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Monsoon Bellevue: Where Innovative Vietnamese Food Began

March 7, 2023 - by Sandy Vo

Monsoon Bellevue: Where Innovative Vietnamese Food Began

A collection of dishes at Monsoon (photo credit: LookatLaos Studios)

Like its name, Monsoon is a force to be reckoned with. The well-established Vietnamese restaurant was opened by siblings Sophie and Eric Banh in 1999, becoming the first eatery in Seattle to dish out reimagined authentic Vietnamese cuisine – More than two decades later, they’ve continued to take the Pacific Northwest area by storm with an ambitious menu packed with familiar flavors and ingredients from their life in Saigon – bò lá lốt, catfish claypot, lúc lắc beef tenderloin, pan-seared trout, and more.

Sophie and Eric Banh

Monsoon’s innovation earned them a spot in many of the local “best restaurants” lists and a full-page spread in Bon Appétit, paving the way for them to open a second location in Downtown Bellevue and expand their brand under a new concept called Ba Bar – a sister eatery that focuses more on specialty cocktails and Vietnamese street food. Longtime employee Jon Christiansen, Monsoon and Ba Bar’s beverage director, said Sophie and Eric Banh changed people’s perspective on Asian food in Washington State.

“It’s the truth, Asian restaurants in the 90s didn’t have the reputation of an elevated dining experience that a French restaurant might have,” Christiansen said. “I’ve been with Monsoon for over a decade, and I’ve seen them use Vietnamese food to push boundaries of what people expect. Sophie and Eric Banh showed people that Asian food doesn’t have to be just in the International District – It can be found all over Seattle and the Eastside.”

Monsoon's Catfish Claypot
(Photo credit: LookatLaos Studios)

24 years later, Monsoon has kept their legacy of great food and service alive through quality ingredients and innovative seasonal dishes. While their menu changes with the seasons, you can still find some of the same old favorites that have stuck around for years, including crispy imperial rolls, catfish claypot, drunken chicken, and prawn curry.

“Monsoon has always been one of those places where you can expect the same great experience each time,” Christiansen said. “We’re not pretentious, we’re a comfortable space that welcomes everyone to drink, eat and celebrate with us – I don’t think that will ever change.”

Now in a good place with a steady flow of new and returning customers, Monsoon has partnered with dozens of community organizations to give back to those in need. This month, they’re partnering with David Hill Winery to donate $10 from every 2017 pinot noir sold to Mary’s Place.

Monsoon Bellevue's interior (Photo credit: LookatLaos Studios)

“The community partner program is vital to us because we came over as refugees during the late 1970s, and we remembered vividly how many organizations gave us food,” Sophie and Eric Banh said. “We’re now in the position to do the same and feel so blessed to be able to give back.”

Check out Monsoon’s menu online, their special right now includes the Saigon wok Dungeness crab served with garlic noodles. You can find their Downtown Bellevue location on Main Street in Old Bellevue.

This blog is part of the Heart of Bellevue: our campaign to showcase local businesses while connecting you with stories of activity, creativity and recovery. Find out about our campaign and explore more of what’s happening around Downtown.


Monsoon Bellevue
10245 Main St
Bellevue, WA 98004

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