Café Monarch: An Artful Duet of Cuisine and Romance
Scottsdale is the hub for many unique and trendy restaurants, some have staying power and some do not. My belief is that Café Monarch is here to stay. Under fairly new ownership (2013), Christian & Phillip Lewkowicz and Executive Chef Branden Levine have created a perfect duet of cuisine and romance.
In the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, Café Monarch calls 1st Avenue its home. Originally believed to be a boutique hotel, the property (not unlike the metamorphosis of the ‘Monarch’ butterfly) has been transformed into a charming and inviting place to dine.
When entering the restaurant, I felt a dreamy 1940s throwback, including music that made me want to toast with a Rick’s Café Americana martini and kiss like it was V-J Day. Fresh roses, stargazer lilies and chrysanthemums were placed around the restaurant, and adorning each guest’s table. The decor was inviting, like an old country home with chic accents. The lighting, subtle and intimate. The soft glow of low lights combined with candles creates a romantic delight. Ornate candle holders include antique lanterns and screen-less bird cages. The courtyard, though a bit warm in the summer, is nestled in greenery with tranquil fountains allowing guests to relax and unwind. Tucked in a delicately illuminated back corner, the restaurant contains a lovely showcase of wine bottles, a sommelier’s delight! In fact, a noteworthy sip of information we learned when speaking with owner Christian Lewkowicz … this fall, Café Monarch will be the only restaurant in Scottsdale to have a full service sommelier staff. Wine lovers, rejoice!
The menu includes fresh, seasonal, local and organic ingredients and is transformed weekly, generating a new masterpiece for guests up to 52 times per year. The restaurant has a unique approach to this weekly culinary choreography. The wines are chosen first and the cuisine is then built and paired around the wine for each course. The menu is simple in that the appetizer, salad and dessert are prix-fixe and the guest only needs to choose the main entrée. The entrée choices include a carne, a fish and a vegetarian option. Our culinary whirl began by sampling a couple of signature cocktails, then we moved through the courses and wine pairings… each, a dance step for our palates.
- El Diablo– Olmeca Altos Silver Tequila, Gran Mariner, Watermelon Fresca, Muddled Jalapeño, Fresh Lime, Sugar Chili Rim. The combination of cold, sweet, tart and spicy mimicked the jitterbug being performed on my taste buds. Feisty and fun!
- Monarch Mule – American Harvest Organic Vodka, Muddled Cucumber, Fresh Lime, Cucumber Liqueur, Fever Tree Ginger Beer. This was a unique combination of ingredients. Though not my favorite, the cocktail grew on me with each sip.
- Roasted Apple-Parsnip Soup with Gruyere Cheese Brioche Sandwich– Comfort food with an air of sophistication. This is not your childhood American grilled cheese and canned soup… but I still felt compelled to dip my sandwich.
- Summer Salad – Roasted Brussels Sprouts, Caramelized Pear, Pomegranate, Wild Baby Arugula, Goat Cheese Crouton, Roasted Garlic-Whole Grain Mustard Vinaigrette. Sometimes a salad needs only a few simple ingredients. Crisp and refreshing!
- Wine Pairing – Shaya 2012, a Spanish wine. This wine incorporated various tropical fruits and herbs. Fruity, fresh and crisp containing undertones of butter and oak without being too chewy. It paired perfectly with the Summer Salad resembling a cool promenade through a garden.
- Sautéed Chilean Sea Bass – Crab-Edamame-Saffron Risotto. Petite Shaved Fennel-Onion Salad, Vanilla Bean Lemon Beurre Blanc. I am not generally a risotto fan, but the way it was prepared, it integrated perfectly with the Sea Bass. There were so many subtle flavors to this dish I had to sample it several times to place each ingredient. Ok, truth be told… I just really liked it and couldn’t stop eating; each bite was a mambo in my mouth.
- Wine Pairing – Rojac Istra, a Slovenian wine. Made from the Rofish berry this red wine had hints of lavender and rosemary with the essence of berries and dark chocolate, fruity and floral. Though not a stand-alone wine, like Fred and Ginger, it’s a magical duet when paired with the Chilean Sea Bass.
- Roasted Portabella and Butternut Squash Lasagna– Baby Spinach, Hand Pulled Mozzarella, Ricotta Cheese, Herb White Sauce. How can something meatless be so meaty? You can thank the Portabella for that! The herbs and cheeses commingled so well, it resembled a smooth waltz.
- Wine Paring – Argiano, an Italian Tuscan Wine 2011. Oak, plum, blueberry and raspberry. A touch of limestone minerals creates a supple finish similar to fine Italian leather. Paired well with the meaty meatless lasagna, earthy and so rich like rubies in a glass.
- Diver Scallops– Baby Spinach and Bourbon-Shallot Sauce. Very flavorful, but a bit on the chewy side.
- Mixed Berry-Lemon Short Cake – Mascarpone Cheese, Pine Nut Praline. Not being a fan of really sweet desserts, this one takes the ‘cake’. The blend of berries, cheese and nut praline cleansed the palate nicely without leaving you with a heavy feeling of… ‘I didn’t really need that last bite’.
- Wine Pairing – Lunaris Secco, Malvasia La Collina 2012. This bubbly wine has subtleties of pear and banana which started sweet and finished dry. The bubbles performed a tourjete with the dessert. It was the perfect finale to a sublime ensemble of food and wine.
The ambient décor, seductive music and the unity of wine and creative cuisine designed a very relaxing, dreamy dining experience. If you are looking to woo that special someone, Café Monarch, is an artful duet of cuisine and romance that will help you set the stage.
If you’ve ever eaten at Cafe Monarch, please leave a comment below and let our readers and me know what you like best about this Scottsdale Restaurant. Click the following link if you’d like to see more photos of Cafe Monarch.
Cafe Monarch Information:
Address: 6934 E 1st Ave, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
Hours: Tuesday – Thursday 6:00pm – 9:00pm | Friday – Saturday 5:30pm – 9:00pm
Prices: Four course prix fixe is $65 per person. Wine pairing, additional $30