Yes, today is Easter, which due to my Christian beliefs, I think is the most important holiday of the year. However, since I know that some of you don't line up with me theologically, I'm not going to pound that into your heads. Instead, I'm going to talk about the amazing dinner last night at Monarch, and how Josh Galliano has "risen" from the destruction of his home town of NOLA to give us great food here in STL.
My parents, my wife and I went to Monarch last night for a dinner to celebrate my birthday a week early. The meal we had was nothing short of stunning. The amuse that was sent out was a delightful bite of skate ceviche on top of thinly sliced radishes. Both my father and wife commented that this is the only way they would eat radishes, and were really excited to see what else Galliano would send out that night. Our first course was a couple of soups- a celery root puree with caramel, and a vichyssoise with carmelized onions and thai peppercorn creme fraiche. The celery root puree was really good- a touch sweet for my taste, but the vichyssoise (served warm) was out of this world. Get it. We paired the soups with a delicious bottle of Pinot Blanc from Trinitas, and the pairing worked out very nicely.
The next round of food contained some steamed mussels with some sort of braised veggies under them (I can't remember), a phenomenal Wagyu tartare, crispy pork belly (pretty hard to screw this one up but delicious nonetheless- thanks to BB for the suggestion), and a spring salad with an olive brandade that was a hit with everyone at the table. The tartare literally melts in your mouth, although I know some folks are weirded out by the texture. At this point, we switched to red and drank the Alvaro Palacios Petalos, from Bierzo Spain- a neat little wine that you should try some time.
Next came the entrees. Oh, Lordy, the entrees. I might have blown all of my success over the last three months in losing weight with this meal, but I don't care. Mom and the Mrs. got the braised short ribs. Again- a pretty tough dish to mess up, but Chef Galliano served them with some sort of rissotto that was killer. Dad had the Lamb Ragu, which was rich, decadent, and fit for a log cabin in Colorado. I had the lamb duo- a spot-on medium rare loin, and a lamb pot pie that had one of the flakiest, most delicious crusts I have had in years. There was a fava bean puree that accented the dish nicely, and some perfect trumpeter mushrooms. Our server, Kris, paired Tres Picos Garnacha with our dishes, which worked out nicely. As a side note, she was an excellent server, and even dealt with a corked bottle of wine with aplomb.
Were we finished there? Hell, no. Now it was time to cram dessert into our over stuffed bellies. First of all, Galliano just brought back some strawberries from Louisiana, and made the best strawberry shortcake I have ever had. A new dessert (which was my favorite) was a deconstructed "Rocky Road" that was amazing. The chocolate, brittle, marshmallow ice cream, and other components worked in delicate harmony together. There was an almond cake with orange "caviar" that was very pleasant (I finished the whole thing), and also a strawberry gelee dish with pistachio muffins that was good- it was just a bit cerebral of a dessert at that time of the night!
Looking back, my father mentioned that it was one of his favorite dining experiences of his adult life, and I cannot disagree. It's really fun when family, friends, good wine, great food, immaculate service, and a great ambience all come together for a wonderful birthday meal.
Cheers, and go eat at Monarch soon!