Sneak peek: We visit Wellesley’s Laughing Monk Cafe

With this Tuesday’s soft opening of Laughing Monk Cafe in Wellesley Square (90 Central St.), owner Dome Nakapakorn’s dream of bringing high-end sushi and Thai cuisine to Wellesley has come true. We had the great good fortune to experience a 15-course tasting menu put together by creative force Chef Nick Korboon. The Omakasé (chef’s choice) menu included raw fish and seafood and small cooked dishes of such high quality and artistic presentation that our sushi dreams, the ones we never even knew we had, also came true.

Chef Nick sources fresh ingredients each morning from trusted suppliers from New England to Japan. Once what’s in-season, fresh, and flavorful is in front of him, along with microgreens and edible flowers he grows himself in his greenhouse, Chef Nick gets going on his imaginative process.

laughing monk cafe

The inside story

The intimate space seats 20 in all—16 at six tables, and four seats at the bar. Once the restaurant is going full steam, reservations will be an absolute must if you want to try out the Omakasé menu. For right now, there’s a limited menu, and from their website it doesn’t appear that you can make reservations yet.

With its dark walls, black leather chairs and banquettes, dim lighting, and B-side playlist, the vibe is cool and edgy, however the staff is friendly, attentive, and was good at explaining both the familiar (mussels with garlic and cilantro) and the new-to-us (shima aji, a light and buttery firm-fleshed fish, which Chef sliced paper-thin and sent to table rose-shaped). Like Laughing Monk’s Mission Hill location, there’s a video screen behind the sushi bar that grooves with slow-moving images of fish, the ocean, clouds, and more.

Laughing Monk, Wellesley
The sushi bar area seats four.

Laughing Monk has a full bar, as well as beer and wine options, and about 1o specialty cocktail options. One of us tried the Neaw-Ma-Muang, aka, Mango Sticky Rice, which we soon learned would work well for dessert, too. Another cocktail, Som-O, boasted a citrus combination of grapefruit vodka, lime, pineapple, and grated orange peel that was refreshing and light.

I guess we could try just a taste

A few sips into our drinks, it was time to get going on the tasting menu, crafted course-by-course especially for the evening. Because Omakasé is the chef’s choice, we had no idea what we’d get until it was presented to us at table. Chef started out with a sense of humor, serving that most familiar of dishes, crunchy and sweet crab rangoon. Sure it was a great rangoon, the wonton wrapper crisped to a shatter, and the taste of crab clear and bright through the creamy cheese filling. But can’t we get crab rangoon at any old place? Where was the storied creativity we’d heard all about? Turns out Chef was just getting started, drawing us in with a dish as familiar as childhood before challenging our palates with what he’d really sourced for us that day.

Chef Nick has a theatrical side, so pay attention as textures move from fatty to lean to chewy, and tastes run smoky, salty, spicy, and sweet. The light tasting, thinly cut shima aji was followed by a substantial piece of flaky ocean trout topped with caviar and given a special smoky presentation. From there the scene changed to simplicity, with mussels in their coal-black shells topped with a sprig of cilantro, presented on a pristine white plate.  Next came the sweetness of shrimp in a thick coconut curry sauce, a crunchy green alongside to cut the richness, served in a banana leaf bowl. Relax and go with the nice and easy flow. There are no jarring roller coaster ups and downs. You’re in good hands, and the presentation is as important as the taste. Always artful. Always beautiful.

Laughing Monk, Wellesley
Briny, spicy oysters, topped with edible flowers grown by Chef Nick, were served in a treasure chest.

 

Laughing Monk, Wellesley
A nest of crispy fried shallots contains a tiny fried quail’s egg.

 

Laughing Monk, Wellesley
The pressure was on for us to cook on par with Chef Nick. Could we do it?

The A5 Japanese Wagyu beef dish, the last course, called for diner participation. A marbled, buttery slice was brought to us raw, along with a green leaf, a pat of butter, and a hot stone. Moving quickly, we put the butter pat on the stone, followed by the leaf, and then the beef, which we cooked to our liking (rare). Umami heaven. Bob and I had started the Omakasé experience as mere children who needed their unsophisticated palates appeased with the familiar. Slowly, through repeated exposure to increased flavor and textural challenges, we proved ourselves worthy of what we received. By the end, Chef Nick had invited us into his process, entrusting us with one of his most precious ingredients. We’d been through an entire Omakasé experience, Chef Nick and Bob and me. You can’t go through something like that together without becoming comrades in the kitchen.

Laughing Monk

  • 90 Central St., Wellesley, MA 02482
  • 617-232-8000
  • Currently the restaurant is doing a soft opening, with a limited menu.
  • Once Laughing Monk is going full force, the menu will focus on the Omakasé-style tasting menu, as well as a Thai menu for dine-in guests and takeout.
  • For the sushi bar, Chef Nick Korboon acquires fresh ingredients every morning before starting his creations at the sushi bar. His masterpieces may change based on the fresh vegetables or edible micro-flowers available on that day.
  • The Thai kitchen is supervised by Chef Noi Karen, who has more than 25 years experience in Thai cuisine.
  • We visited Laughing Monk’s Boston location.

Laughing Monk, Wellesley
Laughing Monk’s sushi Chef Nick Korboon, left, and Dome Nakapakorn. Nick, Dome, and Chef Noi Karen, who supervises the Thai kitchen, all have ownership stakes in the company.