after dinner sneeze

a lot of g says, t says

Posts Tagged ‘Monsu

re-found Monsu brunch pix!

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t says:  I was clearing out my inbox and found some pix I sent myself from our brunches at Monsu.  I uploaded them in that post.  I got hungry just look at them!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

26 January 2012 at 10:11pm

Posted in Happenings

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replacing the Saturday brunch spot

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t says:  A little bit ago, I described the disappointing brunch at Supper that g and I had, which resulted in a demotion from its former title on our Gold Standards list as our pick for Saturday brunch..  While we will eventually find our way back there to re-evaluate their offerings (how do you argue with free parking at Whole Foods?), we needed to find a reliable replacement for Saturday brunch.  We looked far and wide and found two potential contenders.

The first is Monsu.  These guys are seriously kicking some brunch ass – and I’m pretty sure no one’s noticing, as it was dead-quiet both times g and I visited in November.  Regardless, we were pretty darn impressed with the food and the pricepoint.  I’ll smoosh together the visits to show you what kinds of things are going on over there.

November 2011,  Saturday Brunch – Multiple Visits.  Monsu features a “tourista” menu in which one gets three courses for $22 (actually, it was $20 the first time, $22 the second time – no idea what the real price is).  In our visits, we’ve tasted a variety of dishes and all are quite good.  Here are our two favorites:

polpo

So it doesn’t look like much … but let me tell you that it was a radical kick to the mouth.  Aside from Koo Zee Doo’s milk-poached polpo at dinner, this is the best octopus I’ve ever had.  I mean, it beat out Amada’s polpo for crying out loud!  I’ve only had it once, so maybe I should re-try it just to make sure it wasn’t a fluke before making such statements …  The octopus, itself, is nicely cooked, being tender and not rubbery, but what really makes the dish is the “everything else”.  Now, there was a lot going on and at the time, I didn’t scrutinize the menu enough to memorize the ingredients, but there was some fennel, some sundried tomato, and something with a bit of kick.  It was zingy and light and sweet and spicy all at the same time.  No, it doesn’t look pretty (it looks kind of ugly, actually), but it was awesome!

steak and eggs

Similarly, the steak and eggs doesn’t look like much.  The skirt steak was medium-rare-to-medium, and the potatoes looked bored next to the eggs, which had an odd paleness to them.  I was pretty unimpressed when this plate showed up in front of me … but then I took a bite: it blew me away.  I’m not sure if it was because I was hungry or if it was because it looked so “bleh” that I had zero expectations, but I was shocked.  There was a wonderfully textured and nicely seasoned steak, perfect potatoes, and eggs that were clearly cooked in some kind of meat-fat drippings.  g felt her steak was over-salted.  Mine was not.  I consumed the entirety of my dish (the portion you see above is the tourista-sized portion – if you ordered it alone, it would have been larger).  So approach this dish with closed eyes, and you’re good-to-go.

Yes, there were starches and desserts offered at our visits, including a delicious pork belly and scallop dish and some classic tiramisu.  I think lc joined us for one of the meals and left quite content.  And, of course, one of the best things is looking out the window at those people waiting to get into Sabrina’s.  Ha!  When will they learn?

EDIT:  I found more photos!

chocolate mousse, profiteroles

?scallop + porkbelly?

something g liked involving poached eggs, basil, toasted bread, roasted potatoes

And now allow me to introduce the next contender: Parc.  PARC?!?  Yea, that’s right, Parc.  Now, I must admit that there are a lot of things we dislike about Parc.  It is a Starr restaurant, so you pay big moneys for EtOH and it’s a little pricey overall (e.g. they charge a ridiculous amount for their “pastry basket” at brunch).  Additionally, because of its Rittenhouse location, it tends to attract a slightly older, posher clientele that’s just not quite our crowd.  And then there’s the food that I’ve bad-mouthed in the past, including a boring burger and boring French Toast.  Don’t get me wrong – they’re still boring and we’re probably never going to order them again – but we’ve been recently going back to Parc again and again (and will do so in the future) for two specific dishes …

