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A Little Al Fresco Dining at Monarch

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Some great food from chef Adam West.

by Marene Gustin

Executive chef Adam West.

Quick. Before the temperatures jump into three digits and the mosquitoes come out in force, head outside to enjoy some al fresco dining.

And while Houston has no shortage of lovely restaurant patios for your enjoyment, one of our favorites is the exotic and beautiful-people-watching patio at Hotel ZaZa’s Monarch, where the veranda stretches out toward the verdant Museum of Fine Arts backyard and the waters of the Mecom Fountain splash majestically nearby.

Besides the view, and the view of celebrities, Monarch offers some wonderful food from the kitchen of executive chef Adam West. And while this Adam West may not portray a ’60s TV hero, you could say he is the real Batman of the culinary world.

West came down from the Dallas Hotel ZaZa’s Dragonfly restaurant a year and a half ago and has pretty much revamped the menu at Monarch.

“Some dishes have stayed,” West says. “The ginger beef tenderloin is a hotel classic and it isn’t going anywhere. But pretty much everything else on the menu is my creation.”

The 26-year-old chef changes most of the menu seasonally, and then tweaks it after a month or two.

Right now, the spring menu mirrors the lovely weather Houston has been having.

A hot and cold dish with scallops.

“The seafood really shines this time of year,” West says. His favorite is the pan-roasted sea scallops dish. He sears the dry scallops on one side, the

French way, making the tops crunchy, and then plates them with a tabbouleh made of quinoa and cilantro and roasted garlic hummus. The dish is topped with a papadam, an Indian flat bread, which you can use to scoop up the tabbouleh and hummus, creating an interesting variation on nachos.

“It’s about combining bright, clear flavors, balancing the citrus with the scallops to create a hot and cold dish,” says West. “Scallops are the foie gras of the ocean—they can be very rich.”

Another light and fresh option for your al fresco dining is soup.

“Cold soup is very overlooked,” he says. “But gazpacho is perfect this time of year.”

Beat the heat with cold gazpacho soup.

West does a golden tomato and saffron gazpacho that sparkles with a dollop of cucumber salsa on top.

Monarch is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily, and also has live music on weekends for the hip crowd. And Sunday brunch has a new feature: the “Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar.”

That’s right. Bacon vodka? Check. Jalapenos, horseradish, and olives stuffed with blue cheese? Check, check, check. Oh, and don’t forget to choose a rim salt of barbecue spice, Mexican salt, or celery flavor. Top it all off with a Slim-Jim-style beef straw and sip.

If that isn’t enough to entice you, check out the seasonal desserts here. A favorite is the Slice of Ice—vanilla ice cream with chocolate and caramel sauce and an Oreo crust. Or try the chef’s favorite, a slice of Key lime pie with a graham cracker crust and white chocolate. Nothing says summer like Key lime pie; it’s perfect for the season and definitely something you can share with your tablemates.

“Our desserts are huge,” West says. “They could feed a small African village.”

Monarch
In the Hotel ZaZa
5701 Main Street
713/527-1800
hotelzaza.com

Marene Gustin is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.

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Marene Gustin

Marene Gustin has written about Texas culture, food, fashion, the arts, and Lone Star politics and crime for television, magazines, the web and newspapers nationwide, and worked in Houston politics for six years. Her freelance work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle, Austin-American Statesman, Houston Chronicle, Houston Press, Texas Monthly, Dance International, Dance Magazine, the Advocate, Prime Living, InTown magazine, OutSmart magazine and web sites CultureMap Houston and Austin, Eater Houston and Gayot.com, among others.
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