The double-date food combo of Megan/Evan and Ashley/Matt is something that seems to be a common theme in my Kiichi Chaos-ings. It was the Seattle show of the Dream Theater tour when Meg and Ev picked Ash and I up to (once again) eat some great food in Seattle.
To date, I feel like I've eaten almost everywhere worth eating at in Seattle - and I've always been very pleasantly surprised how amazing the food has been.
Our lunch spot was Monkey Bridge, a Vietnamese joint. If you haven't been to proper Vietnamese before… or are one of those people who think all Asian food is either mall-food-court fried rice and sweet and sour pork (crap) or sushi… you are wrong. Every Asian country (and region for that matter) has something new and exciting to offer - don't get me wrong, you can go to the wrong place, you can get something terrible made by someone who doesn't give a shit about your food experience… food takes a bit of digging. I have found that every single one of my "random" food drop ins (going into somewhere with no research, recommendation, or preparation) of recent - have been absolute shite (even in places like Paris, Vancouver, Sydney - there is food that sucks… you just have to evade that crap - I can help).
Vietnamese is a cuisine of beauty. From it's humble traditions of mainly being street foods you can get in Vietnam - nowadays in the rest of the world - you find those street foods in a restaurant. In Orlando, near where I live, there is a little Vietnam. You can find some really damn good Vietnamese restaurants. Places known for their Pho (Vietnamese noodle soup - traditionally, beef noodle soup), places known for their Bahn Mi (Vietnamese sub - heavily influenced by the French (tracing it's roots from the French colonization of Vietnam)). These are the two main things to look for if you're starting off with Vietnamese food - if your Vietnamese spot doesn't do either of these well… run like hell.
Monkey Bridge is a more upscale representation of Vietnamese. I am more used to the down-home, semi-shabby interior, office park-ceilinged, humble Vietnamese hole-in-the-walls - so it was interesting to see the more so higher-brow Vietnamese joint.
I ordered the Vietnamese Ham and Egg Baguette (Bahn Mi): French baguette spread with a homemade mayo, slices of Vietnamese ham, fried egg, cilantro, and a drizzle of soy sauce. Rice pudding soup accompanied. This was a great contemporary spin on the Bahn Mi (Bahn Mi typically has more "creep meats" as my wife calls it - the "good stuff" as I call it: things like head cheese-esque lunch meats, tendon-derived yummy bits and all) but! This would be a great introduction to see where the Bahn Mi is nowadays. Clean flavors, clean meats - the ever-so-required fried egg (I think all Asians want a fried egg on their everything), crispy, perfect baguette. Again - I emphasize that this is the cleaned up, modernized version - a great intro if you're new to Vietnamese.
I rate Vietnamese places by their Bahn Mi and their Pho. I usually opt for the Pho Dac Biet (I believe that translates to something along the lines of "everything but the kitchen sink" in Vietnamese: typically brisket, rare slices of beef, mystery beef balls, tendon, tripe, and some other offal-goodness), Monkey Bridge Noodle was noodles in chicken brother with prawns, fish balls, quail egg and Vietnamese ham, topped with green onion, cilantro and fried shallots. The traditional toppings of bean sprouts, basil, jalapeno, and lime came with (make sure you put all that stuff in your Pho - makes it better).
Monkey Bridge's house Pho was again, a contemporary spin on something traditional - and having to this day, only had super-traditional Vietnamese - this was a fun flavor eye-opener. It contained about the same number of the Dac Biet - but just obviously different things. The quail egg and fish balls were a great combo alongside the other ingredients.
Monkey Bridge did some pretty solid stuff. I may be partial to the traditional-stuff, as I've hinted at in this episode, but I'd say this would be a good starting point to work your way backwards into the classics.