Monarch Restaurant, tucked inside the luxurious boutique hotel destination of Hotel Zaza, exudes a sense of class the moment you set foot in the darkened dining room lit by candles and glittery light fixtures.
It’s no surprise that the well-tailored menu details luxe offerings like rohan duck breast and volcano salt fries to match the upscale surroundings, but it was a nice unexpected touch to start the meal with a pairing of buttery, oversized biscuits with champagne—a fantastic pairing that I believe should be more widely endorsed. The fluffy, open-crumbed biscuits are plush with butter and served alongside an irresistible duo of blueberry compote and sorghum butter. For biscuit lovers, these are not to be missed.
The crispy brussels sprouts, doused in fish sauce and crowned with wispy bonito flakes, sesame seeds and green onions, are flavorful and a welcome change from other versions of overly salty fish sauced-brussels sprouts around town, though I wished for just a bit more crunch on the brussels themselves.
A standout of the meal was the gulf coast crab cake slider, a lounge snack that typically serves up two sliders for $20. A lightly sweet Hawaiian-like bun envelopes a tender crab cake with a swoop of kimchi aioli; the acidic crunch of kimchi inside the bun (plus additional kimchi on the side) saves the squish of the bun and the softness of the crab cake from textural monotony.
It’s worth sprinkling some of Monarch’s fall menu items—like the duck confit and arugula salad that features both duck confit and duck prosciutto with butternut squash and bleu cheese in a pomegranate vinaigrette—with popular mainstays like their 48 hour beef shortrib. The shortrib emerges, incredibly tender, from a two-day sous vide process to be plated atop a parsnip puree with a pear and brussels sprouts salad, finished with an apple cider gastrique and candied pecans. The market fish is also a solid bet—on the night we went, it was a well-seasoned and beautifully plated cut of cobia over a sunchoke puree with roasted carrots and mushrooms.
The fall house salad, which comes with goat milk ricotta, sunflower seeds and a scant amount of candied persimmons in a beet-hibiscus dressing, is skippable.
What few stumbles encountered in the menu can be easily forgiven in the face of the warm, highly accommodating service. While the trio of ice cream pops weren’t overwhelming in flavor, the potato chip gravel that served as the bed for the pops was addicting and left me wanting to try their black and tan cake, which is accompanied by a pretzel gravel. Alas, that will have to wait for another visit to their stunning dining room (or maybe the lovely patio outside).