Artwork for U Pay Oct 2018

5/5

Monsoon

50/2 Park Street, Colombo 2


Excellent South-East Asian cuisine in a beautiful and buzzing location.



Monsoon serves amazing South-East Asian food in a beautiful location at the end of Park Street Mews. You should go.

As a Sri Lankan I like punchy spices, a lot of flavor and rice or noodles. Hence, a top-class restaurant that serves Indonesian, Malaysian, Singaporean, Thai and Vietnamese fills a good niche here. People like those cuisines generally, and Monsoon does them very well. 

The Food

Let's start with the Hainese Chicken (Rs. 950). Despite its Chinese name, it's an immigrant dish, the national dish of Singapore. 

I'll just mention three ingredients.

  • The rice: perfectly cooked and flavorful without any additions.
  • The stock: served on the side, the stock was a clear and savory soup, worth sipping on its own.
  • The chicken: soft (not overcooked) with that delicious jelly-skin.

Those are the basics of the dish and they were executed perfectly. The accompanying sides and sauces were just icing on the cake.

Also, take this, the Crispy Hoisin BBQ Ribs (Rs. 1,300). Perhaps you can't see cause the fancy (and inept) soft focus, but there's a thick, sweet glaze covering the perfectly cooked meat. The meat flakes easily off the bone and, slathering it with the sauce, it's a perfectly balanced delight. 

Ribs are normally hard to eat in polite company, but the pork here just falls off the bone with a touch of the fork. We ordered two.

Also, Duck Salad (Rs. 750). Duck is popping up on menus all over Colombo, usually sweetened into oblivion. Here it is served charred and balanced with acidity from pomelo (fancy grapefruit) and given sweetness from roasted beetroot and sweet basil chili. Duck is such a rich meat that it can easily throw a preparation off balance, but done right it's mouth magic.

This is just a Rs. 300 side, but the long beans are also perfectly cooked in a rich and tart coconut milk sauce. This stuff is all hitting the sweet spot of my sub-continental palate.

As you can perhaps see, we ordered a lot of different things and shared. This is also a fun way to eat, no? 

Here is the Pork Belly (Rs. 1,300), which just melts in your mouth, given form and crunchy by the fresh onions.

Here also is the Beef Rendang, an Indonesian classic. I had a bad experience with some unrelated beef earlier that day and didn't really try this. My dinnermates said it was good.

This is the worst photo for one of the better dishes, my apologies. This is the Golden Fragrant Prawns (Rs 1,200). I seem to have got the basil in focus which is the least interesting part. 

Fragrant refers to smell, but smell and taste are intimately connected. The experience here is that you get the sweet softness of prawn immediately, then a late hit of smokey spice. I'm a sucker for food that changes in your mouth, and this is a good example.

The Service

Normally in this section we just comment that the people were nice enough, but that doesn't really matter if you're hungry. The result of good service is generally speed, and we were surprised at how fast dishes came out. 

At Monsoon, the dishes started coming out within 10-15 minutes from our order. They come out as they're made (not all at once) but that's part of the experience. It was nice to be able to try so many different things and not be stuck with whatever appetizer/main combo each person orders, with only a furtive nibble of something better. The experience is similar to ordering shared plates at August.

The other thing is that our bill ended up being way less than expected. We paid about 2k per head, though two people didn't eat much. I'd say you can be happy with 3k each, which is a steal given Colombo restaurant prices these days. 

Note that they don't have a liquor license, so bring your own wine, or spirits or whatever you like. There's no corkage, or at least we weren't charged any.

One thing I'll add is that pork, vegetarian and nuts are clearly marked on the menu. This is a life-saver for me (I have a peanut allergy) and great if you're trying to keep halal or vegetarian. Note that I don't know if everything is certified halal, but I think marking pork dishes is enough for most diners.

The Location

Here is where my photos really fail you. I didn't even try to photograph the whole interior because the place was buzzing and I felt embarrassed standing up in the middle of it. Let me try and paint a picture with words.

Park Street Mews is already one of the most beautiful locations in Colombo with exposed brick walls and large spaces, originally meant for horses I assume. Monsoon doesn't change their hall too dramatically, besides tiling one wall. Instead, the design goes vertical with plants hanging from the ceiling and some see-thru bookshelves.

