Asian fusion with a twist

TEXT: ALYSSA NILSEN | PHOTOS © JONMARIUSNILSSON.NO

Monsun Restaurant is the innovative Asian-fusion kitchen serving Oslo citizens steaming hot ramen, fresh and healthy vegan dishes and the intriguingly named ‘Forbidden Sushi’. With inspiration from several corners of Asia and a penchant for new flavours, founder and CEO Jana Le brings the world a little bit closer to the Norwegian capital.

With a two-part restaurant in the buzzing neighbourhood of Grünerløkka in Oslo, Monsun is rapidly becoming a go-to place for Norwegians with an appetite for Asian flavours and healthy foods. The more traditional part of the restaurant, Monsun Noodlebar, serves up quality meals based on fresh produce and tradition, albeit with a modern twist, whereas newcomer Streetcorner, has more of a street food approach to their menu. There, you will be able to try Taiwanese Bao with bulgogi and kimchi, Vietnamese pho, and their immensely popular rice bowls.

Monsun first opened their doors in 2010, and today, eight years later, they have got 28 employees and even more expansions on the horizon. With a dedicated crew of people hailing from Slovakia, the Philippines, Thailand, Japan and Vietnam, Monsun has grown into quite an institution in the city.

A playful approach to food

Originally intended as a noodle bar, Monsun’s menus have grown to include styles, directions and types of food from several Asian countries. Le says that travelling the world is what inspires her the most, citing cities like Hong Kong as a place from which to pick up new ideas. She feels that trying new approaches to food, playing with concepts and thinking outside of the box is a fundamental part of the Monsun personality.

“It’s all about an interest and passion for food,” she states, “I love working with food, I love to travel and be inspired by people I meet out there in the world, and to bring those ideas and flavours back to Norway and develop my own recipes.”

This is why, on an otherwise traditional menu, you can find items like Lady Dragon Roll, Snow White Roll and Darth Vader Roll. Forbidden Sushi is another unfamiliar take on a normally familiar food item. Made with unrefined black rice, Forbidden Sushi is a cleaner, healthier alternative to the standard sushi, chock-full of minerals, antioxidants and vitamins, originally reserved for the emperor alone − hence the term forbidden. Based on the clean eating concept, Forbidden Sushi is also free of sugar and other additives, as it is all rice, fresh fish and fruit.

“We want our menus to be varied,” Le says. “You’ll find both fresh and fried foods, but as a person who loves working out, I know how important eating healthy food is. So we definitely like having those options as well. We’ve got the traditional sushi with lots of ingredients going into the rice, but also the black rice which is completely pure and clean. Monsun is also part of the growing number of restaurants offering an all-vegan menu. “It is immensely popular,” Le smiles. “More and more people are choosing to eat vegan.”

Keeping up to date on food trends

Vegan food may well be a trend that is here to stay, but Le keeps an eye on other movements in the food industry as well, whether they are new and potentially long-lasting, or fun little fads that spice up people’s dinner tables and Instagram feeds. A couple of years ago, Monsun made headlines when they served so-called sushi-doughnuts as a pop-up concept; sushi made in the shape of doughnuts, where the rice served as the bun. Bao is another trend they have picked up, and during these past summer months, Vietnamese noodle salads and summer rolls seem to have been the food of choice for hip Norwegians.

But despite the food being on trend, Le says that Monsun is a laid-back place for anyone who wants to stop by. It serves as a place both to return to every day for a low-key meal, or at which to book bigger events or birthday parties. The spaces and menus cater to everybody, regardless of background, age or diet.

With some of Oslo’s most innovative menus, visually stunning platters, the promise of fresh, healthy ingredients and complex and clean flavours, Monsun is a force to be reckoned with on the Oslo food-map.

Web: monsunrestaurant.no

Instagram: @monsunrestaurant

Opening hours:

Monday to Thursday 3pm -10pm, Friday and Saturday 1pm – 11pm, and Sunday 1pm – 10pm

Phone number: +47 4677 0040

Table reservation: reservation@monsun-noodlebar.no