Thursday, 3 April 2014

Monga Izakaya

91 Kingsway 
Glen Waverley, VIC

You know what puts me in a blogging slump? Food poisoning. After eating salad from a place that shall remain un-named, I was afflicted with 3 whole days of gastric agony before I could put anything solid in my mouth again. Still, the show must go on, and on the first of those three days when the nausea wasn’t too bad, I dragged myself to Monga, a hidden away izakaya in Glen Waverley that I had been meaning to visit for a long time, albeit under better circumstances. 

If there’s one issue I take with restaurants (aside from the many other issues I may take with restaurants), it’s a restaurant that is as clearly inauthentic as the Italian restaurants I came across in Japan. So I was more than a little surprised when I headed up the narrow flight of stairs to find a bona fide izakaya, complete with chefs throwing back cups of sake behind the sushi bar.

Though I’m pretty sure Monga is a Cantonese/Chinese creation, the hospitality here is strictly in line with the Japanese. We were made to feel like honoured guests as we were ushered into a corner with leather chairs, the menus handed to us with a respectful bow. The restaurant was decorated with a tasteful clutter of Japanese knick-knacks, the utensils was ridiculously beautiful, and I have it on good authority that deeper within the restaurant was a traditional Japanese floor seating. 

Edamame ($4.8)

I’m not usually one to order Edamame ($4.8) at a restaurant, as I’m used to eating them at home steaming hot by the bucketful, instead of stone-cold in little dishes. But for some reason I was really craving the chewy, nutty little beans today, and Monga served up a generous plate of the pods, sprinkled lightly with salt, still hot to the touch. 

Soft Shell Crab ($10.8)

Our beautifully fried plate of Soft Shell Crab ($10.8) was a complete and utter steal. We were served up three whole crustaceans, dusted with green tea salt, and lightly battered tempura-style so as to not disturb the sweet, juicy flesh and crispy shell.

Ox Tongue Skewer($2.8)/Quail Egg Wrapped in Bacon Skewer ($3.6)

There’s a whole skewer section but the ones that caught our eyes the most were the Ox Tongue ($2.8), and the Quail Egg Wrapped in Bacon ($3.6). The ox tongue was cooked just like it should be – the slices of meat were chewy, juicy, and charred from the grill, though could’ve done with a little more marinade. The quail eggs lacked a little in the bacon department, but the smoky eggs burst into a mouthful of creaminess. 

Japanese Vegetable Korokke ($5.5)

We also ordered a plate of Japanese Vegetable Korokke ($5.5). The fried patties were crunchy outside and delicately smooth in the middle, pairing up perfectly with the dish of plum sauce. I had plenty of fun watching Chris trying to manoeuvre these fragile little snacks into his bowl with chopsticks. 

Salmon Sushi ($4.5, 2pcs)/Kingfish Sushi ($4.5, 2pcs)

I’ve had a lot of sushi in the last week but that didn’t stop me from a pair of Salmon Sushi ($4.5, 2pcs), and a pair of Kingfish Sushi ($4.5, 2pcs). The salmon sushi was beautiful, the buttery fish draped across a pillow of vinegared rice, but unfortunately the kingfish was past its prime, and it tasted its age.  

Ontama Udon ($8.2)

In true Japanese style, we washed down our bar snacks with a generous serve of carbs in the form of an Ontama Udon ($8.2). This was, for all intents and purposes, the Asian equivalent of chicken soup. The dashi stock was light and clear, the faint fishy umami of it a sigh of delight, slurped up with lengths of chewy udon.  

Snow Fungus, Lily Bulbs, Lotus Seeds and Palm Seed Sweet Soup ($7.2)

We had eaten quite a bit of food, but as our dishes had been served up over the span of an hour and a half, we still had room for dessert. Chris’ eyes alighted on the selection of puddings and cakes, whilst I had the more Asian offerings in mind. And whilst I would’ve loved to be adventurous, my ailing stomach begged for something warm and comforting, like the Snow Fungus, Lily Bulbs, Lotus Seeds and Palm Seed Sweet Soup ($7.2). Though comforting with crimped folds of crunchy snow fungus, I found the soup to be quite bland, lacking in the cooling herbal properties of a good Asian dessert soup. 

Genmai Milk Pudding ($7.2)

Chris’ Genmai Milk Pudding ($7.2) was unfortunately as commonplace as my dessert soup, though perhaps a touch more flavoursome. The smooth pudding was subtly sweet with a creaminess that built on the palate, topped with a scattering of toasted rice. We liked our dessert, but not enough to finish it all on an already-full stomach.

I was pleasantly surprised by Monga; it was exactly what I had hoped, but not dared to expect. The variety of food on offer was huge, and depending on what you order, you could rack up an extravagant bill with a dozen crab legs, or as we chose to do, have a laid-back, indulgent dinner without wringing out the dregs of our bank accounts. I may not be in a rush to return, but I will eventually, make no doubt of that.

Rating: 13.5/20 – huMONGAs menu.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit. 

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  1. I'll have to give this one a go, it looks worthwhile!

    1. Hi Laur, thanks for dropping by! I have to say that in the Japanese-deprived outer eastern suburbs, Monga is definitely one of the better places to visit, and the ambiance is great. I'm still not sure about the sushi though; some say it's great but I wasn't so keen. Definitely try the soft shell crab!

    2. Oh I love soft-shell crab! Have you tried the Japanese sushi train in Box Hill? It's pretty good!