You're looking at what will be the ten toughest tables to get in town for traditional Vietnamese fare in Seattle, so long as these folks keep their prices low & their charm factor high. As you can see, there's a lot of non-Asians flocking these days, while the last time the split was about fifty-fifty... More-than-favorable print reviews from local press may well drive up the prices here for an elaborately-prepared-yet-humble meal in our International District--but for now, this is the deal of all deals when Asian foodaphiles want to eat out in style on a budget.
New-kid-on-the-block, Green Leaf has neighboring restauranteurs gangling on the sidewalk to see what the lined-up crowds are all about, & well they should. I remember hearing a similar buzz about nearby Tamarind Tree when it first opened which turned a drab Asian strip mall entity into a glowing gourmet hotspot with an HGTV makeover. But Tamarind Tree is a big space, one that still seems to accomodate large Asian family outings as well as exotic-cocktail-swilling clientele, especially with the addition of their fire pit-heated outdoor patio. Sure you pay a buck more or so for the same dishes at a hole-in-the-wall joint, but Sutter Home isn't on the wine list, service is leagues above the rest, & the lack of fluorescent lighting made a night in the I.D. downright romantic.
What Greenleaf does so so right is offer up the comfort of a family-run restaurant with a "pride-of-ownership" feel so akin to the real estate industry which is indeed Peter's day job. Don't be surprised if he knows your name by your second visit, & as someone in the service industry, he gained heaps of respect with his table-side service. Not sure how to navigate your order of Banh Xeo? Peter's there to tutor you in authentic lettuce-wrapping. Half cultural ambassador, half enterprising host, Peter may try to tempt you into more than you could possibly eat (warning--you are more than likely to give in to his suggestions) but it's rare to come upon a soul as welcoming as this one when your ticket only adds up to under $15 a person for a royal feast.
What "wooed" me was the Escargot & Pork Skewers threaded on lemongrass spears with a plateful of aromatic herbs & greens to wrap & dip which caused a predilection for finger-licking their ultra-gingery sauce accompaniment. Then there's the crispy coconut sweet crepes called Banh Xeo filled with bits of minced pork, bite-sized shrimp & bean sprouts which really make you roll up your sleeves. On first glance Banh Xeo appear to be over-sized omelets, but in actuality contain no eggs & instead curry powder lends the golden hue to this Vietnamese delicacy. Look for Egullet readers when you see these on the table because they appear to be apple of one's eye these days...
What "ooh'ed" me about this place was Goi Xoai, green mango salad (more ripened than I'd had the last time, hence the yellow hue) with skewered & grilled shrimp, all in a kaleidoscope of colors that awoke my culinary senses during the glorious remains of sunset shafting its way up east on the narrow passages of King Street. While some relished in the Goi Vit, shredded duck & cabbage salad, we all held our highest esteem for the Bo Cuon La Lot, beef so tenderly encased by smokey leaves we were hard-pressed to determine if the meat was minced or exquisitely marinated.
Peter is a convincing lad, so after much hemming & hawing we did order dessert--not the fried bananas which pleased & put-off the last crew--but a glamorous flan than finished us off for the night. The check without tip, don't quote me, was about $45 for the whole group. Bite me Rachel Ray! I love eating Asian, & Green Leaf is the fodder of a real love affair. Don't give up your night job, Peter... You done real good.
418 8th Avenue South, Seattle 206-340-1388