The effect draws your perception up, making the space feel expansive.

The rest of the effect is in the furniture - mixed marble for the tables - and comfy rattan for the chairs. There's also a bar in the middle and a couch in the center. Though the restaurant is packed you still have some distance from other diners, so you can have an honest conversation. The height of the space mixes all conversation into a pleasant buzz.

Monsoon also has a key feature that many locations lack. People. When we went the place was full, and full of conversation, forming that low level human vibration that makes dining out exciting. There were people coming in and out, busy waiters, the place is alive. It's a good scene.

Conclusion

Monsoon is great. It's competitive in quality with Colombo's fine dining restaurants, but it's quite unpretentious food. The inspiration is South-East Asian street food (which everybody loves), taken that extra 10% with plating and ambience. 

Park Street Mews is already the most buzzing, walkable place in Colombo and Monsoon is the ideal capstone. When you're there you feel like you're in the middle of a vibrant, cosmopolitan city, where you can have a nice meal and stumble out onto a street full of interesting places and people.

The final thing is that it's not crazy expensive. So I don't know what to tell you. Just go.


TIP

Nice place to share plates. BYOB.

Address

50/2 Park Street, Colombo 2

Directions

Park Street is just off Dharmapala Mawatha, opposite the park. The Mews is a walking lane, you can park around back.

Contacts

Facebook E-Mail

Report Inaccuracy

Closed right now

Cuisine

Thai South-East Asian Vietnamese

Dish Types

Rice Noodles Meats Seafood Beef Pork Chicken

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User Reviews
O
1

4/5

0

ovini

Absolutely great. Nice food and atmosphere. Enjoyed ever part of it.

Avatar for sandixy
2

5/5

0

sandixy

great & gorgeous…

O
1

4/5

0

ovini

Absolutely great. Nice food and atmosphere. Enjoyed ever part of it.

Avatar for sandixy
2

5/5

0

sandixy

great & gorgeous…

Avatar for sandixy
2

5/5

0

sandixy

great & gorgeous…

Avatar for sandixy
2

5/5

1

sandixy

great & gorgeous…

A
1

1/5

0

AashiqF

Disappointed by the food and surprised by how the chef tried to angrily defend his cooking and seemed visibly threatened by any constructive criticism.

R
1

5/5

1

Ranmali K

So I had read all the negative reviews here and decided to give it a shot to see what the fuss was all about. I was prepared for anything and we thought we'd swing by last evening. Provided we didnt like the place, we had a back up plan too.

But quite to my surprise out experience at Monsoon was rather pleasant. From the ambiance to the music to the food to the service, I would give it 5 stars.

So either the people commenting here don't know the difference between street food and South East food or were expecting a fine dining experience.

Anwways we opted for the Nasigoreng (we are huge Nasi fans) and since I don't eat meat, they customized it for me as well.

The food didn't take too long to arrive and the service was good.

If there is any complaint, it would be that the portion may be a bit small for an average person. But this was fine for us cause I don't eat too much for dinner. But yeah I am afraid that wouldn't be enough for a normal hungry person.

But the food was delicious and the place is beautiful.

We enjoyed the experience, over all :)

N
1

2/5

-1

Nilushi k

I had one of my worst dining experiences in Colombo here! I had ordered the Koh Samui Crispy Fish dish, but the waiter had clearly forgotten to place the order for my meal or the kitchen forgot to make it (which he only realised much later when he came up to check on me when everyone else had gotten their food) so my food arrived late. I would have been fine with this, but he didn’t even apologise for his/the kitchen’s mistake. Then after my food arrived, it was so oily I could barely eat it. They obviously forgot my dish then prepared it in such a rush that they did a horrific job with it. There was still no apology from anyone, even after we made a complaint. I am really disappointed with the food and shocked by their terrible customer service. Wouldn’t recommend this place to anyone.

A
1

1/5

0

Aqeel Fassuhudeen

Lack of quality food. A lot of East Asian cuisines attempted in the menu but the restaurant doesn’t do justice to those dishes and it’s pretty disappointing.

R
1

2/5

1

Ravi De Mel

Nice set-up and ambiance. But one goes to restaurants for for food, which in this case was mediocre to say the least.