January 2011, Saturday Brunch, Party of 2.  g loves the “warm shrimp salad”.  As far as naming conventions are concerned, this is perhaps the most boring name ever.  I think it’s because it sounds a bit like two adjectives and a noun instead of an adjective and two nouns.  Also – it should be noted that this is no mayonnaise-laden shrimp salad – this is a completely different animal, being more like a traditional salad with delicious shrimp and dressing  Furthermore, even I, who generally hates salads, have been known to enjoy the dish every now and then.  Fresh greens, avocado, shrimp, truffle [oil], and buerre blanc sauce.  It just can’t go wrong.  It’s neck and neck with Tria’s “grilled asparagus salad” as our favorite Philly salad (and might win just by virtue of being closer to us than Tria).

The second dish is one that I encountered just recently:

pancakes!

That’s right – it’s just a pancake.  No bananas foster sauce, no bacon ice cream, no chocolate anywhere on the plate.  This is a new, more mature t in town – let’s call him “fuddy-duddy-t” (can anyone guess precisely what I’m referring to when I say “fuddy duddy”?).

fuddy-duddy-t says:  Sometimes you just want a pancake.  And that’s it.  You want it a little sweet and a little buttery.  You want it to be rich like a bisquick pancake, but still light and fluffy.  You want it to be thick, but perfectly browned on the outside and still cooked the whole way through.  You want it to remind you a simpler time when you were 7-8-9 years old and would eat McDonald’s Hotcakes with your grandparents before heading to the mall to play video games … except you don’t actually want to eat McDonald’s Hotcakes because their texture is that of a sink sponge that’s on it’s fourth week of use …  This is that pancake.  Lightly dusted with confectioner’s sugar and served with plain maple syrup, it is an homage to all that is good and holy about pancakes.

Written by afterdinnersneeze

11 January 2012 at 5:03pm

FTC dominates Monsu

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t says:  The Finer Things Club (an idea we knowingly ripped from The Office) held our monthly meeting at Monsu (we had been on hiatus for a few months because I was being a party-pooper and working all the time).  In attendance at April’s meeting were kp, a, v, g, k, cm and me.  After g and I had a delightful brunch there, we rolled up into Monsu for a late Friday dinner with the gang.  This is what went down …

4/2011, Friday 9:30pm, Party of 7.  The moment we walked in, we saw that the people sitting at the large table were about to get up to leave.  It’s a good thing.  Had they not, then surely we would have fought them … West Side Story style (or not).  So, unlike our experience at the sister restaurant Modo Mio (where we waited an hour before our reservation), we were immediately off to a good start.

We ordered a mess of food.  And as we ate, we proceeded pull out a mess of wine, ranging from whites to bubbles to reds (including a very classy $12 magnum of Protocolo).  g and I had the lamb “in the style of the horse”, the osso bucco, and the carbamare pasta.  I found the lamb to be pretty good – but I actually can’t remember anything particularly mind-blowing with it – I guess I must have missed the big deal about the “style of the horse”.  In short, I think it was cooked well and tasted fine, but I wouldn’t go back to order it again.  I found the osso bucco to be a step up from the lamb, putting a variety of flavors together with a very tender pork – I also love the sesame candy topping and the thick glaze – I might order it again, but only if I was sharing it with other people (i.e. it wasn’t so good that I’d want to hog it all to myself).  But it was the carbamare (i.e. carbonara) that was the highlight – it was beautifully cooked, a great combo of flavors (and that’s not just the prosciutto talking) and everyone who tasted it seemed to enjoy it; it’s a good challenger against Melagrano’s carbonara.  But enough about us – here’s what the gang thought (and I’ll throw in my edits in [brackets]):

lamb "in the style of the horse" ... whatever that means.

a says:  Overall, it was a great experience with great people [yea, we are pretty great …]. The space is better here than at Modo Mio but I think the food nod goes to Modo.  The special gnocchi was outstanding, better than the “regular,” along with the mushrooms on several plates. The pulpo was good but did not bring all elements of the dish together perfectly. The osso buco, again, was good but did not blow me away. The roasted fennel with beets was surprisingly complex and tasty for a side. I’d like to go back and try some of the other dishes as well as brunch.

