One of Soho’s newest offerings is the unusually named, The Monogamous Chinese, a Sichuan and Peking restaurant that literally hides under the Mid-Levels escalator between Elgin Street and Caine Road. Don’t be lazy like me and take the escalator all the way up to Caine Road, as you’ll just have to walk down the steps again!
The interior is stylishly quaint, with a distinct retro-1950s feel. There’s a contemporary aspect to the traditional decor conjured by the modern artwork that adorn the walls – from a striking portrait of Chairman Mao at the back of the restaurant completely made from business cards of patrons, to the mixed-media image of a Chinese opera singer. I found the decoration rather arresting, especially coupled with the low-lit Chinese red lanterns and the intimacy of the space.
So why the moniker, ‘Monogamous’? Interestingly, this appellation is an homage to the first perpetually monogamous Chinese Emperor Hongzhi and also to Chefs Shizh and Chiu in the kitchen, who are faithful in using only the freshest ingredients in keeping with the traditions of the dishes. All the sauces, spices, dumplings and noodles are made in-house so in essence, the idea is that all ingredients marry together in harmony, just like a monogamous marriage!
We had a wonderful evening grazing our way through a few of their signature dishes and to start we had the deep fried shrimp spring rolls, (nice and crispy and accompanied by a cracking sweet and sour sauce), the okra with wasabi and garlic sauce, (good crunch and a punchy sauce), followed by the brilliant deep fried tofu with spicy garlic and salt, which were utterly moreish. I loved the delectable salty shell which gave way to the piping hot, silken tofu inside.
Another notable dish was the deep fried black-boned chicken with diced Sichuan chilli and peppers. Once you find the chicken ‘treasure’ in the pile of dangerous chillies, you’ll find yourself getting poutier with each nibble as the spices assail you.
The other signatures we sampled were the sautéed tiger prawns in spicy kung po sauce, poached sliced beef in a vat of steaming hot chilli oil, deep fried mutton spare ribs with spices and the sautéed fish in black pepper sauce. The sliced beef was tender and flavoursome from soaking up the chilli broth and as I’m a fan of this dish normally, I barely noticed the tongue-numbing process.
The mutton spare ribs were also well done and I enjoyed the tiger prawns, although, by this stage, we were eating so many spicy dishes that all the flavours ended up running into one another on my palate.
If you want some vegetables to jazz up what can end up being a meat-heavy meal, I recommend the sautéed Sichuan style Jade vegetables which I found to be excellently prepared, with a great bite. The spice was quite subtle and thankfully did not overwhelm what is a rather delicate tasting vegetable.
A dish that would make me go back to The Monogamous Chinese for more and more has to be the incredible deep fried ice-cream soufflé balls that we had for dessert. Dusted generously with sugar, the soufflé was ever so light and airy and the vanilla ice-cream rich and cooling, which, after the fiery meal like we had, was a deliciously sweet end to a fun evening.
The Monogamous Chinese is an intriguing addition to the culinary scene and it’s lovely to see a bit of individuality not just on the menu, but also in the decor. It’s certainly a place to go for something a little different, and with an offering of $88 lunch sets, who’s to say that we can’t be monogamous in our mealtimes?
Monogamous 59 Caine Road, Central
Check out more food-related writings from Michelle on her blog, Chopstixfix!