Now, the Monkey hopes to inspire a new group of regulars with their new menu and top notch Chef Ian Kapitan.
Kapitan, who has received outstanding reviews by the New York Times and Zagat guides, has brought his considerable talent to the table.
Diners have three different atmospheres to choose from including the cozy, first floor bar area, the private second floor dining room, and the festive rooftop bar area that includes a bar and tables.
The bar and restaurant, which sits on the corner of Greene and York streets near the waterfront, is perhaps best known for the iron tables, chairs, and monkeys that decorate the establishment.
The place has a rustic charm that is accentuated by dark wood, low lights, and odd sculptures.
The service is friendly - never rushed - so one can enjoy the delicious food and relax.
Years of experience
Chef Kapitan is perhaps the best reason to visit the Monkey. Locals may recall him from his days as executive chef at Marco & Pepe, when he transformed ordinary food into culinary delights.
His new menu is deceptively simple - with everything from calamari to homemade soups to pan-seared scallops to mac & cheese - yet in his capable hands, many dishes become extraordinary.
On a recent Wednesday, my companions and I settled in for some food on the packed rooftop.
We started with the mussels & chorizo with roasted tomatoes, topped with toasted rye bread.
The delicate mussels were lightly seasoned and were balanced by the spicy chorizo (Spanish sausage). The light tomato broth gave the dish body without overpowering the lighter shellfish. This is a nice light appetizer to start with.
Also delicious was the chilled tomato soup. I am normally not a fan of any cold soup, but this convinced me. It was creamy, slightly sweet, and layered with chunks of fresh mozzarella. It required no other seasoning.
Those who like it hot will want to sample the crispy calamari, which were lightly fried and spicy with the chili mayonnaise.
Next, we tried the fried egg over shredded duck, which foodies know is all the rage in upscale New York restaurants. Kapitan really shows his stuff with this appetizer that is layered with flavors. There is the creamy base of fingerling potatoes, the tender, sweet duck, and the slightly salty fried egg topped with a balsamic reduction. Fantastic!
Other appetizers include: fresh Caesar salad, smoked chicken wings, chicken wontons, classic mini-burgers, cheese plates, and more. All are reasonably priced from $5 to $13.
Next, we moved onto the pan-seared scallops, which everyone at the table agreed was fabulous.
The large, buttery bay scallops were perfectly cooked - and melted in the mouth. They were served over an excellent pea risotto with wild mushrooms. This dish is filling and extremely satisfying.
Fish lovers will want to sample the lighter grilled trout, which came with a shaved asparagus salad and was served over a roasted apple. Again, this dish had layers of flavor that you won't usually find paired together. Yet the end result was something to be savored.
Not to be missed is the Kapitan's mac & cheese, which we were told is a favorite with regulars. One bite and you'll see why. It is a creamy, dreamy blend of goat cheese, gruyere, mascarpone, truffles, wild mushrooms, and bacon. This dish is rich, filling, and very addictive.
Other entrees include: organic chicken, beef short ribs, miso glazed tuna, grilled pork chops, and more. The entrees are reasonably priced from $15 to $21. Those with a smaller appetite can also get a grilled burger or steak sandwich.
What ever you do - save room for dessert! With seven tempting choices to pick from, everyone should be happy. The desserts are of course homemade and include Kapitan's signature twist of flavors.
Diners can delight over the chocolate bread pudding topped with gelato or the warm chocolate cake topped with espresso. Those in a fruitier mood will want to indulge in the berry tart that has nice mix of berry, citrus, and a hint of basil. A favorite at our table was the sweet pineapple tart that was topped with vanilla gelato.
Other desserts include gelato or sorbet (check with server for flavor of the day) and the fruit and cheese plate. Reservations are recommended for large parties and credit cards are accepted.
The Iron Monkey is located at 97 Greene St in Jersey City. They are open for lunch, brunch, dinner, and cocktails. For more information, call (201) 435-5756.
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