Friday, February 17, 2012

You had me at Deep-fried Tofu - The Monogamous Chinese

Understandably, I had a cloud of doubts over my head when I first heard of this new Chinese restaurant on top of Soho, serving Sichuanese and Pekinese cuisines - after all, this is not an area traditionally known for quality Chinese food. And I have to admit if I wasn't invited to a tasting event at The Monogamous, I wouldn't even notice its opening let alone setting foot in.

Located at the upper part of Soho and tucked away beneath the mid-levels escalator (with the entrance at the back side of the building), the place could be hard to find. And the decorations at the entrance reminded me of those old-school Chinatown restaurants that we were stuck with at college - "Oh please, don't give me Kung Pao chicken and Moo Shu Pork...", I was secretly hoping as I walked inside. Luckily, the interior decor is less tacky - high ceiling, dim light, red lanterns, contemporary Chinese art pieces hanging around with only a handful of tables... almost feel like you are in those moody Wong Ka Wai movie set or something.

Joined by our host Tony and some new and old friends, we tried a number of dishes from prawns to fish to mutton to dumplings. Pretty much got our bases covered as far as Northern Chinese cuisine is concerned. Many other restaurants would modify their recipes to suit local flavors by cutting down on oil, make the food less spicy, or avoid anything deep-fried, but The Monogamous Chinese holds truth to the original regional flavors (hence the interesting name Monogamous - as in fidelity to the traditional taste) - and that's one thing I particularly like at this restaurant.

My favorite dish of the evening is deep-fried tofu with crispy garlic and spicy salt, aka "typhoon shelter" style as it is known locally. It's "mildly" spicy - compared to other dishes we had - but the mixture of fried garlic and the chili peppers struck a good balance in terms of taste and texture. It's not an uncommon dish in many restaurants in Hong Kong, but this one came out as a winner with the especially silky texture and distinct soy flavor of the tofu combined with the crispy skin deep-fried to perfection. I love it.
I am no big fan of super spicy food, but I love the poached beef in hot chili oil - the Sichuan chili peppers gave the dish just the right spicy flash and a tingling sensation on the tongue, and it's very appetizing - especially in a cold winter night. The sauteed fish fillet in black pepper sauce and dumplings in spicy pork and chinese cabbage are also very decent. 

Both desserts at the end of the meal were surprisingly delightful - and just exactly what we needed as an antidote to the numbness in the mouth after all the spicy food. The candied glutinous rice dumpling with red bean paste was prepared in a similar way as the candied banana or apple type (拔絲香蕉/蘋果) that we often had except it's even sweeter and more delicate. It's not on their regular menu yet, but I reckon it really should and it can as well be their signature dessert dish.

The second dessert is the egg white souffle puff with ice cream filling - once again a twist to the traditional version usually filled with red bean paste and/or mashed bananas, but a lot more difficult to make. I love them both - well other than my only complaint being they probably should have used a better ice cream without so much an "artificial" vanilla taste.

Will this ever be my favorite Chinese restaurant in town? Well not likely, to be honest with you. But if you are looking for something different in the neighborhood other than pub food or chain restaurants, or in the mood of spicy Chinese food in a cosy environment, The Monogamous Chinese restaurant should really be the place in your mind.

when? February 7 2012
where? The Monogamous Chinese, 39 Caine Road, Central
menu highlights? Deep-fried tofu with crispy garlic and spicy salt, and the desserts!

1 comment :

johannes said...

Really surprised every local food editor in town.
Who knew...?... An actually decent Chinese restaurant in SoHo !!!