Restaurant Review: Monsoon

Monsoon, one of Bahrain's iconic restaurants situated in the popular 338 area, has been pleasing palates for more than a decade. Alexander, eat's Head of User Acquisition, takes us through his latest culinary experience at this eatery, which happens to be one of his favourite restaurant haunts in Bahrain

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Monsoon is one of those restaurants that does decor well, and I’m always reminded of that when I step through those lovely, thickly paneled wooden doors; that polished wooden floor, flowing water, tastefully coloured lanterns are all perfectly designed to evoke a sense of exotic Balinese something or other. Its orange walled fortress like appearance definitely adds some Asian grandeur, while the warmly lit Chiang Mai towers make the interior feel warm and inviting.

The first thing that hits you is how extensive the menu is – a bit overwhelming as you browse through the myriad of Thai, Japanese, Singaporean, Malaysian and Vietnamese dishes – this is one chunky book that should really come with safety instructions on how to handle it. But unlike other restaurants who boast an large menu, almost everything in Monsoon's food book sounds pretty gastronomical.

If there’s papaya salad on the menu at a Pan Asian restaurant I'm on it, and it’s usually a great reflection of what the rest of the cuisine is going to taste like; in Monsoon’s case it’s everything you could want; fresh, zingy flavours contrasting with fragrant and spicy textures.

With the bar set relatively high, I wasn’t left to luxuriate in the plush seating for very long before the Dim Sum arrived. Now here’s an interesting nugget of useless knowledge on the good ol’ Dim Sum. This Cantonese style snack actually harkens back to the times of the Silk Road of Samarkand, where it first came into existence in the many tea houses that dotted this ancient caravan route. Weary travellers would have their orders of tea accompanied by various finger foods, as it was thought the combination resulted in a more satisfactory digestion! This has led to some interesting linguistical anomalies, as in Cantonese when one goes to ‘yum cha,’ or ‘to drink tea’, can also result in a plate of steaming Dim Sum appearing next to your little zen pot of steaming green leaf. (in case you were wondering, the Dim Sum at Monsoon was delicious).

With the starters over and done with, I barely had time to finish my obscure thought of how many floating lilies I could manage to step on before sinking into the depths of the refined outdoor pond, when my red curry arrived! Accompanied by some fantastically presented coconut rice, I was set to tackle the bowl of steaming deliciousness with my jade crockery.

My first few spoonfuls were creamy and bursting with the flavours of lemongrass, coriander and coconut milk, and it was blissful, but that’s as far as I got. You see, I have a confession to make. I like to think that I can handle spicy pretty well, but the sad truth is that the tongue searing, forehead sweating, panic of a low spice tolerance defeats me pretty quickly. But I can highly commend the few glorious spoonfuls that I did enjoy; creamy and tasty! The coconut rice was actually also very good, and was savoury (as it should be), in comparison with many other Asian restaurant who sacrifice authenticity for catering to Westerners’ overtly sweetened palate.

At this point in the meal I was walking the razorline between extreme satisfaction due to the abundance of good food and fantastic ambience, and the mild panic that the close encounter with the spicy red curry set off in me. I was looking for something to reset my tastebuds with dessert – and they have a lot of tempting options – when I saw something that struck me as both quite unconventional for a Pan Asian restaurant and also very tempting.

My self integrity to remain within the realms of having an authentic Asian meal went completely out of the window at this point when I ordered the coconut chocolate brownie selection for dessert. I'm not too sure what happened when it arrived; it's all a blur of chocolate smears, melting vanilla ice-cream, continual plate scraping to get one last taste, and some rather embarrassing moans of pleasure that I'm quite sure resulted in my neighbouring table making a rather speedy exit.

This is not the first time I come to Monsoon, and it definitely won't be the last either. This 338 establishment manages to combine fantastic cuisine, great ambiance and an idyllic setting, making it not just a personal favourite for me, but seemingly for all the other regulars who pack the place out every weekend without exception.