Andrew Brochu alights at the Monarch | Bleader

Andrew Brochu alights at the Monarch

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dill pickle wings, The Monarch
"I like to do both." That's what Andrew Brochu told me about his bounce between the progressive fine dining cookery of El Ideas, where he was then working, and the more pubby stuff that made his name when he opened the late Kith & Kin. After El Ideas, the Alinea vet attempted to right the ship at Graham Elliot for a short spell, but now he's back in barstaurant territory at the Monarch.

A few months ago the owners of the erstwhile Uberstein ditched the Germanic schtick for a kingly theme, but the real news was the installation of Brochu, who has returned to his previous MO of high-caliber bar food. That includes snacky spreadable stuff in jars (rillettes, foie gras mousse, pimento cheese) and a soft pretzel with beer cheese, and larger plates like a burger, a bowl of mussels, a tender, disintegrating square of onion-glazed short rib, and a stout garlic sausage paired with jiggly pork belly bedazzled with glistening candied mustard seeds. A few bar food standards are given restrained modernist twists, particularly the classically dainty wings, which come in various flavors like "everything baked potato" (dusted with cheese powder), and dill pickle wings so powerfully seasoned with herbs and brine that when they emerge from the kitchen, the interior of the bar smells like a pickle barrel. There's also a bowl of torn-up "drunken bread" studded with sausage and held together by Mornay sauce and a minimum of onion broth, approximating a French onion soup without the liquid. It's just the perfect thing to absorb whatever you might be drinking, though the bar doesn't quite match Brochu's talents. There are a dozen wines, most available by the glass, a list of terribly oversweetened cocktails, and 14 beers including PBR, Shiner Bock, Framboise Lambic, and Hopmouth Double IPA, but nothing terribly special.

Still, it all may be enough to satisfy Brochu's considerable fan base for awhile. But the real question is whether it can satisfy the restless chef.

The Monarch, 1745 W. North, 773-252-6053

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