, a modern Italian restaurant created by Michelin-starred chef Danny Grant, lives on the 49th floor of the National in downtown Dallas. It has great views of the city and a menu that takes advantage of its wood-fired hearth and its patrons’ willingness to spend a bit of cash for these spectacular vistas and inspired dishes.
Monarch is a special occasion dinner destination, be it a wedding anniversary, 40th birthday celebration or being made an equity partner in a brokerage firm, since a meal for two can easily set one back the cost of a car payment. However, YOLO as the kids say, and assuming you have something to celebrate (or your car is already paid off), Monarch can be an exceptional experience.
A table with a view on the 49th floor
After we made use of the $10 valet parking, we entered The National and were greeted with a complimentary chilled glass of bubbly, which we gladly accepted and sipped during the elevator ride up to the 49th floor. Window seats can be reserved online only, and it’s a $125 per person deposit that will be applied to your dinner. We didn’t do this, but luckily were rewarded with a great corner window table for two where we could gaze at the Omni, Reunion Tower and the Bank of America building while we drank our cocktails: a Southern Belle and a Diamond Noir.
The Southern Belle and the Diamond Noir house cocktails, $18 each
The Southern Belle consisted of Old Forester bourbon, black tea, stone fruit, lemon, maple and mint, and the Diamond Noir was born of Makers 46, barrel aged Demerara, citrus and clarified cabernet. Both were refreshing, and the Diamond Noir was beautiful to boot and led to a short dissertation about specific gravity and viscosity of fluids from the server who was definitely up on his physics. As we sipped these drinks looking down on our city, we made menu decisions.
Complimentary charcuterie was a welcome surprise
But wait — before we could even crack open the menu, our server brought us their version of chips and salsa: a scrumptious little charcuterie setup consisting of rustic bread, olives, salumi and whipped honey ricotta. A welcome surprise, and as a bonus the olives were already pitted. Now that’s service.
Summer greens & tomatoes: heirloom and fried green, cucumber, basil, sheep's milk feta, $18
There’s a tasting menu for $290 per person, but we opted to order off the menu, with some shared salads, starters, sides, pasta and individual entrees. Our salad choice was the summer greens and tomatoes, consisting of heirloom and fried green tomatoes, cucumber, basil and sheep's milk feta. It was light and crisp and indeed tasted of summer and brightness.
Spanish grilled octopus: confit potato, roasted almond romesco, crispy guanciale, $22
We immediately followed this with some Spanish grilled octopus: confit potato, roasted almond romesco sauce and crispy guanciale (an Italian cured pork cheek). The octopus was cooked just right, tender and delicious, tasting of the sea (in a good way).
Whole Maine lobster spaghetti: chile de árbol , basil, $65
Next up, we shared an order of whole Maine lobster spaghetti. This had a spectacular presentation, the lobster tail and claws resting upon some spaghetti simply dressed with chile de árbol and butter. While extremely visually appealing, the lobster was a bit bland and perhaps a tad overcooked, as was the pasta, which could have been slightly more al dente. Still, it was lobster. And pasta. Kind of hard not to enjoy that.
Wood oven-roasted oyster mushrooms: Calabrian pepper jus, Parmesan aioli, $12
The wood oven-roasted oyster mushrooms were highly recommended by both our server and most of social media, so we gave in to peer pressure. They were indeed extremely good, even for one in our party who doesn’t normally care for mushrooms. They are prepared with Calabrian pepper jus and Parmesan aioli, and are basically an umami feast that comes in an attractive little tureen.
Fire roasted lamb chops: eggpland caponata, thumbelina carrots, rosemary lamb sauce, $58
For our mains we decided on the filet and lamb chops. The filet mignon was butterflied and had a Comté crust and was served with a potato croquette, horseradish and Barolo jus. This was perfectly cooked and extremely flavorful, and the Barolo sauce added some depth to the flavor of the steak. The fire roasted lamb chops came with two thick chops accompanied by eggplant caponata and baby carrots and were sauced tableside by our server with a really complex and intensely flavorful rosemary sauce. The sauce was perhaps the favorite part of this dish, as the lamb was a tad overcooked, much closer to medium than even medium rare. It was perfectly seasoned, however, and the sauce helped overcome the overcooking.
Comte crusted filet mignon, potato croquette, horseradish, Barolo jus, $48
We rounded all this off with an order of toffee cake pudding, which arrived at our table fresh out of the oven. It consisted of coconut shortbread, a bourbon toffee glaze, a dusting of toasted coconut, all topped with a dollop of passion fruit and coconut ice cream. Nice and warm and comforting, if not a tad disappointing in that the toffee flavor was not more pronounced.
Toffee cake pudding: coconut shortbread, bourbon toffee glaze, passion fruit and coconut ice cream, $14
We finished our meal as the sun set and the Dallas skyline began to illuminate, but before we left we climbed one more set of stairs to reach the 50th floor, where the affiliated Kessaku bar resides as well as an indoor observation deck around the entire perimeter of the space. We took in breathtaking views one more time before fetching our car and making the trek home, our stomachs full, our wallet a bit lighter, and another successful anniversary celebration in the books. Maybe next time we’ll try the $1,000 King Crab offering.
Monarch; 1401 Elm St, 49th Floor (The National); 5 p.m. - 10 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, & Sunday; 5 p.m. - 11 p.m. Friday & Saturday