Vietnamese grub in Chinatown bodes well with Washington Rhone Blends.
Say what you want about my city – yes, traffic is an atrocious time burglar, the ground is usually wet and no one looks you in the eye as you walk down the street – but you can’t say she has a shortage of Asian cuisine. Lower Queen Anne sports a wide selection of Thai, Belltown is home to prime sushi and the International District more or less transports it’s patrons to China. However, beyond the reign of Seattle’s version of the world’s most populous country lies a Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall treasure savored and seasoned by culinary masters.
And you will know it by the trail of zealots that line up outside for lunch service, the slight logo sign hanging above the entry way and the buzz humming around the new, (literally) underground Belltown location.
Praised for its noodle bowls, low, LOW prices and diligently quick service, Green Leaf has positioned itself at the top of the ethnic fare list in Seattle. The real McCoy of Vietnamese sustenance with wagon wheel tables packed with a throng devotees in the double-decker Chinatown spot has recently opened a subterranean Belltown joint, complete with a full-service bar and customary lion dancers that chased away evil spirits for the grand opening.
The Dish: Grilled Beef Wrapped in Wild Betel Leaves ($8.50) — Topped with fried green onions and peanuts, this bo la lot or bo cuon la lop is wrapped and portioned into six servings of succulent, immaculate Vietnamese meat delicacies. Generously seasoned and grilled precisely to mark black chars, the leaves themselves do not bring much to the table until the smoke from the grill is introduced and the sweetly spicy incense is released – a perfect partner for the tender, juicy beef.
The Variety: Southern Rhone Blend — An ambiguous “varietal,” southern Rhone blends from the south of France are specific to being cored by Grenache. The sweet fruit and spicy, arugula-like pepper spices of the varietal pronounces introductory aromas to the blend, while stuffing it with Syrah gives it weights and body and Mourvedre to balance between the two.
Why It Works: The fatty, salty and spicy red meat is complemented by the equally piquant, robust blend, emphasized even more so with the smokey grilled leaves.
The Recommended Match: Rotie Cellars 2010 Southern Rhone Blend ($40) — With Grenache from the temperamental region of Horse Heaven Hills (hot, dry days with cool nights and whipping winds), Rotie believes this is a key location to garner this fruit. Rotie explains on their website why: “Sandy soils add minerality. High winds increase skin density, creating massive tannins that need to be controlled. And, the diurnal shift helps shut the grapes down so they don’t explode with sugar.”
Although the climate is choice and measures must be calculative in picking Grenache, the blend is 75-precent that varietal, fluffed up with the addition of 15-percent Syrah and 10-percent Mourvedre. Big berry fruits of raspberry and red cherry, floral undertones and sweet wood sweep the back of the bouquet and brush aromas of five-spice and dried herbs out. The palate is all about texture and spice with these varietals, lush and opulent but sprightly with acid and now-gruff tannins that should settle down with maturity.
Green Leaf Vietnamese Restaurants |418 8th Ave S, Chinatown | (206) 340-1388 | 2800 1st Ave, Belltown | (206) 448-3318