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Tamarind Tree or Green Leaf?

kthan Nov 9, 2006 04:07 PM

I found these two are the most famous and reliable Vietnamese restaurant in Seattle. Since Vietnamese foods are bad here in chicago, I want to try a decent vietnamese resturant when I go to Seattle this week.

Which one would you recommend? I am not a fan of Pho (but my wife is), but I like their satay beef (skewed grilled beef). We prefer less greasy, no MSG. Also, please recommend some dishes (not adventurous ones) we must try (I found some recommend vietnamese pancake here in the board). Thanks for your help in advance.

  1. b
    BruceB Dec 31, 2006 06:12 AM

    Both are great but I agree with those who say TT feels more elegant.

    I must disagree with christy319's comment "I don't think I've ever had "greasy" Vietnamese!". When my wife and I were in Vietnam 12 years ago, we actually got someone to write, in Vietnamese, "Please use very little oil" after a few really greasy stir-fries. (We had lots of great food too.)

    1. m
      mrnelso Nov 14, 2006 06:08 PM

      Both good places. Each with particular hits and misses. The TT martini menu shows this patern, as the Tamarindtini is mostly about the name but Oh-Wow, the Kumquat Crush is a killer (with orange Kumquat, not green).
      TT has the best presentation of Bo Bai Mon, on those few occasions where the "everybody-is-tripping-over-everybody and-nobody-knows-what's-going-on" staff can hold their coordination together well enough to get the food to you while it is still hot... Other TT hits - coconut gelatin, Tamarind Tree fresh rolls, Mango Salad, ice cream (Tham makes it there - get them all). I met Ban Xeo first at Green Leaf and found the flavor of coconut milk in the crepe fascinating. TT's bowl of green greens is delightfully green, but otherwise inscrutible. It needs a spash of vinegar - raspberry or maybe balsamic. Staff at each can be pleasant, though Green Leaf is consistently lovely and attentive. I love both these places but do recommend you explore the menu by trial, as the descriptions can sometimes mislead.
      Get coconut juice drink, too.

      1. barleywino Nov 13, 2006 08:03 PM

        for a different twist on Vietnamese, try Monsoon

        1 Reply
        1. re: barleywino
          pdl Dec 31, 2006 03:37 AM

          Monsoon portion is very small and i dont' see any value in any of their dishes. Great neighborhood location however.

        2. l
          Lauren Nov 13, 2006 05:12 PM

          I would give GL a slight nod over TT. There were many misses in our recent "seven courses of beef" at TT. But we also had a great steamed coconut shrimp cake there. I like the bahn xeo "crepe" part at TT better but I like the filling better at GL.

          Basically, as a previous poster said, you won't really go wrong with either of them.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Lauren
            CriticalEater Nov 13, 2006 08:40 PM

            Agree, if you are going to do the "seven courses of beef" - do it at GL. Much better food and a lot cheaper

          2. c
            CriticalEater Nov 11, 2006 08:16 PM

            Both are very good. I tend to go to Green Leaf during daylight hours or for a quick bite. Tamarind Tree has a nicer atmosphere (you'll pay for it) that is great for dates, taking out of town guests, etc. I think the food at TT is slightly better, but not as good as value as Green Leaf. In fact, TT recently jacked up the prices on their menu by ~$1.

            1. c
              christy319 Nov 10, 2006 11:30 PM

              It doesn't bother me at all, but in my experience in general, most Asian restaurants do use it, unless they are cooking for a largely American clientel and specifically say they don't use it on the menu. Fast food places use tons of it too.

              Siam, don't give up on these places just because one poster says they use msg-if they do, I'm sure you can ask them to forego it on your order. I wonder what kind of dishes it would even be in, in someplace like TT or GL. Soup broth, I can see. But the noodle dishes that are largely comprised of plain noodles and fresh herbs and veggies? Or the grilled meats? Seems like it would be easy to leave off of those if they do normally use it.

              Incidentally, I have a friend who says she is very allergic to msg who is a regular at Green Leaf.

