Please take a read over my revised review at the end.
It’s been six months since I caught up with my amigos, after much delay we finally met up for lunch. This time it’s at Monga Sweet Lounge located in Glen Waverley’s Kingsway, the central hub for all your suburban nightlife needs. Don’t mistake it for the one in Box Hill or the one in the city, it’s actually quite different!
For one, this Monga stays true to its Japanese translation with its menu serving typical dishes found in izakaya. In addition to this, popular Japanese desserts and a large assortment of sake are also offered.
Aside from the extensive menu, the decor is also incredibly unique. Unlike other Japanese restaurants I’ve seen in Melbourne, Monga combines common aesthetics from traditional izakaya with props from the 50s, such as old school posters. There’s even an old TV!
Seating is divided up into two main areas. The first area where the bar is situated adopts a more modern ambiance, whereas the second area at the back gives customers the choice of sitting around tables or on the elevated floors which has a pit for your legs. I’d assume the latter option would be reserved for larger groups during rush hour however it was empty when my friends and I visited, so we had the option of choosing where we sat.
Now let’s get onto the good stuff, food:
What you see above is a mushroom and egglant skewer with a side of greens. It is the entree for the “Taste of Vegetables” lunch set, which also comes with a seaweed salad and pickled cherry tomatoes appetisers, vegetable croquette and deep fried tofu served with red rice as the main. The set also came with a complimentary cup of green tea or coffee. My favourite dishes were the salad from the entree and the vegetable croquette. The salad is incredibly refreshing with a sweet lemon twist and the croquette is simply divine, the crispy crumb plus the soft potato filling is a match made in heaven.
If I remember correctly, the set lunch is around AUD $15. Considering the number of dishes served, this is a reasonable price. However, the items appear to be slightly pricier when ordered individually. I should also mention that there is free refill for your tea.
Moving on, we decided to have some dessert to cleanse our palette. Can you guess what it is? And no, it’s not tofu. It’s actually fried milk! The concept of milk being fried is kind of odd but contrary to what you think the filling is actually semi-solid, similar to pudding. I find it to be a bit too much after a slice but bitterness of the green tea aids in balancing the flavours. I haven’t seen this dish anywhere else, so definitely give it a try if you visit.
The service was pretty good. Although they seemed a little understaffed during both my visits, the waiters remained very friendly, polite and helpful.
I’ve had dinner at Monga before and the atmosphere is quite different. I personally prefer visiting them at night, however considering the long wait and the izakaya theme, it would be better suited for a late night snack with friends rather than dinner with family.
UPDATE – December 2, 2014:
A lot can change in two years, this is certainly true in terms of the quality of food and customer service at Monga Sweet Lounge.
Mum and I use to frequent Monga. Ever since they changed management, zaru soba became the one of only option for vegetarians. It was a real pity, their Taste of Vegetable set was good value for money. The reality is, the prices at Monga Sweet Lounge is quite high. The serving is small compared to the price you pay. If you walked across the street to Ajisen Ramen, I’m sure you would be able to get a much more filling meal than at Monga.
That’s not the problem though: I believe in most situations, you get what you pay for. This was how I justified dining at Monga Sweet Lounge. Sadly, I can no longer say I feel the same way.
I’ve gone back to Monga a few times since my initial review. The service wasn’t great but the standard of their dishes was still decent. That said, I had the worst experience last Sunday.
Unfortunately Kimchi Hut was due to open at a later time, so my friend and I had to find an alternative. Eventually we settled for Monga Sweet Lounge.
Upon entry, we noticed that we were the only guests that afternoon. Perhaps with good reason. We sat down at a table of our choice and started flipping through the menu. On the table was a pencil and a notepad to write your order, à la Papa Rich. After selecting our dishes, we handed in to the staff behind the counter.
Eventually our drinks arrived and shortly after, our order. The vegetable croquette was fried quite well, I have no complaints. The shiitake skewers was a disappointment. Firstly, there were only two mushrooms on the $2.60 skewer and from the taste, it is possible they used rehydrated shiitake. On top of that, the sauce was basically slathered on the barely grilled mushrooms. Talk about cutting corners.
The biggest disappointment came from the dish I was looking forward to the most: tempura onigiri. I expected something similar to the the yaki onigiri from Ichi ni Izakaya, which was heavenly. Here is a photo:
I was served three miserable balls of riced soaked in soy sauce and topped with some sesame seeds. I guess that is to be expected from tempura onigiri, right? To be fair, I requested no bonito flakes on top. That said, it isn’t a ridiculous request that should completely alter the taste of the dish. Even if they did, shouldn’t the chef try to compensate by adding something else?
As a vegetarian for the past nine years, I know to be reasonable with my expectations. I didn’t expect them to make something incredible for me, but the least they could do was to ensure their dish was palatable. To easily describe it, my tempura onigiri was simply a ball of salty rice. My friend agreed that their use of salt was excessive.
I could barely eat a mouthful. This really annoyed me since I avoid wasting food whenever I dine out. To make matters worst, the waitress couldn’t careless. My friend brought the matter to her attention, but her response was that the dish was supposed to taste that way. To avoid making a fuss, I just let it be. There was no point in arguing with a person who was lying through their teeth. We left unsatisfied and without an apology.
There is much more I could complain about, such as their lack of customer service. Their only redeeming dish was their zaru soba which my friend seemed to enjoy.
It’s truly disappointing to see that a restaurant I loved become so appalling. I hope there comes a day where I take back everything I’ve said and write another update. Perhaps I went at the wrong time; I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt.
For the time being, I will be taking my business elsewhere.