The little town of Metuchen is only four square miles, but Main Street is home to a number of excellent restaurants. This summer, it seemed like overnight that the well-respected Indian restaurant Spice Melange was replaced with another Asian bistro, Red Monk. Now in its fourth month, Red Monk is still perennially packed on both weekends and weeknights, and it’s easy to see why.
With a wide variety of noodle selections, the ability to “make your own” curry dish, and plenty of options for the vegetarian, seafood lover, and carnivore alike, Red Monk manages to appeal to everyone.
Inside, the red, Asian-inspired décor is set against stark white walls, and has an aura of a more upscale establishment. Yet, when it comes to the prices, the entrees average only $11, maxing out at $20 for a charred sea bass dish. The portions are large, and there’s always another meal’s worth of food leftover for lunch the next day.
On our first visit, my husband and I both started with the fresh lime soda ($3), thanks to our server’s recommendation. It’s tart, sweet and fizzy, and a nice alternative to a standard soda option.
The crispy calamari appetizer ($8) was served with an absolutely delicious mango salsa—sweet and tangy, it was the perfect complement to the well-cooked, and not-at-all-chewy calamari. (Note: By the end I was eating the mango salsa solo with a spoon.)
In a bit of a fried-frenzy, we also ordered the Shrimp with fresh chili ($7)—plump, breaded butterfly shrimp topped with garlic and fresh green chili. We liked the shrimp so much we ordered it again on our second visit.
After much entrée-deliberation, I decided on the Basil Ginger Chicken ($10). It was perfect. The chicken was thinly sliced and tender, and accompanied by onions, green and red peppers. The ginger sauce was slightly sweet, not too heavy, and absolutely wonderful paired with the crispness of the veggies and tender meat.
My husband got the Chicken Pad Kee Mao ($10), wide flat noodles served with peppers, onions and a mild brown sauce. It was such a success he ordered it again on our next visit.
For my second trip to Red Monk, I forced myself to try something new, although the Basil Chicken tempted me again and again. I decided on Bangkok Vegetable, a medley of veggies (baby corn, broccoli, red peppers, greens) with hunks of fried tofu and strips of ginger. The ginger was a bit overpowering for my liking, and as a complete spice-wimp, the dish proved to be a bit spicier than I’d hoped.
Red Monk also offers takeout (but be prepared to wait a bit on a busy weekend night), which I took advantage of one Friday when I was having a serious craving for Tofu Pad Thai ($10). Sadly, I was disappointed. Although there was nothing wrong with the meal itself, it didn’t taste much like standard Pad Thai. Heavy on the red peppers, and light on the eggs and peanuts, my craving was left unsatisfied.
Red Monk is a great neighborhood addition to Metuchen’s culinary scene. With a variety of flavorful options, the toughest part of your visit will simply be making a decision.
Red Monk Asian Bistro
419 Main St.
Kathryn Blaze enjoys few things more than eating. 90% of her time is spent thinking about food: what she is craving, how to procure it, and when she will obtain it. Born and bred in the Garden State, Kathryn spends a good amount of time (and quite a lot of her income) hunting for the best eats. She has been hunting for The Ultimate Almond Danish ever since Whitehouse Station’s The Cake Box bakery closed almost a decade ago. She also has an unnatural appetite for ice cream, and has been known to seek out milkshakes in the midst of snow storms. Kathryn blogs about her culinary adventures at jerseypiglet.blogspot.com and the rest of life over at her personal blog.