              1. s
                siam Nov 10, 2006 10:22 PM

                Are you sure TT uses MSG? I didn't realize any restaurants still use it. We were planning to go to TT while we were in Seattle in September, but now I'm not so sure. MSG gives me severe migraines. Darn. It never even crossed my mind to ask.

                2 Replies
                1. re: siam
                  dandelion Nov 10, 2006 10:47 PM

                  Not sure about TT, but a lot of restaurants do use it... It's definitely good to ask -- no one wants a migraine!

                  1. re: siam
                    pdl Dec 31, 2006 03:33 AM

                    To avoid heavy load of MSG in your food, stay away from soup bowls. There should be no msg on grilled dishes. Also take it easy on the sauces, there may be some in there. otherwise, drink lots of water and enjoy your meal.

                  2. lucky.goldstar Nov 10, 2006 06:36 PM

                    I find the service at TT to be hit-or-miss... they have good food but I've never been personally blown away by anything there. GL has a smaller, darker, and more intimate feel to it, with some fantastic dishes: the green mango salad and banh xeo come to mind as standouts. GL is my new favorite, though I still go back to Saigon Bistro for their bun bo hue.

                    1. o
                      oliveoyl Nov 10, 2006 04:10 PM

                      i've had good meals at both I don't think you can go wrong ... TT is big & feels younger & cooler while green leaf is the vietnamese restaurant i wanted to find while in vietnam ..small dark sweet service nice clean food.

                      both places are part of what might be a trend, authentic asian restaurants w/o bright flourescent lighting & plastic chairs.


                      1. w
                        Wanda2day Nov 9, 2006 08:31 PM

                        This has nothing to do with either restaurant, I'd be happy to spend a lifetime trying to decide which of those two are better, you're going to get a good meal at either. I had question to put out to the foodies. I had a Vietnamese friend point out to me an ingredient on a soup packet that is also used in Vietnamese cooking called ASP. It was in a packet of mushroom broth flavoring and in the genral MSG aisle. I have no idea what this is, anyone out there know?

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Wanda2day
                          pdl Dec 31, 2006 03:40 AM

                          Its the MSG that made everything tastes so gooood!
                          I was told the mushroom powder is a natural flavor enhancer. Shoul have no side effect as compared to MSG. Best of all, try pure sugar cane if you need to sweeten up your dishes...naturally.

                        2. e
                          Evan Nov 9, 2006 08:19 PM

                          I'm not familiar with Green Leaf, but dishes at Tamarind Tree tend to be more on the adventurous side.

                          1. i
                            itsonlyfood Nov 9, 2006 06:34 PM

                            If you are senstive to MSG, be aware TT uses it heavily.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: itsonlyfood
                              seattledebs Nov 9, 2006 06:53 PM

                              Thank you for pointing this out. I always feel "off" after I eat their food and have wondered if it had a lot of MSG. Too bad since it tastes so good.

                              Any word on GL's MSG use?

                            2. terrier Nov 9, 2006 06:19 PM

                              I personally prefer Tamarind Tree, by a wide margin. I've only had one disappointing dish there (the pho) and that was still only disappointing by comparison to my favorite pho shop (Pho Bac) - still better than any pho I've had outside Seattle.

                              Green Leaf, on the other hand, was hit or miss. Bo la lot and banh xeo were great, but I have had some truly lousy duck noodles and pho there. Again, either one is still going to be miles better than what you'll find in Chicago.

                              1. c
                                christy319 Nov 9, 2006 06:07 PM

                                Oh, green mango, I think that's what I meant-not papaya.

                                1. p
                                  PAO Nov 9, 2006 04:38 PM

                                  The green mango salad with shrimp at Green Leaf is superb. So is there skewered, broiled tofu appetizer.

                                  1. c
                                    christy319 Nov 9, 2006 04:33 PM

                                    I prefer Green Leaf (better food and much better service) but I still think TT is good, too. Though TT is much bigger they are also much more well known and there is often a wait at dinner hour. Neither are greasy (I don't think I've ever had "greasy" Vietnamese!).
                                    At GL I love: The (fresh) spring rolls, the bahn xeo pancake, any of the vermicelli noodle bowls, the seafood soup, and the green papaya salad, and the banana/coconut cake dessert.

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