524 Massachusetts Avenue | Cambridge, MA 02139
Growing up in an Asian household, I’ve had my fair share of Asian food. Home-cooked is always the best kind, but some Asian restaurants manage to come close in taste, so I was willing to give Thelonious Monkfish a try. Located in Central Square down Massachusetts Avenue, Thelonious Monkfish is a small, modern, Asian fusion restaurant. Given its name, it of course also plays jazz in the background. Even on a Monday night, the restaurant was packed, and there were several people waiting for a table. Interestingly enough, it is one of two Boston-area restaurants (the other being Veggie Galaxy) that accept bitcoin as a proper form of payment.
Even though I use a rather large SLR camera to take pictures for this blog, I try to be discreet and attract as little oh-my-god-she’s-such-an-Asian-tourist attention as I can. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure the entirety of the restaurant was staring at our table while I took pictures at Thelonious Monk. The lighting was so romantically dim that my camera was unable to pick up any good pictures, so my friends were kind enough to use the flashlight function on their phones to light up the dishes while I took pictures. All six dishes.
The menu was unbelievably extensive, and I was impressed with the creatively named items. I went with The Frog Prince Roll, from the menu section, “Fairy Tale Sushi.” Inside, there was salmon, mango, and tempura crunch, and the roll was topped with spicy crab and avocado.
Salmon and avocado is a classic sushi combination, so I was looking forward to testing the addition of the other three extra ingredients. Unfortunately, I tasted almost no mango. The flavor was entirely overwhelmed by the avocado and salmon. The tempura crunch added a nice contrast to the smooth salmon and avocado, and the spicy crab was a pleasant touch. Overall, I enjoyed the roll, though I wish that it was slightly more risky for such a cute name.
Julia also ordered from the “Fairy Tale Sushi” section, and went with the Red Riding Hood Roll, which included a roll of spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, and cucumber, topped with strawberry medallions, pared scallop, black tobiko and a red berry coulis drizzle. “It was really interesting because I’ve never had strawberry in my sushi before,” she said. “But it was a little too sweet, and it almost tasted like I was eating sushi with strawberry ice cream on top.”
David, who ordered the Mango Fried Rice, shriveled up in embarrassment every time we turned into food paparazzi. Nevertheless, he managed to stay for his food, and thought that his dish had an interesting taste. “The mango was fine,” he said. “But it didn’t blend into the flavor of the other ingredients as much as I hoped it would.”
Will got the Drunken Noodles, which were flat, wide noodles with onions, green beans, basil, and hot peppers, and he described the dish as one of his favorites. “It had an exciting spiciness reminiscent of Szechuan food,” he said. “It had this phenomenal blend of unconventional flavors.”
Will also ordered Fried Ice Cream for dessert, and he was quite excited to tell me what he thought about it: “I’ve had fried ice cream before at a Mexican restaurant, and I loved it so I figured I’d try it at Monkfish. Simply put, it blew my mind. The fried coating of the ice cream was similar to the fried dough I encountered once in China, and it gave the dish a uniquely Asian taste. The smooth vanilla ice cream was garnished with fresh strawberries that provided a nice light contrast to the heaviness of the fried coating. I’m actually salivating just reminiscing about this dessert.”
Alex, a regular Pad Thai connoisseur, naturally ordered the Crispy Chicken Pad Thai, and described it as “one of the best in recent memory.”
Yen ordered the Spicy Seafood Udon. “It looked a lot spicier than it actually was,” he told me. “It was filling, but fell in the category of almost-but-not-quite-delicious for me.”
Overall, Thelonious Monkfish was certainly a positive dining experience for me. Though it seems that the tradeoff for having an immense menu is that the items are hit-or-miss, I am convinced that there are more hits than misses, so I look forward to the next time I can try more items on the menu. 7/10