Feeling Ducky at Green Leaf

Welcome to the world of Seattle Asian Eats! What a world it is: Thai restaurants everywhere, teriyaki as the go-to fast food (with pho giving it a go as well), bubble tea for young and old alike, mediocre dim sum, and more. As I wait and wait for someone to open a Burmese restaurant in town (so I don’t have to fly to San Francisco for fermented green tea leaf salad), I feel fortunate that we have a vibrant selection of Vietnamese restaurants. From banh mi to bun bo Hue, when out-of-towners ask what’s good and interesting in Seattle, I never hesitate to recommend Vietnamese food.

So it seems appropriate that this inaugural report showcases one of my very favorite restaurants in the city: Green Leaf. If you check out the Chowhound and eGullet message boards, you can read raging debate regarding the best Vietnamese food in town. Tamarind Tree has become quite the scene, with an extensive menu and service that simply had to improve from its abysmal start. The food there is great, but there’s sweetness to the service at Green Leaf that always has me coming back for more. Owner Peter Kuang and his staff care about the quality of the food and your overall dining experience.

Oh, the food! Fear not: I’ll pull no punches when it comes to reporting about bad dining experiences. But I can sincerely say that just about everything on Green Leaf’s menu is worth trying. And at reasonable prices, you’ll want to sample a variety of appetizers, including the refreshing fresh spring rolls and the addictive banh xeo—luscious Vietnamese pancakes that join shrimp, pork and herbs inside a lettuce wrap, dipped in nuoc mam. Salads are also special, with lotus root my favorite; I love the crispiness and cuteness of the kaleidoscopic rootlets and recommend eating them with grilled shrimp. (Why would anyone want simply steamed shrimp with no shell…c’mon, this is hands on food, so deal with the shell!). You can work your way through the many entrees; on this particular day, I enjoyed the “fried duck noodles soup”—an earthy, filling affair featuring a couple of hunks of succulent duck on the bone floating in a hearty broth along with black mushrooms, Chinese broccoli, and aromatics.

Green Leaf is one of those “discovered” hole-in-the-wall restaurants, located in the International District, still without a website. As I continue to explore the world of Seattle Asian Eats, expect more reports from holes-in-the-wall to better-known places. And expect to learn about the good, the bad and the ugly. I particularly like to seek out what some consider the uglier, throwaway parts that have long been essential ingredients in Asian cooking—the food that “real people” have historically eaten to survive (or, would you believe, to enjoy), from duck tongues to organ meats to chicken feet. And as part of the discovery process, I invite you to send along your comments and suggestions…

Green Leaf // 418 8th Ave S, Seattle // 206-340-1388

Note: This is excerpted from my 6/22 debut posting on Examiner, where I am the Seattle Asian Eats Examiner.

Green Leaf on Urbanspoon



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