Eric Bahn was greeting guests at every table tonight, his first official night open on the Eastside. We were impressed with the interior of the new Monsoon, as it’s quite a transformation from the previous Porcella space. He explained the thought they put into every detail. The marble at the bar is from Vietnam, the wooden screens are antique Chinese pieces from David Smith, and the posts flanking them are reclaimed from a church in Hoquiam. Altogether, the place is modern, cozy, and comfortable.
You see a long bar with lanterns overhead on the left as you enter, and a large dining room on the right. There’s another smaller dining room tucked away in back, where we were initially going to be seated, but we preferred to be up front where the activity was.
The menu was overwhelming at first, with a huge list of detailed menu items and no categories beyond “raw bar” and “dinner.” After staring at the menu fuzzily for a while, we realized that the white space delineated the different types of food: appetizers, seafood, meat, side dishes, etc. We managed to narrow down the choices, and settle on kona kampachi sashimi with lime from the raw bar, imperial rolls with kuraboto pork and shrimp, a catfish claypot, the drunken chicken, and wokked soft noodles with mushrooms and duck egg.
While we waited for our meal to begin, I tried their signature plum wine martini. It was just the right mix of tangy, sweet, and sour. Then the food arrived.
Our first bite was of the sashimi, which was lively and flavorful, with crispy shallots adding a nice texture. The rolls were also excellent – hot, crisp, and tasty with the dipping sauce. Catfish was next, and the first bite was an unexpected burst of flavor – we both looked at each other simultaneously, impressed. The cracked pepper on top was generous, adding an interesting dimension. We both agreed that it was one of the most impressive dishes of the meal, although it was good to split since the flavors were strong and I don’t think I could have finished the whole thing myself. The drunken chicken is a standard at all of Eric’s restaurants, and was as good as always, although probably our least favorite among the other dishes. I think I liked the soft noodles the best. The egg, mushrooms, and noodles were well balanced, where nothing overwhelmed the other ingredients.
For dessert we had trouble deciding between the banana cake with savory coconut cream, which we’ve had and loved at the original Monsoon, or the bananas wrapped in sticky rice with jackfruit cream. We opted for the latter, to try something new, and wished we’d ordered the cake instead. It’s not that the dessert was bad, but the rice was a bit chewy and slightly bland. My recollection of the banana cake is more favorable.
This is the beginning of a wave of new restaurants on the Eastside. Also coming soon are Wild Ginger, Blue C Sushi, Boom Noodle, and the second location of Barrio which just opened in Seattle last week. El Gaucho, Pearl, and even Top Pot Doughnuts, have also opened recently.
10245 Main St, Bellevue