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Thelonious Monkfish in Cambridge

We tried Thelonius Monkfish in Central Square recently and it wasn't half bad. I think I avoided/mentally blacked this place out when it opened due to the hideous name. We walked by a few weeks ago and thought it looked pretty good. It is always packed even on early week nights, which is at least a sign that product is turning over and relatively fresh.

We just grabbed some quick take out, a sashimi and nigiri platter and a few maki. The fish was extremely fresh, flavorful and well cut. Even the tako was tender. I didn't dislike the Temper Tantrum Maki (tuna,cucumber, scallions & chili sauce). It is certainly not traditional in the vein of Sushi Island or Toraya, and there are plenty of 'americanized' maki creations which are par for the course for most Japanese restaurants in the states (and the cause of much angst on these boards). There is also an asian fusion side of the menu. However I would have to say they offer the best fish in Cambridge (granted a low bar).

It probably didn't hurt that we went in with low expectations. I will have to visit again soon and sit at the sushi bar to give them a bit more of a try out. It wouldn't be bad having a place nearby that is at least servicable and reasonably priced.

Any other experiences with this place?

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  1. This is my go to sushi place now based on it's convenience and relative low price. We have eated in and have ordered take out. Except for sushi we have only ordered the fried rice with kimchi in it (Seoul Rice?) and it was pretty tasty. Large enough to share and wasn't greasy. The other fried rices look interesting especially the one with duck. I agree that the fish as always been well prepared. I like creative Americanized rolls on ocassion. They had a couple interesting ones with fruit as specials one night. My main complaint is the chirashi is small (but priced accordingly) and I always forget to order it without the seasoned rice (I like my pickled veggies on the side, not mixed in). Most importantly I've never felt sick after eating there (unlike @ Bluefin, Toraya, Fish Market, Fugakyu, and Samurai).

    Any addition to Central Square that isn't a Bank or Starbuck is a plus in my book.

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    Toraya Restaurant
    890 Massachusetts Ave, Arlington, MA 02476

    Fish Market
    170 Brighton Ave, Boston, MA 02134

    3 Replies
    1. re: viperlush

      The number of places you've been I'll after eating at (and which ones they are) is remarkable.

      1. re: FoodDabbler

        plus one - correlation in question

        1. re: rgmills

          I should have clarified. I preferred the chirashi at Toraya, the rolls at Samuari (if going for the large/multi ingredient), and nigri and small rolls at Fish Market (haven't tried their chirashi but I suspect that it is also good). Each are way better than what I've eaten @ TM. But for some reason, my stomach doesn't do well after eaten at those restaurants. The weird thing is the sushi from Whole Foods, delivery sushi from Bejing Tokyo, and take out from TM don't affect my stomach the same way. So if I want to satisfy a raw fish craving it's either I eat good sushi and suffer all night, or I eat okay sushi and feel fine. I do suspect that it's because I tend to eat more when it's good. My plan is retry Fish Market and Samuari and only order cooked fish/veggie rolls and "share" whatever raw fish the BF orders.

    2. I've been in for lunch twice in the last month but only had the sushi. I also had to overcome my horror at the name, but walking by when it first opened, I could see that it looked clean and welcoming, so I finally ventured in. The service has been really quick and I like the fruit flavored water. (First time, my glass had the fresh fruit in it. Second time, no. But the pitchers still had the slices of lemon and lime.) Sometimes the tables are so close that a private conversation is difficult, and there have been large groups both times I went, so I made sure to get my order in before they did.

      My first meal was only okay, and I was disappointed with the unagi, but the second one was better. I used LevelUp one time, which helped save a few dollars.

      I do need to try some of their other items before feeling more knowledgeable about what the place can do; the menu is enormous. I am really delighted they are there in Central and look forward to going back as much as I can. When you work or live in that area, it is hard to find decent choices for lunch, especially of the sushi variety.

      1. FYI Monkfish has posted a link to this review on their facebook page.

        1 Reply
        1. re: viperlush

          Yeah, I love her review; she's funny and informative!

        2. I haven't eaten there yet but I love the name. It promises fun (and good fish). Monk's wife Nellie sometimes call him Melodious Thunk. I love that too.

          1 Reply
          1. re: katzzz

            Katzzz, sounds like the name of a new roll! I'll give you credit if we do it!

