Home > Restaurants > The Monkey Bridge – 8/13/11

The Monkey Bridge – 8/13/11


Location: 1723 NW Market St


Mon-Sun: 10:30am – 9:30pm

For a change of pace, we invited our friend, Fonz, to be a guest reviewer for the project. He’s a great cook, a lover of good food and the guy who introduced J and I. When I gave him the list of restaurants we had yet to review, Fonz, who loves Asian cuisine, chose Ballard’s only Vietnamese restaurant, the Monkey Bridge.

The Monkey Bridge is located in an odd, triangular, corner storefront right on Market Street, across the street from the Old Pequliar. It’s a small, rather tidy restaurant with stylish décor with hints of an Asian theme. There are only a few tables so the Monkey Bridge does tend to fill up quickly in the evenings.

Their menu contains a number of dishes with ingredients you would be hard pressed to find elsewhere in Ballard. With interesting choices like Vietnamese Rhubarb and Beef and Crab Paste and Pork Noodle Soup mixed with more familiar Vietnamese fare, Pho and Bahn Mi, the Monkey Bridge is a refreshing change from the usual sushi, Thai, and teriyaki choices.

The Service:

Our server was polite and knowledgeable. When Fonz and I stared to order Sapphoro, she suggested we try a Vietnamese beer they had just received. During the meal, each dish came out at a nice pace. Good service overall.

The Drinks:

J, who was getting over a mild stomach bug, opted for a pot of refreshing Jasmine Tea.

Fonz and I tried the Vietnamese beer suggested to us by our server. Sabeco turned out to be a rather mild, Pilsner style beer with roasted malt overtones. A nice, light beer that wasn’t too hoppy but had enough character to keep it from being bland. Surprisingly awesome.

The Food:

First we were brought three bowls of Congee, a rice and chicken soup with ginger, scallions and topped with dried onion chips. J and Fonz thought the creamy soup was “off the hook”. I wasn’t as fond of the soup, finding it a bit gluey in texture, although the dried onion chips did give it a little texture. The boys liked it so much that not only did Fonz finish my bowl but also they declared it the best thing of the meal.

We ordered two appetizers. The Fried Tofu, lightly sprinkled with salt and pepper, was quite good. There was a nice contrast between the crispy fried exterior and the creamy, moist interior. Personally, I thought it could have used a little more salt and pepper but the boys thought it was perfect the way it was. The tofu came with a plum dipping sauce that was so tasty, we used it throughout the meal for other items.

Our second appetizer was the Garlic Mini Chicken Drumsticks. All three of us felt these drumsticks were a bit dry and lacked flavor. If an item is given the adjective “Garlic”, one would think the garlic flavor would be at the forefront. There really wasn’t anything garlicy about this appetizer. Pretty disappointing.

Fonz ordered the Vietnamese Curry Chicken with potatoes and carrots, served with jasmine rice for his entrée. After taking the first bite, he admitted that, while not a fan of curries in general, this dish was quite good. The curry sauce was surprisingly sweet in a pleasant way, with a subtle, spicy curry flavor. Everything, from the tender chicken to the slightly crunchy potatoes and carrots, was cooked perfectly. Fonz definitely seemed to enjoy his choice.

J had the Monkey Bridge House Special Rice Noodles, a bowl of rice noodles topped with sautéed pork and onion, a sliced egg roll, and a prawn skewer. Even though there was a lot of food in this dish, J found it surprisingly light. Every component was quite tasty. The pork was fork tender. The egg roll was good and crunchy. He did feel like the prawn skewer was kind of overkill though. It was flavorful but he ended up eating it like an appetizer rather than as part of the entrée.

My entrée of choice was the Garlic-Lemongrass Beef Ribs with Vietnamese salad and brown rice. The kalbi cut ribs were quite good. Tender and seared just enough to give a caramelized flavor to the marinade. While the marinade did have the soft, bright lemongrass flavor I was hoping for, the garlic flavor was far too subtle, just like it was with the chicken drumstick appetizer. I’ve made my own garlic-lemongrass marinade so I know how well these flavors compliment each other when of equal strength and this dish was missing that delicious mix of tastes.

The salad was forgettable other than it had way too much shredded cabbage and the brown rice paled, both in flavor and color, in comparison to the brown rice at Thai Thani.

The Price:

Jasmine Tea: 2.00

Sabeco Beer: 4.00 ea

Fried Tofu: 4.50

Garlic Mini Chicken Drumsticks: 7.15

Vietnamese Curry Chicken: 10.15

Monkey Bridge House Special Rice Noodles: 10.40

Garlic-Lemongrass Beef Ribs: 10.65

The Verdict:

Overall I would say our meal at the Monkey Bridge was pretty good. The service was fine. Other than a couple of missteps, the food was tasty enough for us to explore other dishes. I’d especially like to try their version of a bahn mi (Vietnamese Baguette on their menu) since I’ve see those mentioned on many a food/travel program.

I think what it has going for it is it’s diversity. J put it best, Monkey Bridge is “a nice alternative to the millions of Thai places and lack of good Chinese food”. Sure their entrees run a couple of dollars more than the typical Asian fare in Ballard but the variety of choices, portion size and fresh ingredients make up for that.

We’ll be back to try something new and different after the project ends if not before. Now if only Ballard would get a good Korean restaurant …

And a big thank you to Fonz for joining us. Feel free to do so again anytime.

  1. Susan
    August 17, 2011 at 9:05 am

    I enjoyed the meal I had at Monkey Bridge – an excellent soup and one of the baguettes. I also like the cosy-without-feeling-crowded aspect of the place. Definitely want to take Ken there the next time we’re in Seattle.

  1. January 24, 2012 at 12:22 pm

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