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Monkey Bar & Grill - review and pics

j
Julia_K Mar 4, 2009 10:02 AM

This restaurant is not fancy, but it's been my "go to" place for about three years now. It's where I go when I don't feel like cooking or eating Chinese or Korean or pizza, and I also don't want to do a "fine dining" thing. Monkey Bar and Grill is a solid place where I've been over 10 times and got a consistently good (although a little boring) food.

I've found the place even before they were on Restaurant Makeover, I liked them then and I still like them... Food wise... Service leaves a lot to be desired.

The place is quite small about 15 tables and there are usually only two waiters who although familiar to me from numerous visits to the place still don't really smile when I'm there and look bored. A reservation is a must especially on a weekend, the place is almost always full and often booked. Servers are not too quick and not too attentive, but I don't go there for that experience, I go there for food, which is good.

The portions are big and filling, they usually have a soup of the day which never disappoints. This time it was Curried Lentil Soup with a really subtle and not overpowering hint of curry with lentil and spinach, very nice and warming.
lentil soup: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3323/3327614161_07f8cd767a.jpg?v=0

Their grilled calamari is excellent, it's an appetizer that my boyfriend orders there every single time. Calamari has really nice flavour and charred marks from the grill, it's not rubbery and not too chewy. It's served on a bed of greens with nice spicy sauce.
calamari: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3575/3327614081_ce4db06c52.jpg?v=0

This time I had a Salad with Cashews and Goat Cheese and Pear. It got changed from a previous time where Goat Cheese was crusted with nuts, but other than that the taste is still very good. It has a right amount of dressing, not too little, not too much, and the dressing is also very balanced, it's not original or exciting, but a solid nice dressing that matches the salad well. The pears are flavourful and soft and provide nice contrast to crunchy nuts and creamy cheese.
salad: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3633/3327614137_dd41a6af14.jpg?v=0

One of my favourite dishes there is Pecan Crusted Chicken. It sounds boring, but it's really good. The chicken is moist and the pecan crust provides a nice textural contrast to the soft flesh, the mustard cream sauce that it's served with is to die for. I can have that sauce on everything from chicken to fries to salad to even bread. All of their entrees are served with the same vegetables - steamed bok choi, broccoli and red cabbage. Every dish also comes with a side. Garlic mashed potatoes is my favourite. Shoestring fries come in second and Sweet Potato fries are third.

They usually have a couple of different fish and meat items on special and those are fun dishes to eat - Rare tune with strawberry salsa, Kangaroo stew, Ostrich steak (moved to regular menu a year ago), venison. Ostrich dish comes with two big pieces of meat done to your taste, I prefer it medium. It's nice and soft with full flavour that reminds you of beef, but with gamey undertones.
ostrich: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3657/3327614215_613cf8a1f6.jpg?v=0

This time I decided to try the Schnitzel. The portion was very big and the schnitzel was done really well, nice and thin piece of veal, still juicy and soft, with tomato sauce and cheese.
Schnitzel 1: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3561/3328448848_fbbdf36ae1.jpg?v=0
Schnitzel 2: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3624/3328448890_b8cdfe2f3d.jpg?v=0

I only tried two desserts at the restaurant: Creme Brulee and Chocolate Cake (on some occasions I ordered both because I couldn't decide... I still fill guily). Creme Brulee is very simple, it doesn't have any fancy flavours and textures, but the simplicity is something that I usually crave and keep ordering it. The Chocolate Cake comes in a ramekin with a ball of vanilla ice cream on top, the cake is hot and melting inside - pure decadence!
cake: http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3364/3...

Out of all the times that I visited that place, only a couple of times there were problems with food, once the ostrich was over salted and another time liver was a little too medium cooked for my liking (but I like liver very well done). Other than that the food is very solid and consistent, although it does lack some excitement.

Still it's place where I go when I don't want to think and choose a place to dine. It's affordable, it's tasty and it has a lot of good memories.

  1. BokChoi Mar 20, 2009 02:37 PM

    Thanks for the review Julia_K. Sounds very interesting. I have actually never heard of this place until now. Great pics.

    3 Replies
    1. re: BokChoi
      j
      Julia_K Mar 25, 2009 09:45 AM

      Thank you, BokChoi! It's a small hidden neighbourhood restaurant with lots of regulars. As I mentioned in the review, it's always busy and the food is good and safe.

      1. re: Julia_K
        r
        robb Mar 25, 2009 12:50 PM

        One of the few Restaurant Makeover restaurants that is still in business.

        1. re: robb
          j
          Julia_K Mar 25, 2009 01:53 PM

          Yep. I don't remember the show too well, but I know that some of the items that the restaurant makeover chef asked to remove from the menu are still there. I guess there's a demand for them. The menu changes periodically, but it's pretty much the same food. As I mentioned earlier it's not exciting, but it's really good and very consistent.

    2. torontovore Mar 25, 2009 02:29 PM

      This restaurant was my secret favourite years ago, before the 'makeover'. Chef would circulate to greet and get feedback on his dishes. I was always blown away by the food. This restaurant business is hard work and to hear that he's still cooking, even after the 'touch of doom' RM video promo, reveals a dedication to the art of food preparation that deserves a visit. I'll be back.

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