The Monarch | Bar review
An established chef lands in an unlikely location.
Andrew Brochu could cook the menu at the Monarch in his sleep. I mean, this is a guy who made a name for himself with humble country cooking at Kith & Kin, then went on to put his stamp on Phillip Foss’s EL Ideas before Graham Elliot snatched him up for a new iteration of his flagship restaurant. And now, on a Friday night at 8pm, he’s standing in the open line of a bar kitchen that looks unchanged since its time as a Germanish pub, taking a quick call on his cell phone while nonchalantly tossing a bunch of chicken wings in pickle juice before they hit the fryer. I almost approached him and asked, “What exactly are you doing here?”
Thankfully, I wasn’t quite that trashed. And I’m glad, since I don’t want to plant the idea in his mind that he shouldn’t be here. Sure, the Monarch looks plain and a little worse for wear, but clearly any efforts toward design have been channeled elsewhere, to the terrific service, the sort of comically ambitious cocktail menu and, of course, to the food.
Those dill-pickle wings, though not exactly radical, were at least interesting. And few other bars in the city could be bothered to put a Bibb lettuce salad with fresh chives (a simple dish that’s been in Brochu’s playbook since K&K) on the menu. The diner burger will either kill you or make your night that much stronger: It’s two beef patties, cheddar cheese, special sauce and a potato bun into which it all just melts. The fried-green tomato sandwich is juicy and crunchy and buttery, but it would be much better without the Gruyère, just as everything from the salad to the burger would be better if Brochu quit dousing them with salt. I’m glad Brochu’s cooking for the neighborhood clientele, but he doesn’t need to go that far.