Golden Monkey is the real thing. It presents quality Chinese cuisine in Ubud. Not Indonesian Chinese, but the traditional cuisine of Canton, as experienced in Hong Kong. Dim sum, roast meats, soups and mains. Stir-fried, poached, roasted, steamed and deep fried.
They do not have the usual Chinese restaurant menu, with 100 or more items, but rather a carefully selected menu that is truly representative of this ancient cuisine.
We 'gweilos' [foreign devils] all love Chinese food, although very few of us eat it the way they do. We stick to our entrée, soup and main in normal western sequence. The more experienced share a number of different dishes of varying flavours and styles. The most adventurous even use chopsticks. Whereas the ethnic Chinese will normally order a number of main dishes, all at the same time, including a soup, and eat a small portion from each, interspersed with rice from the hand-held bowl. The end of a classic Chinese dinner is when a plate of Fried Rice is served and eaten.
At Golden Monkey everyone is catered for. You can start with Dim Sum or entrees, or a mix of both.
Har Gow is one of the most recognizable dim sum, a prawn dumpling. Other dumplings on this menu include Siu Mai [pork and prawn], Xiao Long Bao and Shanghai pork soup dumplings. Then there is my favourite dumpling, the Jiaozi, which in China is normally only prepared during the various festive seasons. It consists of minced pork and chives, and is pan seared after an initial steaming. This is the dumpling on which the Japanese base their Gyoza.
Dim Sum is all about dumplings and steam buns. The small BBQ Pork Buns are excellent, as is the Custard and Salted Egg, which is one of those dishes that actually taste far better than they sound.
Also in that section of the menu are Deep-Fried Prawn Wontons and Duck Spring Rolls as well as a Braised Cabbage Roll, served with oyster sauce. No Dim Sum menu would be complete without those spicy Chicken Feet, an acquired taste, at best!
The entree list is headed by a few international favourites. The Drunken Chicken has been poached in Chinese wine, and as usual is served cold. Sang Choy Bow is a Hong Kong special. Originally minced pigeon was used but internationally chicken is considered more acceptable. Golden Monkey however uses duck meat, it is combined with hoisin and served in a lettuce cup, eaten with the hands.
Sometimes it is the simplest dish that takes you by surprise. Many years ago, back in my London IBM days, I used any celebration as an excuse to visit Robert Carrier's wonderful restaurant in North East London. I was amazed by how many other tables always ordered the Cucumber Salad. I could not think of anything that sounded more boring, that was until I gave in to my curiosity and ordered it on one occasion, sensational! Great chefs can do amazing things with simple ingredients. At Golden Monkey such a dish exists. It has the less than inviting title of Crispy Cucumber. Long, thin cucumber fingers are first pickled, then iced. They are served with a 'wow' sesame sauce. It is the perfect nibbler whilst awaiting all your main dishes.
Soups can be the classic Yu Zhu [double boiled chicken] or a Hot & Sour Seafood Soup. Corn Soup is with crab or minced chicken. The Wanton Soup is what in Australia has the very weird title of a Short Soup [Long Soup being with noodles].
BBQ Meats are a feature of any Cantonese menu, and here they are superb. Some dishes can be taken as a part of a general meal but some diners just enjoy a complete meal of BBQ. A wonderful addition to any meal combination is Char Siew, a dish that disappointed me on numerous occasions elsewhere in Bali, and these days even in the food courts of Singapore which once upon a time, but no longer, were outstanding. Too often it is served dry and very finely sliced. At Golden Monkey it excels as a standout dish. The full strips of pork loin have been first marinated traditionally [5 spice, red fermented bean curd, soy, hoisin and of course honey] before being roasted in the oven. They are served whole, thickly cross sliced, perfect!
Pork Belly is something that has of recent years appeared on many Bali menus, obviously as a result of the low food cost. Invariably, for me, it is virtually inedible, just fat and rubbery skin. Here it is one of the stars of the menu [pictured]. The slow cooking process has removed all of the fat and the skin is 100% crisp, so crisp you can break it! It is served with two dipping sauces: hoisin and honey mustard. Scattered roasted peanuts on the plate remind you of the way that all time Cantonese classic of Suckling Pig is served. Show your dexterity and pick up the peanuts with your chopsticks.
The Roast Duck and Roast Chicken are both with super tender meat and very crisp skin, as only the Chinese seem to be able to do. The all time classic dish of Chinese dining is not from Canton, but from the now named Beijing ?Peking Duck. As usual it is a two stage process. The bird is presented at the table, then Maitre d? Wayan dons the white gloves, carves just under the skin which he then places on small Mandarin pancakes, along with a dab of plum sauce, rolls them and presents them to you. One of life's great taste treats! The body meat is then taken away and prepared as another course for you. You select from Black Pepper, Kung Pao or minced for San Choy Bao.
Mains include all the standard dishes, all prepared individually and to order. One of the commonest meal requests is often Sweet & Sour Pork. The very tender pork pieces are lightly battered then stir-fried with onion, capsicum slices and cashews. The sweet and sour sauce is just that, not like the too-sweet version often served in the west. It is very good. Another common dish that is also given that too?sweet treatment elsewhere is Lemon Chicken, Here the pieces of chicken are served separate to the lemon sauce, which you add from an accompanying small jug.
Beef can be with black pepper or stir-fried with spring onions and ginger. There is also an excellent Kung Pao Chicken [just called Stir-fried Chicken on the menu]. Seafood dishes include fish from the stir-fry or the clay pot, Garlic Prawns and Sauteed Scallops.
The vegetarian dishes include Mushrooms XO, Braised Tofu, Garlic Greens and Spinach with that sauce the Chinese call 'superior', plus there was that Cabbage Roll on the entree list. However star of the veggies is definitely their Eggplant Clay Pot, eggplant and tofu braised in Szechuan sauce.
There are noodle dishes for the lone diner and a variety of special fried rice combinations and a couple of interesting desserts. Mango Sago with pomelo and vanilla ice cream, Avocado Pudding with an Oreo crumble and the very unique Gui Ling Lao, a bowl of chilled herbal jelly topped with honey.
Golden Monkey is a welcome up-market addition to the Ubud dining scene, and busy since opening to prove it. The restaurant's very professional management is evident, both front of house and in the kitchen.