Sep 12, 2010

The Monkey Bar at the B.O.B. goes Global

I tagged along Jimmy Le's dinner party to sample the new menu and judge for myself the rebirth of the new Monkey Bar located in the lower level of The B.O.B. The Monkey Bar has had many lives. I remember hosting a family get together in the private dining room several years back when the menu was very much new American and the space was primarily a restaurant and lounge. Then management changed the venue into a Top-40 bar filled with gyrating bodies
and deep house bass. Then it became an extension of the pub. Catch my drift?

So here we are, an intimate group of eight, among them, friends JJ and John Christian from Paris. I came in with no expectations except for a nice meal experience amongst good friends. My initial impression is very positive. Maria, our server was friendly and genuine. Managers made the rounds to thank Jimmy for his patronage (though I felt a nice welcome to the entire table would have made a better impression). The atmosphere was cozy with hints of the orient. I opened the menu and the entire menu lit up. Very cool. So far, so good.

Downtown Grand Rapids is desperately in need of a fun Asian restaurant and the Monkey Bar's menu primarily features Asian plates, though there are other "global" plates to go with the pho, steamed buns and Korean tacos. Every item that came out of the kitchen was consistently well presented. Just like most menus, there were rock stars and there were those which needed a little more "love" from the culinary staff.

The best items on the menus were the Western inspired items like the Tasmanian Peppercorn crusted New York Strip and Plum Glazed Duck. The duck was dead-on fantastic. The strip was also delicious (though the whole presentation resembles the strip at down to the cippollini onions and fingerling potatoes). Of course, my favorite Korean Style Steamed Pork Buns from Gilly's menu upstairs, was still the best of the best.

There were several dishes that could use a little tweaking. The Korean Beef Tacos didn't taste Korean. I don't believe the kitchen marinated the beef long enough, and for a sesame flavored dish, I didn't taste the sesame oil. The Vietnamese Rice Noodle soup was served with grilled chicken which made the soup taste like barbecue, thus dominating the light stock. The stock also used too much ginger. The Beef and Roasted Poblano Tamales was very good but I highly suggest adding a little more beef since the tamale dominated the flavor profile. The pork tenderloin was undercooked making the pork a bit chewy in the middle. Most of the dishes are almost there. They just need a little more "love" from the kitchen.

Despite the menu, service and decor highlights, the music could use a complete overhaul. With the dim lighting, buddha statues and candle lighting, you would think that Asian inspired music would play in the background. Or at the very least, global lounge music to soothe and compliment the senses. Instead, the background was filled with the thumping of bass and electronic synthesizer twang from what appeared to be music from a rave in Ibiza. In addition, the voice of the folk singer on the main floor could be heard in the basement level where we were. The result was background noise that sucked all the good karma in the the Monkey Bar. Management needs to correct this right away. Perhaps a thick velour curtain to separate the Monkey Bar from the rest of the bar.

I look forward to returning to see if our suggestions are taken seriously. I hope so because I could use a cool downtown hangout serving some of my favorite Asian dishes. Also, after several reinventions, the Monkey Bar deserves a permanent and lasting theme.

Kelly's face glows from the lit menu
The menu lights up upon opening
One of several buddha's in the room
A cozy atmosphere
Gilly's Pork Buns makes an appearance at the Monkey Bar menu
Tasmanian Peppercorn Crusted NY Strip
Plum Duck Breast with Cucumber Relish
The Lobster Egg Rolls were perfect
Chili Glazed Prawns. The Lemon Lime Sorbet was a nice touch.
Vietnamese Chicken Soup with Pho stock served tableside
Korean Beef Tacos
Beef & Roasted Poblano Tamales
Steamed Pork & Ginger Pot Stickers
Smoked Gouda Fritters
Cider Brined Pork Tenderloin


Mallory said...

Curtis, my boyfriend, and I were both there. We saw you and your peeps but didn't want to intrude. My fav was the Chili Glazed Prawns. The sorbet was the perfect cool down after the spicy prawns.

Ed Legaspi said...

Reading your post just made my mouth water with anticipation. How I wish I could be there with you savoring all those Asian delicacies instead of just reading about it. LOL.

My Hotel Life said...

Mallory, Thanks. I saw you too but you and your boyfriend looked very entrenched with each other. I waved but you didn't notice me. I agree with the sorbet.

braddavid79 said...

I love the steam buns:)