When I first saw The Funky Monk, I misread it as The Funky Monkey and was wondering why the logo features a laughing Buddha.
A closer look told me that this place is actually a recently opened restaurant, serving Mongolian and Russian cuisine, boasting the sign “Euro-Asian food.” Evanston has quite a diverse scene of ethnic food already, including Greek, Ethiopian, Nepalese and Mediterranean, and I was curious if this new addition is going to bring any surprises.
The Funky Monk’s menu is a simple sheet of single-sided A4 paper, and the selection includes a variety of Mongolian dumplings, Russian fried buns and borschts, and many different types of tea. I visited the place twice and each time the kind lady / owner (?) at the cashier helped us with our orders, because let’s be real, we are pretty much clueless about Mongolian or Russian food.
There were no more than five people running this petit restaurant, and after chatting briefly with whom I assume as the owner, she told me that she is from Mongolia, while the other other waitresses are from Kyrgyzstan. So I guess what we were about to eat are pretty legit, authentic Mongolian/Russian food!
I love dumplings and I couldn’t wait to try what we ordered… I wondered what’s the difference between Mongolian dumplings and the ones I eat at home, “jiaozi” (Chinese dumplings).
Manti (or Manty, $9.50) – Mongolian steamed dumplings, with mince seasoned beef filling. Dumpling is a staple food in Mongolian cuisine, and most of their protein source comes from mutton or beef, and thus manti is a typical dish you’ll find in Mongolia. The ones we had were huge – they are the size of a child’s fist, and each dumpling has a soft, delicate skin that loosely wraps around a hearty chunk of beef filling. The beef tasted fresh and perfectly seasoned, but they were a bit on the dry side and fell apart easily from the skin.
Large Dumpling Soup ($13) – small lamb filled dumplings with vegetables, served
in a bowl of broth. There were about 20 of these dumplings, and the skins were a bit too doughy (skin to filling ratio is almost 1:1). I don’t usually eat lamb but these ones were pretty tasty, without the acquired odor that most lamb meat has. The soup base was a little too greasy for me.
Large Dumpling Tea ($13) – basically the Large Dumpling Soup, but with a milk-like base instead of broth. The soup tasted like diluted milk.
Samsy ($3) – similar to samosas, but much bigger with a flakier crust and stuffed with seasoned beef. It reminds me of a meat pie, and I like meat pies. This was hard to cut with a knife and fork, and the fillings detached easily from the crust.
Belyaji ($2.5) – a deep fried Russian bun with beef stuffed inside. Of all the buns and dumplings we had, this dough is my favorite. Fried to a golden brown color, the bun was crunchy and chewy.
Chibureki ($2.5) – a flat, deep-fried dumpling with pretty much the exact same filling as the rest of their dumplings here. I think they use the same beef in almost all their dishes here.
THIS WAS A DUMPLING MADNESS.
The owner and waitresses came over from time to time to check if everything’s okay. They are super friendly and always wear a sweet smile on their faces!
Sitting there chowing down some authentic, home-cooked dumplings and buns, I grew almost instantly fond of this new place. The place holds no more than ~18 people, and the small sized, white and clean interior, and friendly staff, created this casual, relaxing vibe that I loved. What’s more, this is totally a place for a (broke) college kid like me – I paid no more than $10 each time I was here and I was completely content with the food quantity and quality. They also have a great collection of tea,which my friends loved. This is the place for you if you crave a completely different kind of comfort food!
The Funky Monk
Address: 618 1/2 Church St
Number: 847 859 6915
Price: under $10