Similar to Restaurant Week, Dine Around Seattle is a dining promotion that gives restaurant goers discounted menu options, with a three course lunch for $15 and dinner for $30. With many of the lunch offerings similar to the dinner menu, the lunch value, and price really can’t be beat. I couldn’t find any better reason to finally try out Monsoon East on Main street in Bellevue, feeding (literally) my new obsession with Vietnamese food. My boyfriend and I went for lunch one delightfully sunny day last week, stepping through the impressive wood front door into a well decorated, comfortable, rustic-chic restaurant. We sat in the bar, where our waiter was smartly dressed in a satin vest and button down and although we didn’t order any, the drink selection looked great. I’m a big fan of gin, and seeing such a great selection of gin cocktails always makes me happy at restaurants. The farmhouse lemonade, mixed with fresh lemon and basil, looked particularly refreshing.
My first course was a cabbage salad with fried and pickled shallots, chunks of pineapple, shredded carrot, peanuts, basil and mint leaves and a satisfying tart vinaigrette. As a huge fan of cole slaw, this was a delicious cabbage alternative without all the mayo.
My boyfriend got the imperial roll, a crispy roll with pork, shrimp and thin glass noodles. It was served with a great sweet/tart chili sauce that he began eating like soup, it was so tasty.
My main course was the bun tom nuong, or grilled prawn vermicelli bowl with vegetable imperial roll. My boyfriend got the pho bo, the exact same pho that I had at Ba Bar a few weeks ago. My vermicelli was amazing, a perfect mix of noodles, smoky grilled shrimp, crispy vegetable roll, sweet chili sauce, fried shallots, and refreshing basil and mint.
Dessert for both of us was a flavorful banana cake with coconut cream sauce. The coconut was an interesting combination with the banana, but that’s the fun of trying a new cuisine! I’m starting to think it’s time for me to branch away from pho and vermicelli and get a little more adventurous. For all other Vietnamese food enthusiasts, is there anything in particular I should try?
The two of us also went to Chiso Sushi in Fremont, and although we eventually decided to not eat off the special Dine Around Seattle menu, our meal was still amazing. The miso soup was some of the best I’ve had, uniquely served without a spoon and meant to be sipped from the gorgeous wooden bowl. I decided to branch out of my comfort zone by ordering the bara chirashi bowl for lunch. Without knowing much besides what the menu description gives me, I can only describe it as a deconstructed sushi roll. It was a bowl of sushi rice, topped with nori, ginger, assorted sashimi, wasabi, soy, cucumber and tofu. It was challenging getting the large chunks of sashimi down without copious amounts of rice; eating cubes of raw fish isn’t something I’m very accustomed to. The combination of flavors was great however, and my boyfriend’s oishi roll was insanely good as well. Our hot tea was a tad odd, instead of typical black tea it tasted like toasted sesame seeds, or mixed with sesame oil. I usually love sesame products, but was turned off by the taste in my tea.
Dine Around Seattle goes through March 29th, with tons of awesome restaurants featured in the promotion. I hope to make it to at least one more in that time. The only other restaurant in Bellevue that’s featured is Cantinetta, also on Main street, and a place that I have yet to try! If you happen to miss it though, Restaurant Week starts April 6th!