Located under the Central escalator between Caine Road and Elgin Street, The Monogamous Chinese is a stylish dining space barely lit by red lanterns hanging from the ceilings, and sports about 10 tables. The decor is styled with a range of striking art paintings and objets d’art. The moody lighting and artistic setting will help those wanting to impress a first date: however, the Norah Jones tracks continually interrupted by sharp screeches thanks to the poor sound system may nip most romances in the bud.
From the long list of appetisers, we start with the deep-fried tofu with crispy garlic and spicy salt, which arrived piping hot and fiery. The tofu tiles are deep-fried nicely to a crunchy, golden brown shell, sprinkled with a mix of crushed garlic, onion and chilli that gives an extra crispy texture and garlicky flavour to the dish. To follow, we are served with the steamed shrimp and dou miao
(pea sprouts) dumplings, somewhat surprisingly before our main courses. The four pieces of dumplings are served in a traditional bamboo steamer. We suggest that you act fast once the cover is removed, as the homemade wrappers are nicely elastic when hot but cools down quite rapidly into a less appetising chewy dough. As The Monogamous Chinese serves both Sichuan and Beijing cuisine, we order the signature roasted Peking duck as main course. The dish normally requires one day’s order in advance, but do try to check with the friendly staff as the kitchen may have a backup serving. If you order the whole portion, the duck will be carved and served in front of you, but that is not the case if you order only a half duck. The half Peking duck arrives with about 20 slices of duck fillet, which has thin, crispy skin and lean meat. Accompaniments includes the usual cucumber sticks, spring onion and hoi sin
sauce, but the steamed pancake is slightly thick and stiff. Another signature dish is the poached fish fillets in hot chilli oil. As usual, the dish arrives in a vast vat of chilli oil, chilli peppers and peppercorns, and a succulent amount of fish. However, the broth and the fish are not integrated well, as the fish fillet has not absorbed any significant amount of spice, disappointing for those yearning for the usual mouth-numbing aftertaste. The dessert of ice cream soufflé balls is our favourite dish of the evening, a variation on the classic Shanghainese dessert of soufflé ball filled with red bean paste. The hot, light and airy soufflé and the vanilla ice cream centre marry wonderfully and really tickled our palate.
At our time of visit, The Monogamous Chinese was still fairly new and out of the two wines by the glass, the one we asked for was unavailable. With a corkage of HK$250, it is perhaps a better idea to pair this meal with tea rather than wine.
The service is mostly friendly and helpful, but on average remains below par. We visited a weeknight when only three tables out of the 10 tables were occupied, but there was still no one to refill our teapots until we had finished our dessert and asked for the bill. When we asked the waiters for suggestions or tried to clarify the ingredients of a dish, the feedback was perfunctory.
A dinner for two without wine can easily tally up the bill to HK$450 per head, which is not cheap considering the back alley location. But the set lunch, with generous portions of noodles and dumplings, is at an unbeatable value of only HK$88.