When I lived in the ID, I frequently visited the Moonlight Cafe, that grimy-looking Vietnamese restaurant on the corner of 20th and Jackson with a funny little sign promising "karaoke and dancing." The place is run down inside and out, but any insider knows you can't judge Moonlight on looks alone. Their menu (both of them--one for meat eaters and an identical one for vegetarians with glorious glutinous meat substitutes) is cheap, expeditious, and tasty.
General Tso's "chicken" with lemongrass "bones."
When I heard Moonlight's former chef owner--and Buddhist nun--Hue Phan re-opened Blossom Vegetarian in Renton last year (it was formerly an Asian bistro with options for both vegetarians and omnivores), a recent excursion to Renton Western Wear was the perfect time to go.
We--that's my boyfriend and me--did not find a pair of vegan cowboy boots anywhere in RWW's colossal inventory (have you seen that place?), but we did find this honky-tonkin' cowboy shirt worth the trip alone. Soon though, the oppressive, leathery scent of, well, everything in the store drove us out into the streets and over to Blossom.
We arrived on a Saturday afternoon and were greeted and seated immediately. At 3 p.m., the place was dead, but business hours keep the place open in between main meal periods, except Tuesdays, when the place is closed entirely. The restaurant has an instantly soothing vibe--much like walking into a spa--with modern Asian decor and soft instrumental music piped over the airwaves. Best of all, instead of ringing a bell when orders come up, cooks ring a lovely, resonant gong.
Handed a novel of a menu (much like Moonlight), we settled in and set into determining what to order. With so many options before us--salads, soups, rice and stir-fry entrees, noodle bowls, clay pots, and shared plates--I opted for the cashew chicken. I'm a big fan of that same dish at Moonlight--a savory, saucy stir-fry of glutinous chicken balls and crisp veggies--but my boyfriend ordered General Tso's Chicken, a specialty rarely found on vegetarian menus, so we were sure to try something new.
A lovely black rice accompanied our meal--we had ordered brown but were even more pleased to be served this exotic, healthful variety. Our entrees were delicately seasoned and delivered promptly. The cashew chicken is a bit different than Moonlight's--the focus at Blossom is on presentation (see photo above) and bright, fresh flavors, so my plate was bursting with firm veggies, a scattered handful of cashews, and a good amount of seitan chicken. We loved the General Tso's--that orange glaze is hard to come by elsewhere, and the "drumsticks" had great texture.
I slurped down the rest of my Thai iced tea (recommended--sweet, creamy, and tangy) and asked for the tab. We had shared two family style plates, boxed the remainders for later, and had no room left for desert. But I know we'll be back to try something different next time we're in Renton, whether or not the visit calls for a stop at that leatherrific outfitting store.