The oddly named Noodle Monkey, a new cafe on Haig Road, is yet another new venture by Don Stanley's group. While their food has its merits, they've tried to do too much with the menu and the entire operation lacks direction.
We're no strangers to Don Stanley's group of restaurants. The Fat Crab, Genghis and Don's Deli have all fared pretty well in our books. I'm not quite sure how, but they've managed to fit another restaurant into the same space that houses the aforementioned eateries. While the other three specialize in certain areas (seafood, Mongolian and bakery, respectively), Noodle Monkey tries to do a bit of everything, which is sort of where they drop the ball. Their menu features everything from Sri Lankan to Italian to Thai, but unlike their other restaurants, doesn't really excel at any of them. Most of their dishes are priced under Rs. 1,000. But most of their mains are upwards of Rs. 700, which isn't exactly cheap when it comes to a cafe.
While waiting for the food to be prepared, I thought a glass of strawberry juice (Rs. 700) wouldn't hurt. HUGE MISTAKE. This was a glorified glass of water with maybe one or two strawberries blended in. At Rs. 700, this was more expensive than a cocktail at most bars. Do your wallet a favor and get a bottle of water instead.
With The Fat Crab in mind, I chose the baked crab (Rs. 725) as my starter, and it was excellent. The open crab shell was filled with creamy crab meat, topped with a thick layer of cheese. I'm not the biggest fan of crab, because of the effort it takes to eat, but this was perfect. Although the filling was creamy, the crab meat was still the hero of the dish, with a great balance of seasoning. If I find myself dropping in again, I'll probably just get two of these.
For the main, I got the kalu pol pork with egg godamba roti (Rs. 895). The egg godamba here was basically a kottu, but a good one at that. It was lightly seasoned and not too oily, with chopped tomatoes and veggies adding a bit of freshness. The pork, however, was a flop. The meat itself was a tad over cooked, but the main problem was the overpoweringly peppery curry, which masked all the other flavours.
The chicken satay (Rs. 850) was also so-so. We got six grilled chicken skewers with peanut satay sauce. I was a bit skeptical about the satay sauce, but it was actually a pretty respectable rendition with a thick consistency, a bit of heat and plenty of peanut flavour. Once again though, they overcooked the chicken, which ultimately let the whole dish down.
We finished off with their cinnamon and vodka ice cream (Rs. 475), which sounded too interesting to pass up. This was vanilla ice cream with a sprinkle of cinnamon, served with two caramelized pineapples soaked in vodka. Those pineapples were actually the highlight of the dish, with a light crunch, the right amount of sweetness and mild hit of vodka. Ironically, there was only like one scoop of the cinnamon ice cream so I found myself eating just the pineapples at the end.
Ambience & Service
Located right below The Fat Crab premises, the general vibe at Noodle Monkey is pretty simple with a chequered floor and wooden furniture. The one thing that the guys at Don Stanley's do well is posters. Like The Fat Crab's wall of movie posters, Noodle Monkey also has a few good ones like the one below, featuring monkeys, pasta and celebrities.
The Noodle Monkey is new but the staff is well experienced. These are the same guys who've been working at the other three restaurants. They were courteous, well spoken and attentive, which is all we can really ask for, so no complaints on that front.
The Noodle Monkey, like it's name, is a bit confused. From the menu to the execution of the dishes, they've got room for improvement. With an experienced staff and three decent restaurants under the same management, they've definitely got potential.
Stay away from those juices.