While always knowing about Monsoon, it wasn’t until last New Year’s Eve that we finally went. Monsoon has always been held in high regard, so it was nice to finally visit. After also learning that they had a great brunch with their dim sum and congee, we had to give it a shot. In the interest of research and providing my take on pho spots in Seattle, we went back to Monsoon for their brunch equipped with an informal look at pho.
Monsoon is a part of a microhood in Capitol Hill on 19th that also is the home of the great Kingfish Cafe and Fuel coffee. Monsoon comes to us from the Banh family of Eric, Sophie, and Yen; building a little empire of cool food spots in the area (another Monsoon in Bellevue, and the two Baguette Box locations). Eric Banh is the chef and with Monsoon into it’s tenth year of doing its thing, the food lovers of Seattle are thankful for it’s presence.
Saturday morning we made our way to the eastern slope of Capitol Hill ready to indulge in dim sum and pho. One of the early things you’ll notice is that Monsoon has a pretty open set-up with about 20 tables and a nice big open kitchen to peek in on the action. One wall has an artful display of straw hats. The menu at Monsoon for their weekend brunch has Asian takes on breakfast and ‘colonial’ dishes, but we came for the pho. And a side of dim sum. We love dim sum.
The pho at Monsoon is unique in that they tout the ingredients that go into their pho; oxtail, waygu brisket, and flank steak. Three things that I love. I grew up having oxtail and love it’s fattiness, rich beef flavor, and slight sweetness. It comes to no surprise to me that oxtail is one of the cool new meats of the moment. And waygu? This is the cow that brings us Kobe beef. And flank is one of the great cuts of meat. Brisket and flank are common items in pho, and Monsoon’s execution is different because their pieces of meat are thicker and longer, so it’ll require a bit more chewing. Something to consider. But the quality of the meat is high, which might explain it’s pricepoint; $9 for a bowl of pho! Yikes!
As I’ve mentioned relentlessly this week, pho is about the broth. Monsoon’s broth is very good; balanced, but restrained. It has subtle notes of sweetness and the beefiness does stand out, but most all of the elements are in balance. The broth is also a nice, rich, dark color. I chalk this up to the oxtail and the bones that were used in the stock; they gave up so much flavor and collagen that it provided a good depth to the taste. Also note that the amount of broth you get is modest relative to other pho places.
There were some other interesting things about Monsoon’s take on pho. The noodles here were great. They had a nice toothsome that made it a bit more substantial than others. I also really like the presentation. Instead of just dumping the cilantro all over, it sat artfully on top of the meat; the green leaves were a nice splash of color. And the lime wedge on the soup spoon was a cool touch.
Back to the price; yes, $9 for pho is a bit on the expensive, but it’s a different pho experience at Monsoon. The service is great and the decor, ambiance and experience is just a little bit more refined. Monsoon is another place that you can bring friends and family to. Their dinner is great and their brunch is worth checking out. Enjoy the experience and slurp the soup, you’ll have fun.