Pho
Image: Paul Kooiman

Pho.

Food Styling: Tyler Rebman
Prop Stylist: Gabriel Trivelas
Surfaces provided by Bamboo Hardwoods

Hương Binh
This storefront treasure isn’t fancy, but it serves unheralded specialties from around the old royal capital of Huê, the epicenter of Vietnamese cuisine. And it’s stayed focused for two decades on turning out some of the very best Vietnamese food in town, using impeccably fresh ingredients, for no more than $10 a person.

Who’s here Vietnamese.
Don’t miss The soups, especially thâp câm, a clear pork broth with choice of egg or glass noodles; a full brace of squid, shrimp, sliced pork, and quail eggs; the usual herbs and sprouts; and the unusual addition of fresh celery leaves. And weekdays only mi vit tiêm, two big bowls of rich star-anise-teased duck and vegetable broth, with egg noodles and black mushrooms in one and a braised quarter of the bird itself topping the other.
Pssst Central Vietnam is also the nation’s candy land, and Hương Binh offers a candy store full of native sweets and condiments.

Hương Binh, 1207 S Jackson St, Ste 104, International District, 206-720-4907

Green Leaf
If Seattle’s at the leading edge of any Asian cuisine, it’s Vietnamese—largely because of hole-in-the-wall International District gems like this. Zillions of masterful phơs and fine grilled meat appetizers and entrees come out of this tiny kitchen every day, many enlivened by a Vietnamese profusion of leafy herbal embellishments.

Who’s here Fierce loyalists, who will cheerfully wait on a rainy sidewalk for a shot at a lunch table.
Don’t miss The southern specialty banh xeo, or Vietnamese rice-flour pancakes, packed with pork and bean sprouts and shrimp; any of the vermicelli bowls.
Pssst Believe us, you won’t turn down any seat—but if given a choice, the faux bamboo on the first floor is preferable to the Wild West pancake-house look upstairs.

Green Leaf, 418 Eighth Ave S, International District, 206-340-1388; greenleaftaste.com

Monsoon
Proof that upscaling to Western sophistication specs doesn’t have to dumb down authenticity, the starkly elegant Monsoon brought the bold, bracing flavor collisions of Vietnam out of Little Saigon and into the well-heeled neighborhoods of North Capitol Hill and Old Bellevue. Yeah, it’s fusion—chef and co-owner Sophie Banh interprets Vietnamese through the fresh lens of Northwest Cuisine—but so, after all, is Vietnamese food.

Who’s here Food sophisticates, who appreciate the marriage of Vietnamese flavors with beautifully sourced Northwest ingredients.
Don’t miss Drunken chicken, caramelized catfish claypot, bo la lot (Carlton Farms grilled flank steak wrapped in wild betel leaves).
Pssst The wine list is an unexpected marvel, deep and intelligent.

Monsoon, 615 19th Ave E, Capitol Hill, 206-325-2111 and Monsoon East, 10245 Main St, Bellevue, 425-635-1112; monsoonrestaurants.com

Tamarind Tree
If it’s a cliche to adore this Jackson Street find—for carving a classy tropical destination out of a derelict strip mall, for making authentic Vietnamese food available to everyone, for the fact that said food is not only delectable, it’s thrilling—then call us unoriginal.

Who’s here Smart guys on dates, who know that—imperfect service notwithstanding—there’s no more stylish place in town to impress the ladies for under $40.
Don’t miss Tamarind Tree salad rolls, crackling with fresh herbs and crispy tofu and peanuts and crunchy vegetables; broken rice, a Vietnamese favorite; a stunning green mango salad, festooned with grilled prawns.
Pssst We might as easily have listed Long Provincial, Tamarind’s downtown little sister with the similarly vast, nearly identical, and equally killer menu. We just prefer the decor at the Little Saigon outpost.

Tamarind Tree, 1036 S Jackson St, Ste A, International District, 206-860-1404; tamarindtreerestaurant.com

NEXT: The True Taste of Asia