          2. have only had the Indonesian fried rice which was basically just fried rice, nothing like Rod Dee's which is chock full of crispy chicken, the fried egg, shrimp paste (I think) etc. will have to go back and try the sushi.

            1. Perhaps they've gotten it together since my two visits a few months ago. On my first visit, I tried the chirashi, which made Star Market sushi look like O-Ya. The tamago was pickled, like full sour briny. The rice was dry, lumpy, clumpy & dumpy. I've been trying to erase this dining experience from memory, but my notes tell me that the mackerel "was like eating a rotten human tongue." Not sure I how know that, but that's besides the point. The tuna had gristly skinfat still attached and ironically it was the krab that stole the show. They really took it to another level. My colleague had some kind of fried chicken pad thai, which looked good, but he said it was all out of balance.

              I blamed myself for poor ordering on the first visit, so I got away from sushi and tried a dish from the kitchen on my second visit. They offer some sauteed meat/veg/rice combos, so I opted for "rotisserie chicken" with greens and rice which turned out to be a bad version of a circa-1983 Stouffers Oriental Stir-Fry Mixx (was there ever a good version?).

              I imagine the Asian confusion side of the menu is the way to go. Or the dogfood side.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Nab

                Mmmm - the Zombie Halitosis Roll sounds delicious.

              2. I had the duck pickled lime soup which was pretty nice. Unusual sour-y-sweet-ducky broth soup. The sushi roll we got was unmemorable. Nice atmosphere and location.

                1. I agree with Gabatta's review. We tried TM last night and overall I think its a good addition to the neighborhood. If you are from another neighborhood, I wouldn't go out of my way to go here though. If you live in this part of Cambridge, there really is no competition in the area. If I want sushi, this is the only place I can walk to. The interior is nice and comfortable with flattering lighting. I like the jazz playing.

                  The maguro sashimi was very good and very fresh. I wasn't as into the red snapper. The only crazier maki I had was the Temper Tantrum Maki mentioned above. They had a lot of tempura maki's on the menu but for any place I go I'm alway disappointed with them and they jack up the bill too much. The pickled ginger on the platter was just gross... and I usually don't even mind the supermarket stuff. It had almost a bleach-y taste to it. I hope they fix that.

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: heypielady

                    Yes, the pickled ginger is not good. It tasted too strong to me.

                    1. re: heypielady

                      I feel shy to be eavesdropping on this thread, but maybe it's a good thing. I just got off the phone with our sushi-grade fish purveyor and complained about the pickled ginger. It's essential to get this right because certain brands from China have artificial sweetener in them. I don't know if that's what happened recently but he's been warned. Thank you, HeypieLady and Gabatta for mentioning this. This kind of review helps me to make changes that please our customers. --Jamme from Thelonious Monkfish.

                        1. re: tsmonkfish

                          We just had dinner at TM and while the food was generally good, the pickled ginger was absolutely disgusting- this problem has definitely not yet been fixed. It tasted like it had been dunked in ammonia. Yeck.

                          1. re: iamsam

                            I was not going to post, but since this thread has been revived, I must say, my late lunch of chirashi today was pretty awful. Pretty much phenocopied what Nab reports up-thread (why oh why didn't I do a smidge of research first?!). And the ginger was just plain weird. My original plan was to finally try Veggie Galaxy but the kitchen closes at 3 pm (until 5 pm). Should've just gone to Whole Foods.

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                            Veggie Galaxy
                            450 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA

                            1. re: digga

                              There is that new sushi place opening up in Kendall. So hopefully it will be an approvement. And if you want quick/cheap (ie non supermarket) sushi there is always Bejing Tokyo on Main St. Though I can't attest to how it compares to Monkfish.

                            2. re: iamsam

                              Again, it is the artificial sweetener that is added to all the pickled ginger I have researched from China and Thailand. We do not make the pickled ginger and it would be impossible for us to do so without buying expensive equipment. I've bought it from Goldwell Trading as well as True World; these companies are the two major sushi & sushi product distributors for all sushi restaurants in the Boston/Cambridge area. They both offer pickled ginger with aspartame in it. I will continue to look for another supplier who offers it prepared without this ingredient.

                        2. Since this thread got going again, I feel compelled to defend Thelonius Monkfish. My wife and I just moved to the neighborhood, and we've had lunch there and done take out one night. Most of the entrees were under $9 at lunch, and we've really enjoyed everything so far.