December 28, 2008

MOVE OVER, TAMARIND TREE—Seattle has another Vietnamese restaurant with verve and ambition. Jasmine’s not quite so stylish as the double-T, but its wildly colored tropical, postmodern decor is still a kick, and guests can play the grand piano in the corner. Its food is at least as tasty, plus more authentic. The Tran family proprietors imported not only recipes but the chef from their Grass Leaf Restaurant in the five-star Sheraton Saigon. His touch shows in novel inventions and refined versions of standards. Anything (roast quail, sea bass) sings in Jasmine’s exquisite tamarind sauce (like we said, move over). Dill and tamarind, an unlikely team, tango in a delicate fish and tomato soup. Tangy simmer-your-own hot pots are extravagantly stocked with fresh vegetables, meats, and seafood. The Jasmine Blue Pearls, rice colored baby blue and pork pâté enveloping miraculously unscathed quail eggs, are what Scotch eggs always dreamed of being. Jasmine’s garlicky squid make ordinary fried calamari hang their tentacles in shame.

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