Mon Kou (Attleboro, MA)

As I discussed in my 2018 review of House of Wu, there was a nice mid-20th century tradition toward Tiki culture, combining Americanized Chinese food and other Asian cuisine and Tiki-style cocktails in an over-the-top Polynesian theme. The result is a mix of cultural integration, cultural preservation, adaptation, preservation… as well as more than a little improvisation and occasionally appropriation, but there’s an entire two generations of Americans that grew up with this sort of joint. But while there’s been a recent resurgence in both cocktail culture and Polynesian cuisine, the last few decades haven’t been kind to a lot of these older venerable restaurants, and many in New England (Chicopee’s Hu Ke Lau, Worcester’s Ken Chin, Woonsocket’s Ho Kong, Lynnfield’s Bali Hai) have shuttered in recent years, and a few of the others like Wind Tiki in Webster, MA falling to other fates like structural fires. So it’s important to enjoy some of the places that still remain, like Mon Kou in Attleboro, MA.

Located in that little corner of SE Massachusetts that’s actually east of Rhode Island, Mon Kou is only about a mile from the MA/RI border and downtown Central Falls, but once you walk in the door, it’s immediately obvious you’ve entered an old-school Polynesian-inspired joint, with fish tanks, ceramics, Tiki-inspired dioramas, and some very cool colored bubbling water windows. Really, they’ve got the ambiance down pat for that old-school Polynesian feel.

Starting off, Carol and I shared a Scorpion Bowl. Too often this days a Scorpion Bowl ends up being a random medley of house rums, a splash of gin, and fruit juices served in a bowl, but Mon Kou’s version is a bit more rum and lemon forward, with some pleasant orgeat notes. The drinks are Mon Kou are definitely above average, but not to the point of being a “cocktail destination.”

The hot and sour soup was a darker, and slightly sweeter variant than what I usually get (my gold standard for this remains Shuang Cheng in Minneapolis), but all the other notes I expect were solid: a good vinegar tang, a strong hot pepper note, soft tofu, al dente bamboo shoots, and a rich wood mushroom flavor. I’d happily get this again.

While many in our extended party ordered up the Pu Pu platter (which for Mon Kou I’d rate well above average), we weren’t quite that hungry, so we just got a pair of egg rolls. Often at Chinese places an egg roll is a bit of a commodity, but Mon Kou’s were quite good: fresh, crispy exterior cooked thoroughly without being too greasy or tasting like fishy oil.

For my main course, I ordered one of my favorite dishes: Beef with Broccoli. Done well, this is sublime: thin strips of beef, lightly breaded, fried to crisp, and served up with some stir-fried (not steamed) broccoli in a savory brown sauce. Particularly, it’s the sort of dish that is best fresh out of the kitchen; it doesn’t hold up well under heat lamps. The version at Mon Kou didn’t disappoint: it was crispy, well-flavored, and the broccoli had a light seer and a good snap to it.

Carol got another of our favorites: spicy double-cooked pork with cabbage. This was a twice-cooked pork (simmered, then stir-fried), with green and red peppers, bamboo shoots, and cabbage, all served up in a pleasantly spicy black bean and chile sauce. Again, everything here was good: the pork nicely tender and crisped, the sauce nicely spicy, and the cabbage not overcooked.

Overall, I loved Mon Kou. The decor is great, the cocktails and food well above average, and it’s one of the remaining examples of mid-20th century “Polynesian Pop” restaurants that continue to both serve up good food and provide a pleasant environment.

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