Green Leaf - what's the deal?
I've been reading a lot of raves about Green Leaf and finally went there the other week. We grabbed the last two-top right by the door which was excruciatingly cold whenever someone opened the door. They took pity on us and moved us to another table at the back as soon as another party left (that was very nice of them).
We had a crepe, and two different kinds of bun (one platter, one bowl, tried lots of the different meats). The food was, as far as I could tell, standard low to mid-range Vietnamese food, no where near the quality of Tamarind Tree and other Vietnamese restaurants I've been to outside of seattle. The service was good, the food was good, the restaurant was cramped, the menu was limited...so fairly average to below average overall, IMO.
So what's the deal? I keep reading people who love this place and think it superior to TT - I don't get it.
Greenleaf is not really superior to TT, it's a small family run Vietnamese restaurant. There are dishes that are better at other places .. my favs at GL are the grilled eggplant skewer, the green mango salad w/ grilled shrimp, the banh Xeo is the best in town.
GL is a completely different experience from TT .. both have their merits.. try it again, maybe on a saturday afternoon .. sit in the back. I'm sure you'll enjoy it
I'm not sure why people feel they must pick one over the other ... I agree sitting by the door at GL is awful when it's cold (I was there on tuesday night & yikes!)
I've been to both places dozens of times and do feel GL's food is better than TT. TT's menu is bigger but in my experience that isn't necessarily a good thing--I've had many misses there. I've never had a bad dish at GL. I'd encourage you, if you ever go again, to get something besides the standard bun platters/bowls (though I do think they even do a better job of these than TT, and I've had them at both places many times). There are many suggestions for things to order in other threads.
I enjoy the smaller space because its easier to get the server's attention (at so many ID places service just isn't a priority)--I've been ignored for ages at time at TT.
But, in any case, I don't mean to suggest you're wrong for not liking it--I've had the experience many times at places I've heard raves about, where I just could not figure out why the place garnered such raves. DIfferent strokes!
a few of my favorite things at GL are ... the duck soup (not the soup where the duck comes on the side though, I thought that dull) in the appetizer section ..any of the skewers of things, eggplant, mushrooms, tofu. Both the salad and crispy rolls are good, of course the Banh Xeo..make sure you don't get a vegetarian version .. go for the pork & shrimp. The bun with beef la lot is great. Some of the seafood soups, esp w/ egg noodles are yummy but I think pho bac is better other places. The menu at GL is much smaller than at TT and there are gems on both. Sometimes it takes a few trys at a place to figure out what they are.
I have always been puzzled about the buzz on Green Leaf and the same can be said for Tamarind Tree as well. The food is not authentic Vietnamese food like most of the other restaurants in Seattle. The flavors have been tailored to Westerners' taste buds which means sweeter sauces and less flavourful dishes.
I would suggest trying Huong Binh, a small family run on the south side of 12th & Jackson. While not as wonderful as restaurants in Viet Nam itself, HB comes close. With dishes served on trays with plentiful herbs and wrapping ingredient.
As a Vietnamese I have refrained from commenting on food critics and others' rating of Vietnamese cuisine in Seattle. Generally speaking the restaurants are adequate but nothing to write home to mom about.
I totally agree. What has puzzled me the most is all the "hype" about the banhxeo at Green Leaf. It's alright, but not that good (and has too much bean sprouts in the filling!). I also never really got why it was on the appetizer menu (cause it isn't one). My parents did enjoy the seven courses beef at Tamarind Tree, but I never did bother taking them to Green Leaf.
There are a lot of opinions about pho and where to get a great bowl. Before i get there, here are the basics of making beef pho. Start with the long simmering of leg bones and oxtail, add lightly charoasted yellow onions and ginger root (charoasted as well) plus addtional spices. For the broth to be flavorful it takes between 6 to 8 hours of simmering while skimming most of the fat and all the foam off to top. Strain the broth at the end so it is relatively clear. The noodle needs to be chewy and perferably fresh made and then the various cuts of meat etc... Do not add hoisin sauce or Siracha to the bowl of pho if you want an authenticity. It's the clean flavorful taste of the broth and the basil, lime and add fresh chili if you like.
Minimal fat, no MSG, old meat with its funky smell and taste.
Where then is pho prepared in this traditional manner? Certainly not Than Bros, Pho Bac, Pho Hoa and many others.
Having eaten pho all across the country and in Viet Nam I would have to say that Pho So 1 (12th & Jackson) comes very close to offering a great bowl.
GL is what it is, a small place that is great for a casual lunch or dinner and very flavorful. It is consistently good in my experience. It is NOT a nice restaurant where you have a few beers/wine and a long dinner. There is nothing amazing or impressively creative on the menu. Having said that, it is one of my fav places in Seattle.
TT is trying to be a nicer, modern dinner restaurant. It sort of succeeds. I've had misses there and service is weird.
As somebody said above, they both have their merits and there are certainly more "authentic" places to go to. But I find GL to be damn tasty.