N
1

1/5

1

Neilma

Wow! This is probably the worst meal I had in a long time. We had 4 different dishes and all 4 were equally terrible. Food had hardly any taste. When we were dinning noticed another couple also complaining. Spoke to the Chef and at first he looked like he was ready to fight us. On a positive note the ambiance was great so was the waite staff. Prices were also horribly expensive for what it is. Will never visit this place nor would I advice anyone to try the food here.

N
1

1/5

1

Neilma

Wow! This is probably the worst meal I had in a long time. We had 4 different dishes and all 4 were equally terrible. Food had hardly any taste. When we were dinning noticed another couple also complaining. Spoke to the Chef and at first he looked like he was ready to fight us. On a positive note the ambiance was great so was the waite staff. Prices were also horribly expensive for what it is. Will never visit this place nor would I advice anyone to try the food here.

C
1

5/5

-2

Colombo Ken

Absolutely loved it. Great ambience, great staff, great food.

G
8

2/5

0

GayanP

It’s a converted warehouse and the designers have preserved that feel very well. The roof is high but with no columns and the cross beams chopped off it’s ability to hold up is questionable.

Baskets with fresh ferns have been hung from roof, too high up to water. And naturally they have withered and are almost dead already Monsoon is open only for dinner and reservations are essential on weekends as lots of people are still coming to see this new restaurant.

Many things are good but the three basic essentials are wrong. The food is terrible, the prices are very high and the portions are small. Therefore the novelty will fade soon and no one will return unless they correct their act fast.

For example, one of the popular items on their menu, Beef Rendang, at Rs. 1,500+ per dish had none of the characteristic traditional flavours. It was tasteless with only a roasted cumin (local thunapaha) flavour and nothing else. Instead of the slow cooked solid texture, the beef had a mushy texture indicating quick cooking in a pressure cooker. And instead of a thick spicy gravy, it came barely tossed in a tasteless dip.

The much hyped Crispy BBQ ribs at Rs.1,600+ a portion was a disappointment even visually. The ribs were so small, it could have been the rib cage of a rabbit or even a chicken. It was not crispy at all and the little flaps of ribs were covered in a sickeningly sweet syrup. There was hardly any meat on it to eat. The ribs at Monsoon is a rip off compared to the solid racks of ribs served at the Shangri-La, TGIF and the Bavarian. At those restaurants , the price is much lower and the quality is streaks ahead.

Another much hyped dish, the Fragrant Prawns at Rs. Rs. 1,500+ per plate had only 5 small prawns. That’s the size of a starter at most Chinese restaurants in Colombo and its only half this price in those restaurents. Everything had fried curry leaves which is not at all SE Asian.

The selection of mains on the menu is very limited. The portions are very small, not enough on their own as a meal and they all cost over Rs. 1,500/ - a plate as the restaurant adds a further 30% to the menu prices.

The Desserts are Brownies, Sago pudding and sweet spring rolls. All of them failed to impress. They were obviously pre-made and had been around for awhile. All the food including desserts appear on your table super fast

Some of the chairs are strap chairs. The straps have sagged and they are extremely uncomfortable. The cushioned seats on the wall too are uncomfortable. The only comfortable chairs are the single chairs with cushions and they too aren't that comfortable. A nice toilet has been constructed way up on the wall, but everyone going in or out of it can be seen by everyone in the restaurant.

Bottled water, tonic and soda are reasonably priced. They don’t have a licence to sell liquor. Therefore, they allow you to bring your own wine, spirits and even beer without charging any corkage. Although they don’t sell any alcohol they provide high class service on that front: perfectly chilled white wine glasses, quality red wine glasses, slices of lemon for your gin, ice cubes for the drinks and ice buckets for the wine.

It is rather obvious that whites get special treatment at the Monsoon. The staff too seem to have been instructed to do so. Even the hostess who is very glum with locals s charming with whites and the Aussie floor supervisor and the Stewards too dance around their tables giving them a much better service than they do with locals.

There’s no band but there is very loud music that sets a lively mood. The best thing to do is to take your own drinks and go here for pre-dinner drinks. Have some starters here and move on to a better place for dinner.

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