The osso bucco was a mound of tender meat and veggies with an ?apricot?-sweetened glaze and sesame candy on top.

k says:  The evening started off with an amuse bouche of a mini-toast with some kind of lentil spread. An amuse bouche always puts me in a good mood. It makes the meal feel special and feels like a great freebie, even though the cost is no doubt incorporated into the rest of the menu. Unlike others in the group, I like the [regular] gnocchi dish better than the “special gnocchi”. cm and I shared the ricotta gnocchi with crab meat in a sweet tomato cream sauce [this “regular” gnocchi dish is also served at brunch at pictured on our brunch post]. Wow. t will remind me that I liked it so much I was somewhat less than generous is sharing tastes with the rest of the group. Sorry, guys. I also loved our fish dish. It had tender and flaky mahi mahi cooked in a tagine with sausage, a rich savory sauce with mushrooms on top of a bed of israeli couscous. cm said the sausage were great. Our appetizer featured perfectly cooked scallops (cm’s all time favorite) bursting with flavor.  The place was very homey. There was lots of pleasant chit-chat with the wait staff. They didn’t seem at all annoyed by our increasing drunkenness and the absurd questions we posed them (what are those two pigs in the photo doing to each other? and what spice is laying tantilizingly on top of their pig bodies?) All in all, a very successful night of food and debauchery.

kp says: Re: Bruschetta.  The earthiness of the mushrooms paired well with the escargot, which had a nice soft texture and was not over cooked to rubbery proportions.  The bread itself a little on the soggier side but this probably owes to the ‘tagine’-esque pot it was served in which probably steamed the toasted bread a bit. The sauce itself was wonderful a lovely salty reduction of red wine with a hint of garlic and tarragon.  The sauce paired well with the mushrooms and escargot.

Re: Duck.  The confit of leg was nicely seasoned and went well with the broccoli rabe. The leg itself may have been a tad on the drier side, but still delicious.There was a nice smokiness to the leg meat which blended well with the rich sauce.

Re: Scallops.  The scallops were buttery deliciousness. The foccacci had a nice crisp crust and salty taste. The olive oil/ricotta mixture is creamy but could use some nice sea salt coating.

v says:  I prefer the space and ambience at Monsu, but the food at Modo Mio. Though, I was really hungry after waiting for an hour at Modo Mio!

t says:  Wow – it looks like there were some highs and some middles – not a whole lot of lows, which is good.  I think that the best part of the night was a combination of the table we were at (it fit the 7 of us comfortably) and the “chill” (but very attentive) service.  I don’t know how many places can pull off a table like us, but we’re happy they did.  Now if only they were open a little later – we could have used about a half-hour more to linger over our wine (they were closing up at 12:15 or so … Modo Mio let us stay ’til 1:30).

Can’t wait for our next meeting!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

22 April 2011 at 8:02pm

Monsu: A Great Brunch Hiding in Sabrina’s Shadow

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t says: Our friends thought of going to brunch this past Sunday.  And for once, I didn’t push going to Cochon … don’t get me wrong, I still love Cochon, but I think I have gone enough times so that I feel confident that I can go a weekend without it and not feel like I was “missing” something.  This also has to do with a recent menu change – they removed the awesome Elvis French Toast and replaced it with PB&J French Toast, which is good, but not quite as off-the-hook as the original.  The pancakes are still delightful, but no longer come doused in fruit, rather, crushed Oreos, which are good, but is definitely a lot of sugar.  And they removed the hanger steak … so g and I have decided to branch out beyond Cochon for brunch (unbelievable, right?!).

