January 19, 2011
I love this place! Located in the heart of downtown on 2nd and Stewart, Long’s shows that there’s a lot more to Vietnamese food than the characteristic pho you find everywhere around Seattle. I’ve stopped in for lunch or happy hour at least a dozen times and never had a bad meal.
Owned by the same people behind the popular Tamarind Tree restaurant in the Central District, the food is of the same high caliber. While the prices are higher than you see at the average pho place, the portions are generous and the food is yumtastic. The interior is also slightly upscale and has lots of nice touches — a fire bowl in the center of the dining area, small tropical trees, beautiful wooden details, real orchids in the bathroom, and totally delicious cocktails. Despite the ambiance of the venue, it still has a casual vibe and the staff is very warm and welcoming, never overly formal. The dining room is medium sized and leads into Jelly Bar, which can also be reached from an exterior door on Stewart.
They have a lengthy menu of dishes with essentially a page for each category — appetizers, satay, rolls, steamed rice paper, salads, soups, noodles, noodle soups, rice dishes, meat dishes, vegetable dishes, seafood dishes, and ‘specialties.’ As you’d guess, there is a lot more to choose from than at the typical eatery, especially if your date is a vegetarian.
Some of the more unique items on their menu are the fruit based salads: pineapple, mango, or green papaya. They are all very fresh and delicious and the presentation on the pineapple is beautiful with the hollowed top of the pineapple displayed on the plate. The green papaya salad has most of the same ingredients as the som tum salad you sometimes see at Thai restaurants (which I also love), but it has a slightly different flavor. It might be the fried onions on top or keeping the dressing on the side, but whatever it is, it is works and is consistently good.
The meaty dishes are also delicious and will satisfy any devoted carnivore. I love the beef lemongrass noodles and any dish served with the crispy duck. Their distinctive crepe dishes are also fantastic and unlike any other crepe you’ve ever had. They have a vegetarian and a “long provincial” (i.e. meaty) version. Both are served as super crispy, numerous ingredient omelets with lettuce wraps and fresh herbs (basil, cilantro, etc.) on the side. They sound a little weird with ingredients like ‘mung beans’ and ‘coconut milk,’ but just try them. Trust me. I never would have tried them unless I’d been out with a friend who’s a very adventurous food enthusiast. We split the platter and ate ever last bit in all its lettuce wrapped glory.
The idea behind Long’s Jelly Bar was to have a tank of actual jellyfish built into the wall separating the bar from the dining room. I did get to see them there when the place first opened a few years ago. However, I heard they had some trouble caring for the jellyfish. (What I actually heard was that several jellyfish met an untimely end by being sucked up in the filter system and were too expensive to replace. Unfortunately, the conspicuously empty tank remains as evidence.) While I don’t approve of cruelty to jellyfish (intended or unintended), cocktails like the spicy watermelon martini will always keep me coming back. Again, I know it sounds a little strange, but if you like spice you will love it. It is an excellent blend of sweet and spicy and the watermelon flavor is actual juice (not some crappy Midori syrup).