Washington Post food critic Tom Sietsema's monthly report from the road.

By Tom Sietsema
Sunday, March 3, 2002

A recent look at new restaurants in Seattle reminded me of what a fine food town this seaport continues to be. Here's some supporting evidence:

LE PICHET (1933 First Ave., 206-256-1499):

The bar is zinc, the specials carefully penned on a chalkboard. Order wine and it's poured from a tiny earthenware pitcher. Why, if your server weren't so friendly, you'd swear you were in a Paris bistro. Instead, you're only steps away from Seattle's vibrant Pike Place Market, swooning over glistening oysters, ripe cheeses and a roast chicken that's worth its hour-long wait. Before he learned to cook in France, chef Jim Drohman toiled as an engineer at Boeing. Thank goodness he switched careers. Entrees $14-$18.

MONSOON (615 19th Ave. E., 206-325-2111):

Expect just the opposite of the name. Small and serene, this family-owned restaurant in the Capitol Hill neighborhood also proves a lovely feast for the senses. From the gleaming stainless- steel kitchen come fetching takes on Vietnamese cooking, served in restrained portions. Grilled baby squid gets stuffed with shiitake mushrooms and duck, Chilean sea bass is invigorated with fragrant herbs and hot peppers, and crisp-soft tofu turns habit-forming with lemongrass, onions and mushrooms. Entrees $9.50-$18.

727 PINE (727 Pine St., 206-774-6400):

There's nothing ordinary about this downtown hotel restaurant. Not the dining room, so beautiful it ought to be in pictures. Not the sommelier, eager to turn you on to the pleasures of the grape. And certainly not the whimsical, Northwestern-inspired menu. Open for three meals daily, the kitchen allows guests to open their eyes to lavender-hazelnut French toast, move on to Dungeness crab club with yuca fries in the afternoon, and end the day with a sumac-marinated rack of lamb. Entrees $20-$38.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company