So we originally planned to join our friends n, m, and kp at Cafe Estelle (k and cm are too busy traveling in Spain to come!).  As we drove there we laughed at the crowd in front of Sabrina’s – ha!  Silly people!  Cochon is always line-less.  And there was Monsu across the street!  But wait a sec – there was Monsu across the street!  As soon as g said, “we gotta try that place”, n reasoned, “well, Cafe Estelle will probably have a line, too – maybe we should try it out!”  And shazam!  We were being spontaneous!  g is a spontaneity-junky, so she was totally in.  I dropped off g, n, and kp at Monsu and found a parking spot (m was meeting us there – he had very important doctor stuff to do … I suspect someone had a runny nose or something at the hospital and m wanted an excuse to wear his hospital scrubs to brunch …).

April 2011, 11:30am Sunday, Party of 5. There were a lot of savory items on the menu at Monsu – maybe a French toast and like one other dish for sweet.  At first I was nonplussed (O … M … G … I hate that word – just finished reading a memoir by an author who used it no less than 3 times in 200 pages … drb uses it every now and then, but whenever he uses it, I feel like he’s making fun of it, which is acceptable – it’s such a dumb word).  But then I started eyeing these awesome t-esque dishes.  Gnocchi, lasangna with cocoa, scrapple, and a whole lot more.  Suddenly, I was no longer nonplussed – one might say I was plussed.  Here are some shots of what kp and I ordered and shared.

The scrapple's playing hide-and-seek under some veggies!

The scrapple tasted good and had a nice internal consistency – it just needed more of a crust on the outside.  Other than that it’s some mighty-fine meat!  And the veggies had a nice sweet taste to them.  g still refused to eat much more than a bite (but I love her anyway).

No gnocchi left behind!

The gnocchi were also quite good.  Their texture was how I like my gnocchi: soft but with a bit of bite so you still feel like you’re chewing something (I know gnocchi texture is a very personal thing).  The sauce reminded me a lot of a vodka cream sauce.  I wish there was some kind of vegetal zing in there, like a parsley or a basil or something fresh just to cut through the cream.

The split personality lasagna ... hiding under an egg.

So the lasagna I believe deserves a special mention.  It walked the line between savory and sweet, as there was a bit of cocoa and cinnamon (or at least, we think it was cinnamon) that had to play nicely with the cheese/meat/pasta.  The result was a success!  Topped with an egg, it was the perfect breakfast lasagna.  I’m not so sure I’d eat it for dinner (it’s also on the dinner menu), but for brunch this is probably the best savory-sweet balance outside of pancakes-and-bacon that there is.  Superb job Monsu!  Also, the egg on top reminded me a bit of Modo Mio – it was a good idea then, it is still a good idea now.

g had Eggs Basildict, which is a very peculiar name, but she liked it a lot, claiming that perhaps she “won” with the best dish.  I disagree, firmly believing the lasagna was superior, but I will say that hers had a more vibrant complement of flavors – it just wasn’t as unique as a sweet-savory lasagna.  Sorry – no pics to show you g’s dish – she was too far away for my crappy iPhone camera to reach.

All in all, Monsu was a success for brunch.  There were no lines and plenty of open tables.  It completely boggles my mind that across the street at Sabrina’s, people want to wait for a spot.  Simply put, Sabrina’s food is good (don’t get me wrong – if you put their food in front of me, I’ll eat it), but not worth waiting for.  And now that Monsu is right there, I definitely see no reason to wait (unless you desperately want a cup of cream cheese shoved in your French Toast like Sabrina’s likes to do).  I also see a lot of potential for Monsu for dinner – I feel an FTC meeting coming!

What are the drawbacks?  Well, n did have an omelette that I think she regretted – it wasn’t bad, but I think she felt it was a little dull next to some of the other items on the table.  I sampled a taste of m’s mpanada, which was pretty good – I wonder how he liked the dish in its entirety?  I think one of the big drawbacks was, as I had mentioned earlier, that there really weren’t a lot of sweet on their brunch menu, so if you have a sweet tooth (like me), afterwards, you might still find yourself craving something “more”.  Fortunately n and m had the right idea: Isgro’s is right down the street!

Written by afterdinnersneeze

5 April 2011 at 2:28pm