Food Reviews: Monsoon Asian Kitchen & Lounge

MONSOON ASIAN KITCHEN & LOUNGE
Babylon Village (631) 587-4400

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Monsoon will knock your socks off. If you are dazzled and delighted by design and décor this restaurant is for you. The Bohlsen Restaurant Group has taken the former Bank of Babylon building (circa 1922) and transformed it into a glittering Asian temple serving Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean dishes fashioned to appeal to American palates. Monsoon is dedicated less to authenticity than to creativity and it accomplishes that goal, skewing Asian dishes to American tastes.

This sharp, trendy, modern two-story, 200-seat spot just about screams 21st century with its hip, noisy, youthful vibe, 8- by 12-foot video screen showing custom made films, iPad photo booth for tweeting, 35-foot red tile and black lattice ceiling, second floor state of the art open kitchen with a 20-foot viewing window, 30-foot bar, special effects lighting, 6-foot long communal tables and high-tech entertainment.

“You can’t eat the walls,” as they say, but fortunately the food here is anything but a letdown. The Pan Asian menu is the product of a collaboration that began with brothers Michael and Kurt Bohlsen’s travels to the Orient. The resulting menu was created by Cornelius Gallagher, the Bohlsen’s former corporate chef, and implemented by Executive Chef Michael Wilson. Both chefs are solid restaurant veterans who have worked at one or more of the five other Bohlsen restaurants, as well as world-class eateries in this country and Europe.

Although this family-style sharing menu isn’t a mile long, it offers a diverse array of sushi, dim sum, hot and cold starters and main courses.

Kick off your dinner with the outstanding cubes of crispy pork bellies ($10) with their crusty surface and tangy golden mustard sauce, or the stack of spicy, meaty Korean barbecue chicken wings ($11). The generous mound of crispy duck salad ($14) is also a go. Rather bland Vietnamese summer rolls ($9) were somewhat enlivened by their snappy chili peanut sauce.

Noteworthy mains included, of all things, chicken chow mein ($18). It’s not a throwback to your father’s 1940s and 50s version, but a creative new dark-sauced concoction covered with a delicate mantle of light, crispy bean thread noodles and shrimp with yellow curry ($22), a lively, lovely blend of rich curry and coconut milk. Perfectly prepared sea scallops sporting a ginger-coconut sauce were delectable but pricey ($32 for five), shaking beef ($29) featured top quality filet mignon that’s given an interesting kick from its shishito peppers—unfortunately it arrived at our table lukewarm. But don’t neglect the mellow, wild mushroom chow fun ($9), one of the menu’s tastiest bargains.

All four sweets ($7) scored. Deep fried Oreos came with some gently chili-spiked sauce, a smooth dense ginger crusted cheesecake was enhanced by its caramel sauce, lemongrass crème brûlée boasted fresh raspberries, and an intense flourless chocolate torte was crowned with a scoop of mint ice cream and a splash of raspberry sauce.

Service was swift and sure, at times too swift resulting in more dishes (including a bottle of wine and receptacle holding chop sticks and three sauces) than the smallish table could accommodate.

photos by stephen lang

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richard jay scholem

Richard Jay Scholem practically invented the Long Island restaurant culture through 800+ reviews of the region's eateries both on radio and in print over the last 30 years. He is a former New York Times Long Island Section restaurant reviewer, has contributed to the Great Restaurants of...magazines and Bon Vivant, authored a book, aired reviews on WGSM and WCTO radio stations, served on the board of countless community and food and beverage organizations, and received many accolades for his journalism in both print and broadcast media. He is currently available for restaurant consultation. Reach him at (631) 271-3227.