Lakeside Bistro draws South End diners with its Vietnamese inspired cuisine
Lakeside Bistro in South Seattle serves food with a Vietnamese bent.
Special to The Seattle Times
|Crispy egg rolls||$5|
|"Wanton" Wonton Soup||$8|
|Honey Glazed Pork Chop||$14|
|Coconut Curry Chicken Stew||$16|
|Garlic Filet Mignon Sizzling Hot Plate||$18|
11425 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle
Hours: 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays-Saturdays.
Prices: $$ (Lunch $7-$10; dinner starters $5-$10; entrees $11-$18.)
Drinks: Beer and wine.
Parking: Free lot alongside restaurant.
Sound: Moderate until the live music begins.
Who should go: Locals looking for a lakeside lunch spot or a little nightlife close to home.
Credit cards: Visa, MC, AmEx.
Access: Ramp at the back door; restrooms accessible.
Friday nights are lively at Lakeside Bistro, the 7-month-old Vietnamese restaurant "in the bustling Bryn Mawr nightlife district."
Didn't know Bryn Mawr had any nightlife? Neither did I. Now that I've discovered this enclave hugging the southern shore of Lake Washington and the northern rim of Renton Municipal Airport, I realize Lakeside's general manager, Tim Clark, uses "nightlife district" with tongue tactfully in cheek: Lakeside Bistro IS Bryn Mawr's nightlife.
It also aspires to be Bryn Mawr's special-occasion restaurant, fussy enough for a couple of guys in jeans and muddy work boots to pause at the door midday and ask, only half in jest, "Can we come in like this?"
Lakeside is primed for romance of a certain ilk. Snowy napkins folded into fans sit on the white-clothed tables. Plump cherubs and cheesecake shots of Marilyn Monroe further titivate the snug triangular dining room.
Local blues and jazz musicians are a Friday night attraction, but chef/owner Michael Le's "modern Vietnamese cuisine" is the daily draw. Born in Nice, Le enjoyed a well-traveled youth as the son of a diplomat. An international cast of nannies who cooked for the family further widened his palate. After an early career in banking, he indulged his passion for food by becoming a restaurateur.
In 2000 he opened Pho Wah in Redmond (now closed) and two years later Pasteur's Noodle Soup in South Everett (since sold). Pasteur's was extolled by a reviewer in these pages for "food so delicious, so authentically Vietnamese, it all but exhales the essence of the country."
I can't say the same of Lakeside, where the cooking is less Vietnamese than it is Americanized Asian. Dishes generally lack the crisp, clear flavors you expect, particularly in Southeast Asian cuisine.
But Le sure can concoct a potent broth. Lemon grass and fresh dill waft from a tureen of hot and sour soup packed with delicate bits of white fish, firm fish cake and shiitake mushrooms.
"Wanton" wonton soup features handmade dumplings, golf-ball-sized beggars' sacks stuffed with minced prawns, pork, onion and shiitake. Those wontons are also served in individual cups with ponzu sauce, but they achieve apotheosis simmered in a complex, aromatic broth revealing ginger, anise and even a touch of cinnamon, an elixir that also is the basis for Le's "Famous Noodle Soup," Lakeside's version of pho.
I liked the fresh salad with cold vermicelli noodles arranged in a neat mosaic of lettuce, noodles, cucumber, daikon, carrot, cilantro and shallot crumbles meant for tossing with vibrant tamarind dressing. The ensemble, an incredible $8 lunch deal, comes with a side skewer of meat or prawns — try the lemon grass pork — and a savory, meat-stuffed egg roll.
"We serve it on a plate because it's prettier, but if you like it mixed together ask for it in a bowl next time," advised the young waitress, who I forgave for calling me "dear" because, like the entire Lakeside staff, she is so extremely accommodating.
They offer extra rice to take home with your leftovers. Don't like the candy that comes with the bill? They'll bring a different kind.
With service like this no wonder le tout Bryn Mawr turns out in force, forgiving the dull, clumsily wrapped spring rolls, curried coconut chicken stew woefully short on coconut and curry, and tough prawns a long way from "jumbo."
A honey-glazed pork chop was vaguely sweet and not too dry. Garlic filet mignon, served on a sizzling platter, was tender but without nuance. "Lemon beef salad with fresh star fruit" lacked its star fruit but had plenty of sliced apples. So did the assorted frozen mousses paired with "tropical fruits," an eye-catching dessert with little mouth appeal.
If I lived in the neighborhood I'd go for lunch, especially when the weather permits use of the deck. And Friday nights are fun. The older clientele, who all seem to know each other, claps along to the music. If you're not a regular you might feel like an out-of-town guest at a wedding. But if you like weddings, you might give it a whirl.
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