I’m so ignorant when it comes to my knowledge of jazz musicians. That’s exactly why when I first saw that the new restaurant in Central Square was going to be called Thelonious Monkfish, I thought the founders were out of their minds.
Then I found out that Thelonious Monk was actually a really famous jazz musician.
Ahhh! – the fish symbol with the musical staff makes sooo much more sense now!
I’ve felt for a long time that there’s been a dearth of good Asian restaurants in Cambridge, especially Central and Harvard Square. So, when Thelonious Monkfish opened with the promise of reasonably priced sushi and Southeast Asian food, I definitely wanted to check it out right away.
spicy tuna, poached shrimp, yellowtail in cucumber wrap with ponzu sauce ($13.95)
I stopped by for lunch with a friend a couple weeks after the restaurant had opened. By that point, positive Yelp reviews had made the place quite popular, and it was packed right at noon on a Tuesday. I had to wait about 10-15 minutes before I could be seated. You could tell the staff was a bit harried, still not accustomed to dealing with such heavy crowds.
Temper Tantrum Maki
tuna, cucumber, scallions & chili sauce $6.50
We decided to try the sushi, since that’s something that’s really hard to find in Central Square. I ordered the chirashi while my friend got the Temper Tantrum Maki. We shared the Satchmo Roll, since that looked interesting as well.
assorted sashimi on a bed of seasoned rice $12.95
Honestly, the sushi was rather underwhelming. The Satchmo Roll was bland (the fish itself didn’t have much flavor), and the workmanship in the maki was a bit sloppy. The chirashi was average – I guess for only $12.95 I shouldn’t expect something amazing, but I didn’t really enjoy my meal that much. My friend enjoyed her Temper Tantrum Maki, so I’m guessing at least the chili sauce added some flavor to the otherwise bland fish.
Drunken Noodles $10.95
flat rice noodles, onions, green beans, basil leaves, and hot peppers stir-fried with your choice of chicken, beef, pork, tofu or shrimp
On a more positive note, I ordered a bunch of their Southeast Asian dishes for take out another evening. The menu had a wide variety of choices, so I tried several curries as well as classics such as Pad Thai, Drunken Noodles, and Rad Na.
Chicken Green Curry $10.95
I was actually quite pleased with our food. The delivery came right on time (I ordered using Seamlessweb), and the food was pretty enjoyable. The dishes were well-seasoned and flavorful yet not too salty nor greasy.
Glass Noodle Pad Thai
cellophane noodles stir-fried with egg, chicken, shrimp, crushed peanuts, bean sprouts, lime juice, & tamarind juice
I had invited a group of 5 people over, and everyone seemed to really enjoy the food. The curry coconut-based sauce was so good that one of my guests asked to take it home to eat with rice, even though all the meat and veggies were essentially gone!
Beef Red Curry $12.95
The prices are quite reasonable, and a pretty good value considering the ambiance of the restaurant, the location, and the type of food.
Clover Honey Pork Rad Na
wide flat noodles are pan-fried till lightly caramelized with clover honey marinated pork, carrot, egg, chinese kale & served in a mild gravy
This dish intrigued me because it sounded interesting. Check out that super wide noodle!
Overall Initial Thoughts
I’m pretty happy about this new Asian fusion addition to Central Square. The area definitely could use more Asian food, and Thelonious Monkfish fits the bill as a pleasant sit-down restaurant with reasonably-priced food. Based on my initial experiences, I’d probably skip the sushi and instead opt for one of the Thai dishes. Having said that, I think my opinion is still premature. I’ve had other friends visit the restaurant and speak rather positively about the sushi. I’ll probably go back and give the sushi one more try before making just drastic decisions.
524 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02139
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