without fish sauce." My bowl could have been twice as big.

Although the wine tastes were small-we were greedily hoping for more-there were five grüners served throughout the evening, displaying a range of flavors from dry to sweet. Incongruous as it may sound, these Austrian whites paired nicely with the traditional Vietnamese flavors.

The meal began deliciously, but the final dishes were not so flavorful. The curried chicken and sweet potato was merely alright, and the crispy sea bass with heirloom-tomato sauce seemed, in the words of a tablemate, "not quite what you think of as Vietnamese." He questioned Banh about this, who assured us that tomatoes are common in Vietnam. Dessert was a kassava peach tart with coconut milk. A starchy root vegetable, kassava (also known as cassava, manioc or yucca) makes for a rich tart.

Would I eat/drink it again? I've had some fantastic, highly flavorful, and inventive meals at Monsoon over the years, and I am sorry to say that I was a bit disappointed that the overall complexity of the meal didn't live up to those piquant first bites of sardine and the richness of the pork bun. I was very happily introduced to grüner, and will keep my eye out for more of that, perhaps paired with an entree from Monsoon's dinner menu. 

 
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