SGV: Comfort Food and Cocktails at Monkey Bar
So much is happening over at the Santa Anita Westfield Mall! The Food Alley has a plethora of choices from Hainan chicken at Side Chick to the Japanese cheesecake import, Uncle Tetsu. But what if you want to sit down and enjoy a cocktail? That’s when you head over to Monkey Bar. And I say you should definitely stay for the food.
In the last few years as craft cocktails and small plates spots have turned fine dining upside down, folks would travel to Downtown Los Angeles or out to Hollywood or Santa Monica for the the latest buzzy food trends. Luckily, the trends have moved eastward to the San Gabriel Valley beyond Pasadena.
Monkey Bar may be at the mall but it’s not mall food.
I tried out a few signature drinks at the bar. First I got the Machito which makes use of the popular uber-green tea, matcha. Actually, Matcha Matcha, the soft serve shop just a few yards away, along with Side Chick are all run by the same restaurant group. You’ll see a lot of cross pollination.
Drinking the Machito feels like you’re having a green juice. It’s totally healthy, guys. Imagine having this on the patio when the days warm up.
Machito – Appleton white rum, cucumber, matcha mint ginger syrup, lemon, chlorophyll
I though the shrimp toast were really interesting with tom yum shrimp paste. Definitely get these to share.
With a name like Monkey Bar, you’ll expect a lot of great pun-ny drink names. The Monkey See, Monkey Do is a great example of this. Besides mint, I love basil and combining it with strawberries is a classic flavor combo. Add in gin and you got your spring drink.
Monkey See, Monkey Do – Hendrick’s gin, strawberries, basil, lemon, lime
Remember how I said you’ll see Monkey Bar, Matcha Match and Side Chick working together? Well, the chicken skin Monkey Bar serves are from the chickens used over at Side Chick. So these are very high quality skins that are perfectly puffed up.
I noticed all the drinks are very drinkable and worked well with food. Kikori Japanese whiskey is a great one with food. The Nippon Rising is almost a punch style drink with hibiscus chamomile syrup and punched up with lemon. The dry curacao adds depth.
Nippon Rising – Kikori Japanese whiskey, hibiscus chamomile syrup, Pierre Ferrand dry curacao, lemon, star anise
For entrees, I was really into the 30-day dry aged rib eye, which is my favorite cut of steak. I loved the nori fries that went with it. The steak was a perfect medium rare.
For a rich, stick-to-your-ribs dish, get the shepard’s pie with braised oxtail. It’s pure decadence.
There’s a lot of agave love going on with the Oaxacan Sunset. It’s both tequila and mezcal with some tartness from pom molasses and seeds. I liked how it was just a little bit different and a good one to try if you want to break out from your margarita rut.
Oaxacan Sunset – Olmeca Altos reposado tequila, El Silencio mezcal, golden falernum, pomegranate molasses, pomegranate seeds, lime, cinnamon stick
My favorite dish was the eggplant three ways. There were eggplants done Sichuan style, puree and “crispies.” The fried eggplant was perfect. I could eat this dish over and over again.
I love gooey mac and cheese and Monkey Bar does it right. With boursin and aged white cheddar, this mac and cheese is what some may say is a pleasurable experience. Or simply, it’s food porn.
Monkey Bar isn’t just food at the mall. It’s actually destination dining for those in the San Gabriel Valley.
(626) 688-3879 © The Minty 2017