Monarch Releases New Southern Bistro Menu
Monarch's new Southern Bistro menu is a seamless blend of southern soul and sophisticated flair.
When it comes to premier fine-dining and skillfully constructed provisions, Monarch Restaurant and Wine Bar has always been one of the top restaurants in not only Maplewood, but the entire St. Louis region. High-quality food typically comes at an elevated price, and in the past, Monarch was no exception. However, this is no longer the case.
In August, after two months of closure and renovations, Monarch emerged from its culinary cocoon to reveal a brand new southern-inspired menu. The appropriately named Southern Bistro menu is the brainchild of executive chef Josh Galliano, who yearned to express his love of traditional southern food in Monarch's kitchen.
The moderately sized bistro menu features everything from the simple—gumbo served with long grain rice—to the extravagant—shellfish maque choux with crispy boudin balls. The offerings are varied, but one thing is certain: everything is presented on the menu with a decidedly southern elegance.
Upon arrival at Monarch, the first thing I observed was the massive size of the interior. Monarch is expertly organized into various sections according to function; the large main dining room is reserved for those wishing to order from the more upscale menu, whereas the smaller bistro-and-bar area is set aside for those patrons desiring to partake in the Southern Bistro menu. Monarch also boasts several elegant private dining rooms. The banquet room, wine room, and chef's table are unique additions to the classy establishment.
After settling into a comfortable half-moon shaped booth, I scanned the drink menu. Monarch features a multitude of unique as well as classic cocktails and beers, and an extensive wine list; not surprising at all, considering the massive wine cellar they have on site.
Upon the waiter's recommendation, I settled on the Lemoncello Mojito ($8). Described on the menu as a 'cool and refreshing twist on the classic mojito', it contained house-made lemoncello, fresh squeezed lemon juice, mint, and soda water. It was a delicate, yet perfect balance of sweet and sour; right as the bite of the lemon threatened to pucker my lips, the subtle sweetness of the lemoncello came through. Other interesting cocktails you might want to try include the Corpse Reviver #2; with botanically-enhanced vodka, citrus, cointreau, and herb saint, I have a feeling this one stays true to its name.
While I perused the menu and sipped my drink, warm cornbread was brought to the table, accompanied by sweet, creamy butter. The cornbread was dense and rich, albeit a tad dry, but the butter seemed to solve that problem.
When it comes to traditional southern cuisine, the deep fryer is king. Going with that train of thought, I decided to try the hush puppies (six for $4). These little beauties were described on the menu as cornmeal and jalapeno fritters with bacalao (dried salted cod), and were accompanied by a burnt lemon sauce.
The hush puppies themselves were extremely delicious. The crispy, crunchy coating yielded quite easily to pressure to reveal a hot, dense middle. There were bits of corn and jalapeno spread throughout, which added a nice texture and spice. The burnt lemon sauce paired nicely with the hush puppies, offering a tartness that contrasted easily with the rich depth of the fritters.
Along with a standard dinner menu including such curiosities as shrimp and grits ($18), sweet potato wrapped catfish ($16), and creole spiced flat iron steak ($20), there was a portion of the menu devoted to nightly specials. Friday's special was Blackened Fish; fresh escolar coated in Creole spices and served with a field pea and okra fricassée ($18).
The escolar was blackened expertly, resulting in a caramelized flavorful exterior. The fish itself was buttery and succulent, and paired with the tender field peas and savory okra fricassée, it was heaven on a plate.
Monarch offers a variety of desserts on their Southern Bistro menu. Desserts vary from the simple crème brulée to the more decadent pecan and bourbon pie. I decided to try the bread pudding ($5); laced with cinnamon and cloves and served with a rum-raisin sauce, it sounded like an enjoyable way to end my meal.
The bread pudding was warm, with a lovely cinnamon flavor and just a hint of clove essence. The rum raisin sauce was syrupy and added a subtle touch of sweetness to the dish. The texture of the bread pudding was reminiscent of French toast and was pleasurable to eat.
Although there were many hits with my meal, there were also a few misses: the crawfish bread ($7) was described on the menu as a rich bread filled with a cheesy crawfish étouffée. Upon tasting the appetizer, I realized that it was mostly bread with not much in the way of filling. And although the bread was very good, boasting a buttery flaky crust, the whole thing was just too dry for my liking.
Monarch has done a very respectable job in creating a tasty, affordable menu that is appealing to those looking to eat carefully crafted food on a budget. So next time you're looking for delicious food that won't break the bank, consider stopping by Monarch in Maplewood. You'll be pleasantly surprised.