Maybe the Accidental Locavore is being overly fussy, but don’t you think that food that is supposed to be hot, should in fact, be hot? And when menus describe something as “seared”, one assumes that it’s going to have residual warmth from the searing process. Such was not the case at a recent dinner at a new “hot” restaurant, Monte’s Kitchen.
Originally I wasn’t going to write about our dinner, preferring to just sit back and enjoy an evening with friends we hadn’t seen in a long time. But the dinner was so disappointing—not bad, mind you, just very sloppily executed, that the company was definitely the high point of the evening.
It’s a large open space, with nothing but hard surfaces, so as soon as it filled up it was impossible to hear anything. Along with kale, the other must-have for a trendy restaurant has to be the Edison light bulb, which looks great (or did the first fifty times you saw them), but isn’t terribly effective as far as illuminating a kraft paper menu on a clip board (another trendy conceit). In an effort to go against other long-standing traditions, there are weekly specials (a terrible idea at the end of the week…) of pasta (never thought of pierogis as pasta, dummy me), flatbread and dessert.
When the flatbread arrived, it was warm and soggy, weighed down by a nondescript cheese and the inevitable kale. Not special. My husband and one of our friends had the beet salad, which was certainly the most unusual-looking rendition of that dish I’ve ever seen. Small beets of various colors were halved and piled up on one side of the plate, opposite a same-sized ball of (wait for it) beet sorbet, with a slab of feta standing in for the usual goat cheese. Frank said the sorbet was interesting, but it was obvious that the salad wasn’t what they were expecting.
Main courses were a little more traditional. Frank had a steak, which was good, but not close to being rare. Ditto the lamb chops another one of our friends had—grey is not the color of medium-rare meat. The two of us at the end of the table (and minus points for turning a four-top into a six-top by adding chairs at the ends) had the chile-rubbed seared tuna on a bread salad. This is where things got interesting. The tuna was perfectly seared, a little spicy — and stone cold! It was served over a bread salad with a basil dressing, which was just kind of a green mush with lima beans being the dominate note.
Because the tuna was so cold, we gave them back to the busboy and told him they were cold. He look puzzled (but that was pretty much his only facial expression that evening) and went off with them. Not thirty seconds later, he returned saying that the chef said it was supposed to be that way. I get that salad is cold, seared tuna in the center is cold, but the outside (i.e. the seared part) was also cold. My guess is that it’s seared off in the morning and kept in the fridge until someone orders it, when it’s sliced and plated. None of this would have been a problem at all…except no one said that it was a cold dish.
The dessert menu was limited to three desserts, none of them memorable, and the weekly special—a key lime pie cut into rectangles so they could call it a bar…
I’m tempted to be like Monte’s website and not have any photos of the food (which should be a telling sign), but instead will leave you with this terrible shot of my tuna. Thanks to Frank for going back and taking the exterior photos!