I was first introduced to Green Leaf by a crew of Wing Luke staffers, one of whom I'd met on my new-to-Seattle museum stampede. The veteran Green Leafers at my table explained there were two seemingly contradictory rules for eating at the beloved Vietnamese restaurant: 1. It doesn't matter what you order, because everything on the zillion-item long menu is pretty delicious, and 2. Always order the spring rolls.
"It's the crispy stick," they confided.
Spring rolls, or goi cuon, are the starter of choice for purists and heath geeks who strive to avoid anything deep-fried. Wrapped in stretchy rice paper, the rolls sport tufts of crisp green lettuce ready to swipe through the accompanying peanut-hoisin sauce. Bright basil leaves are visible through the roll's translucent skin, along with a single fat, pink shrimp; strips of grilled pork; twisted vermicelli noodles and shredded coconut. Stood upright, Green Leaf's exceptional goi cuon could serve as a totem of fresh, seasonal eating.
But since even the most virtuous eaters shouldn't be denied the satisfying crunch that distinguishes deep-fried rolls, Green Leaf buries a slender, cigarette-sized cylinder of fried dough within all those vegetables and herbs. As the Wing Luke staffers said, what makes the roll great is "the crispy stick."