Definitely try the signature bò 7 món, or beef seven ways, at Eric and Sophie Banh’s Seven Beef. Dishes highlighting their Vietnamese heritage hit, but others miss.

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Bò 7 món, or beef seven ways, is a celebratory feast in Vietnam that’s often served at weddings. In Seattle, the same feast is available daily. It was the inspiration for Seven Beef, Sophie and Eric Banh’s Capitol Hill steakhouse.

The Banh siblings are no strangers to the local dining scene. Five-year-old Ba Bar, around the corner, is a popular breakfast-through-late-night destination. Their first restaurant, Monsoon, opened 17 years ago, eventually spawning a Bellevue branch.

Unlike those other ventures, Seven Beef suffers from a split personality. It wants to be a steakhouse, but its strength lies in the dishes that reflect the Banh’s Vietnamese heritage.

Seven Beef ★★  


1305 E Jefferson St, Seattle


Reservations: accepted

Hours: Dinner daily 5-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 5-11 p.m. Friday & Saturday; happy hour 3-6 p.m.

Prices: $$$$ (starters & sides $8-$19, main courses $15-$35, steaks $26-$125, Beef (or vegetables) Seven Ways menu $40 per person)

Drinks: full bar; original cocktails; French and American wine list; local draft beer and bottled cider

Service: energetic and eager to please

Parking: on street; $5 valet parking 6-10 p.m. Friday & Saturday

Sound: moderate

Who should go: carnivorous fans of Monsoon and Ba Bar

Credit cards: all major

Access: no obstacles

The menu showcases several cuts of grass-fed, Washington-grown beef, dry-aged for months. They range from a half-pound coulotte, bavette or flank steak ($26-$29), on up to a 45-ounce cote de boeuf ($125). The price includes a side of frites.

A 36-ounce porterhouse ($110) possessed the funky complexity of aged meat and the chew of grass-fed beef, but it was under-seasoned and lopsidedly seared on the Argentine-style grill. The steak’s middle was a medium-rare magenta, but the underside was as hard as shellac, with a tough, gray layer just below the surface. Very little meat juice joined the demi-glace pooling on the silver platter.

The steak arrived before we had finished our starters. Fresh plates were provided but not flatware, so we sawed through the meat with the same dainty, serrated knife that had just sailed through a torchon of salt-cured foie gras. Saffron-tinted pearl onions and other tiny, pickled vegetables surrounded that lovely, luxurious paté, which was streaked with thyme and shallot, and served with soft slices of Macrina Bakery potato bread.

A whiff of smoke trailed the other starter, a grilled vegetable salad painted with a lively pesto of mixed herbs. It was a pretty arrangement of squash, peppers and eggplant, but the wide ribbons of squash had barely touched the grill, while the shriveled slices of eggplant were leathery.

There were no such ups and downs on the bò 7 món menu. Eating it felt like an event — and at $40 per person a reasonably priced one at that. The seven dishes come in three waves. The first was frisée laced with mint and pickled onions, alongside slices of steak — possibly flank or bavette, grilled with far more finesse than the porterhouse. A splash of nuoc cham vinaigrette did well by both steak and salad.

The menu’s focal point is a trio of finger-length grilled sausages. They come in pairs, and I’m hard pressed to pick a favorite: bo la lot, with its crunchy heart of jicama and crackling vine-leaf jacket; bo mo chai, imbued with garlic and five spice and swaddled in caul fat; or the lemongrass-skewered bo nuong sa.

You get a stack of tender lettuce leaves to wrap the sausages along with an array of trimmings: pineapple chunks; chilled noodles; pickled vegetables; shiso, mint and basil; and a bowl of mam nem, a pineapple-sweetened anchovy sauce that I recommend you apply with abandon.

Next came a thin slice of chuck eye marinated in vinegar and lime juice, something of a palate cleanser before we moved on to a slam-bang double finale: bo cha dum, a steamed meatball mixed with slivered woodear mushrooms and glass noodles; and congee, rice cooked in a clear beef broth accented with salted radish and green onion, made in the Vietnamese-style, which is soupier and lighter than other versions.

Rau 7 món, or vegetables seven ways, is also $40 per person. It’s the flip side of the seven-beef menu and in a way complementary — two of us ordered one of each and shared — but it lacks the variety and imagination of the beef.

Sample menu

Chilled yellow squash soup  $9

Grilled vegetable salad  $11

Dry-aged beef burger  $15

Salt-cured foie gras  $19

20-oz N.Y. strip  $65

Ours began with a simple plate of watermelon radish rounds speckled with spicy microgreens and sauced with beurre blanc. More beurre blanc was drizzled over very burnt carrots, parsnip and garlic scapes. The blackening was intentional, but there is a point when char turns to bitter ash that obliterates the vegetable’s sweetness and character.

The second wave included slivered oyster mushrooms with Parmesan-laced polenta and a slab of sharp Roquefort with sweet, preserved plum. Both pleasant dishes but pairing them seemed odd. Then Roquefort turned up again as foam drifting across a bowl of creamy, chilled yellow squash bisque.

Launching a new restaurant presents daunting challenges even for successful restaurateurs like the Banhs. In April, opening chef Scott Emerick (of the erstwhile Cremant) departed after six months. The current chef, Korean-born Jinho Han, cooked under Emerick at Restaurant Nora in Washington, D.C., before coming to Seattle, where he worked at both Monsoon and Ba Bar before Seven Beef.

The restaurant is spacious and inviting. The bar top is marble; the kitchen counter across from it is fir. Parchment paper covers white-clothed tables positioned between the two. Little lights strung beneath the high, windowed ceiling give it a festive air. So do the vinyl albums spinning hits from the ’80s and earlier.

Perhaps, like steak, Seven Beef will improve with age. For now, go for bò 7 món or either of the two killer burgers. Indulge in a decadent dessert, perhaps Brad Van Meerten’s Bavarian cream napoleon with strawberry and lychee or Andy Jeong’s intense chocolate mousse. Or lift your spirits at happy hour with a Parasol cocktail (vodka, tonic, white port and elderflower) on the just-opened patio.