The Deets : Being hungry>"/>
The Eats: Green Leaf Vietnamese Restaurant, 418 8th Ave. S.,
Spring rolls with crunch! Don't miss 'em.
The Deets: Being hungry and vegetarian in the International District is a dilemma. Dim sum's never really a good idea, the seafood restaurants are so fish-heavy greens are more like garnishes than sides, and then there's all those roasted ducks swinging in storefronts everywhere you look. Many call the ID a culinary paradise, but it's a meat-lover's paradise for sure.
When the Asian-styled Vegetarian Bistro (featuring some damn-good dim sum) bit the dust, a gastronomic hole appeared in the ID that was only recently filled with the arrival of dominant cuisine-defying World Pizza (the subject of last week's review). For more traditional ID fare, Green Leaf is far from vegetarian, but the charming hideaway's friendly staff, bustling atmosphere (not to mention its funky, nautical-style upstairs seating), and can't-fail vegetarian options make decision making easier if the munchies strike while strolling through the 'hood.
The Beets: Green Leaf offers a small handful of veggie-friendly soups, salads, and main dishes, but my time-tested faves are the Tofu Goi Cuon (spring rolls) and Vegetarian Vermicelli Bowl. The best Vietnamese cuisine highlights fresh, light flavors and these two dishes are superior examples.
The spring roll is a lovely preamble to the noodle bowl; they both share a number of ingredients, but the crunchy dough stick contained within the tightly wrapped missile of noodle, basil, and fried tofu provides a great textural crunch, and the peanut dipping sauce is equally savory and sweet, bringing subtle, sensory balance to the dish.
The noodle bowl, a heap of vermicelli noodles, raw vegetables, vegetarian ham, tofu, marinated mushrooms, and fried onions never fails to satisfy. Some joints skimp on the veggie meat in the presence of tofu, but at Green Leaf you get it all and lots of it. Nothing beats digging your chopsticks into a pile of noodles drenched in vegetarian "fish" sauce (a soy based dressing) and coming up with load after load of goodies. Excepting their liberal use of salt (in the sauce and mock ham), this vegetable-based meal is vegan, just about gluten-free (excepting ham, again), and damn near the best tasting health food you can get.
The Tweet: Green Leaf is no Vegetarian Bistro, but go for the tofu spring rolls with the "crispy stick" and vegetarian vermicelli and you'll leave just as happy.