Tuesday, December 21, 2010

monarch, maplewood mo

http://monarch.tophatandmonocle.net/
7401 manchester road, maplewood mo


the recently renovated monarch had been on our 'to try' list for some time now, but always seemed to get pushed to the side in lieu of somewhere else. dinner on this evening was originally to have been at araka, but after reading several poor reviews, we decided to skip it and finally give monarch its chance. located in maplewood, the kitchen at monarch is led by executive chef josh galliano. galliano has worked under daniel boulard at his flagship michelin three starred restaurant in nyc, and more recently, has been nominated as a semi finalist for the james beard awards as best midwestern chef.


monarch is kind of like two restaurants in one. there is a casual southern bistro and the more upscale main dining room. our reservations were for the main dining room, and we were seated upon arrival despite being about twenty minutes early. the dining room, which was about two thirds full, is a beautiful space, and easily ranks among st louis's top five in terms of style and ambiance. we were greeted promptly by our server, and presented with menus and a wine and cocktail list. i inquired about the chef putting together a tasting menu for us, and mentioned that we would like to be able to try as many dishes as possible. after a quick conversation with the chef, our server informed us that the chef could do a dual five course tasting, meaning that we would each get five courses, but we would each be served a different dish, allowing us to sample ten different offerings from chef gallianos menu. we were given the option of choosing some of the courses, or doing a blind tasting in which the chef would surprise us. we went for the blind tasting, but with the request that the sweetbreads be included at some point. we also chose to partake in the optional wine pairings to further enhance our experience.



to kick things off, we started our meal with a couple of cocktails. mine was a mojito made with limonella instead of rum. carrie's was a bit more complex, and the ingredients have escaped us both at this point. both cocktails were very good. if monarch were closer to home, it would definitely be a spot we would hit up just for drinks.





shortly after our cocktails were served, and amuse bouche was offered to give us a taste of the chefs cooking. this was what was a essentially a pastry crust filled with mushroom. the amuse was par for the course, but largely unmemorable.





next up, a cornbread with butter was brought to the table. although i am not a huge cornbread fan, i do eat it on ocasion, and found monarchs offering to be amongst the best i have had.

after the cornbread, there was a short break before our meal proper began. with this meal taking place just before christmas, i have not had time to write a review until what is now almost two weeks later, so some of the details of this meal have been lost. below is a picture and brief description of each of the ten courses.


course 1a: tuna crudo with beets
wine pairing: muscadet



course 1b: gulf crab cake with pea shoots and pickled cucumbers
wine pairing: muscadet



course 2a: roasted sweetbreads with black truffle grits, celery root, and red wine bacon jus
wine pairing: chardonnay


course 2b: pear and truffle risotto with roasted mushrooms, poached pears, and brown butter.
wine pairing: chardonnay


course 3a: sauteed jumbo white shrimp and roasted garlic grits in a new orleans style bbq sauce
wine pairing: pinot noir


course 3b: slow baked skate with mushroom and shrimp stuffing, roasted fennel, pistachio crusted sunchokes, and a caper brown butter sauce
wine pairing: pinot noir




course 4a: venison
wine pairing: cote du rhone



course 4b: foie gras stuffed chicken with endive, country ham gratin, sherry roasted mirlitons, hazelnut soil, and natural jus
wine pairing: cote du rhone




course 5a: semifreddo, carmel, white chocolate cremeux, spiced beignets, white chocolate powder
wine pairing: tawny port




course 5b: bananas foster
wine pairing: tawny port

throughout the meal, the service provided to us by our server and his assistants was spot on perfect. the timing in between courses was perfect, long enough to allow us to finish our wine, but not so long as to have us wondering if we had been forgotten. our server had an excellent grasp on the menu, and explained each course and wine to us eloquently and effortlessly. our water glasses never reached half empty, and any crumbs were removed quickly.

overall, our dinner at monarch was the most elaborate dinner in terms of length and price we have experienced in st louis. however, i cannot say that it was the absolute best. although everything we had was very good, with a few courses being exceptional, nothing has me absolutely raving. our meal took place roughly two weeks ago, and there isn't a course i can still vividly taste. i think that is part of the reason this review is much more vague than some of my others. when it comes down to it, monarch was a good experience, and i am definitely willing to give it another go down the road when the menu has some new offerings. however, if i was recommending an out of town visitor a place for dinner, there would be four or five places i would recommend ahead of monarch.

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