Let’s Eat co-host Terry Jaymes loves a lot of different cuisines, but he admits when it comes to Vietnamese food, it’s all Greek to him.
“I don’t know much about Vietnamese food. I know it’s wrong and may be stereotypical and I don’t want people to slap me here, but to me, Asian food is all the same,” says Terry.
Co-host Providence Cicero has the perfect introduction to Vietnamese food for Terry and for anyone else seeking great Vietnamese cuisine: Seattle’s Green Leaf.
The popular long-time International District eatery has recently added a second location in Belltown. Providence says both are first rate and recommends the restaurant’s signature dish, bahn xeo.
“It’s huge, it comes to the table and you can get two of them if you want. And believe me; you want it because they’re just so good. There’s coconut milk in there and it’s all fragrant and delicious,” she says.
Bahn xeo is a thin Vietnamese-style crepe filled with vegetables, herbs, pork, and shrimp.
“You cut off a wedge and it comes with a side plate of lettuce and fresh herbs like basil and cilantro and you take a piece of the pancake, put the stuffing in it, and put it in a lettuce leaf and make a kind of lettuce wrap out of it,” says Providence.
But Terry admits that dishes like bahn xeo often intimidate him because they seem to need a set of instructions.
“One of the things I get a little weird at is all the rules. It sounds like there’s a checklist of things you have to do besides just picking it up and eating it,” says Terry.
It’s not bad taste for to ask your server if there’s any doubt in how to eat a dish. And at Green Leaf, the staff is especially friendly and gracious.
“The service is one of the nice things about the place because they’re very sweet and smiling and helpful,” says Providence.
She also suggests that Terry give the green papaya salad a shot. She says it captures the subtle spiciness of Vietnamese cuisine, more fragrant than the spices in other Asian dishes.
“It’s all crunchy and cool, it’s got mint and jicama and basil,” says Providence.
She says the setting is the only possible drawback of the new location in Belltown. It’s in a basement in the old Labor Temple at First and Cedar, previously the home of several other restaurants. But the food and drink more than make up for it.
“It’s hard to make a basement attractive but they make it work,” says Providence.
Listen to the full conversation on Let’s Eat: