There are few restaurants in Scottsdale where you can enjoy fine dining, but Cafe Monarch is the exception. Located in Old Town Scottsdale at 6934 East 1st Avenue, in the most charming and intimate venue, you will find this gem serving contemporary American cuisine in a very romantic setting. I suggest requesting a courtyard seat. We waited almost an hour with a reservation to sit outside but it was worth the wait to be surrounded with candlelight, twinkle lights, vines, lanterns and bubbling fountains. While we waited we ordered our wine and they sent out a fantastic tempura cauliflower to hold off our hunger pains at a table at the entrance.
While we waited we ordered our wine and they sent out a fantastic tempura cauliflower to hold off our hunger pains.
This is a family affair. Comprised of Chef Gus Lekowicz, who is self-taught (which is hard to believe), his wife, who decorated the place, and one son is the front of the house and the other is in charge of business operations but helps out on Saturdays.
The restaurant staff is well-trained, very formal, with impeccable service, in their vest and ties, and they explain each dish in detail. The restaurant offers a four-course prix fixe menu that changes weekly. They feature seasonal fare, favouring organic and locally-sourced produce. Tables are set far apart for conversation and they play beautiful background music.
The chef has a passion for what he does and you can see and feel it in the attention to detail.
Our first course was a choice of salmon carpaccio with a dill creme fraiche, crispy capers, pickled onion, black radish and accompanied by herb butter crostini. It was very good, but the fish was not raw but was mildly smoked. The second choice was a fabulous crispy brussels sprouts with red quinoa, slivered toasted almonds, homemade focaccia in a garlic confit vinaigrette. The second course only had one option, of a watermelon salad, consisting of local organic greens, compressed watermelon in a cucumber-mint emulsion with candied cashews, gooseberries, hibiscus drizzle in a Calabrian chili-garlic confit vinaigrette. I loved the dressing on the salad.
The third course was also one choice of a tempura king prawn with a spicy green papaya salad, tomato jam, lime chili aioli and micro cilantro.
The fourth course had four choices. A seared filet mignon in a Pinot noir beef emulsion, which we did not sample. A citrus crusted Chilean sea bass with jasmine rice and black lentil pilaf, roasted sweet corn, wild ramps, in a blood orange beurre blanc, with a crispy taro root. This seemed to be a popular choice by many diners and was very good. We couldn’t decide between the gnocchi or chicken, so we combined both dishes. The Red Bird Farm French cut chicken was outstanding, accompanied by a sweet potato mash, charred edamame, shiitake mushrooms in a chicken stock and Bordeaux reduction. The meat was so tender and juicy. The roasted carrot ricotta gnocchi was a good vegetarian choice, it came with sautéed spinach, brown butter pine nuts, crispy kale and shaved pecorino. All the dishes were well-composed and consistently tasty.
There were two choices for dessert. One was a rum cake with pecan butterscotch, homemade vanilla bean ice cream and a chantilly creme in a chocolate thimble. I am not a fan of rum cake but my husband seemed to enjoy every bite. The second dessert was a flourless chocolate cake, with macerated strawberries, raspberry coulis and vanilla bean gelato. If I had to make one small quibble it would be that the cake was a touch overcooked inside, but was delicious nevertheless.
How the chef can create such wonderful food in such a tiny kitchen is a wonder to me. This place lives up to its reputation with great quality food and service in a romantic setting.