Sunday, August 29, 2010

Monk & Me, Hawthorn East by Big Fil

Most Malaysian restaurants around town cater to the student end of the market. Grab a seat, order a plate of noodles or some chicken rice, eat while rubbing shoulders with neighbours and get some change from $10. Monk & Me, located in the upper middle class suburb of Hawthorn East, offers more sophisticated food at lower to mid level restaurant prices. I'd wanted to try Monk & Me for months, and last Saturday finally managed to arrange a visit.

For starters we ordered the curry puffs. These were lighter and fluffier than usual but I found them a little oily. I think the amount of oil the puff soaked up wouldn't have been noticeable if the outer skin was thicker but was emphasised because the skin was so thin. Good, but could have been better.

The three mains we ordered were all good, with the Udang (prawn) Ria probably the best. Fragrant, with the capsicum and onion adding a touch of colour to the dish, the coconut based sauce complimented the tender prawns well.

The hot plate tofu made the biggest impact when it arrived at the table, sizzling madly and threatening to flow over the edge of the well filled plate. The tofu had managed to soak up the relatively subtle flavours of the minced chicken and egg and had a different texture to the dry tofu served with most Malaysian dishes I have had; soft and almost creamy.

The final main was the Nyonya fish (steamed barramundi). Nyonya are the female descendents of mixed Chinese and Malay marriages, with the men known as Baba. Nyonya cuisine generally mixes Chinese ingredients and cooking techniques with Malay (or sometimes Indonesian or Thai) spices giving flavours and textures different to traditional Chinese cooking. The fish was nicely moist and flavoured, the sauce spicy but not hot. This was probably my favourite of the mains but one of us felt that some of the fish he tried wasn't cooked evenly.

Two of us decided not to share dishes. Ms Watching Her Calories went for the Tom Yum Soup. The bowl of soup was enormous and filled with prawns and calamari amongst the tomato, tofu and sweet corn. Offered a taste, while I quite liked the sour soup it could have been spicier, which was rectified by some cut chillies on the side.

A bit tick for Monk & Me was having a separate children’s menu, which came with a serve of ice cream for dessert. The Hokkien Mee looked good, with lots of calamari and fish cakes and served on a bed of bok choy to cut through the heaviness of the sauce.

I'd have liked to get a photo of Ms L's ice cream with chocolate topping desert, which looked very tasty in its tall, clear glass bowl, but unfortunately I was a bit slow with the camera. Maybe next time.

Finally, for dessert we went for the Pandan crepes, stuffed with caramelised coconut. These were served with vanilla ice cream, strawberry topping and a caramel like sauce (made with palm sugar maybe?). Beautifully presented, very tasty, and also a hit with Ms L when she tried mine.

If you like Malaysian food, but want a change from the more cafĂ© like restaurants around town, Monk & Me is well worth a visit. The food is good to very good, and while not cheap it is reasonable for the size and quality of the servings. It’s very popular so you will need to book. As we arrived several people were told that if you hadn't booked a table the wait was around two hours. It was quite noisy as well and somehow the service managed to feel both efficient and chaotic at different times, so maybe not the venue for a slow and romantic first date.

Food - 8
Service - 7
Ambience - 7
Price - 7

9 Evans Place
Hawthorn East VIC 3123
Tel: (03) 9813 3261

Monk & Me on Urbanspoon


Bureaucrat said...

I'm not a fan of tofu, but I do like the silky ones (which is the one I think you had). It has an eggy casing and a custardy texture... yum!

The barra also looks good. I miss barra.... all I get here is salmon, cod, haddock and sea bream - all of which are nice, but nothing beats fresh barra.

Anonymous said...

Well, I can always organise a trip there if you are back in town anytime soon.

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