// NO MONKEYING AROUND

BELOVED PHILADEL­PHIA CHEF MICHAEL SCHUL­SON SHINES WITH HIS NEW JA­PANESE RESTAU­RANT (AND SE­CRET KARAOKE BAR) MON ITAIL, LO­CATED IN HOL­LY­WOOD’S RE­CENTLY REN­O­VATED DIPLO­MAT RE­SORT.

Ocean Drive - - September 2017 - BY BECKY RANDEL

Philadel­phia chef Michael Schul­son shines with his new Ja­panese restau­rant (and se­cret karaoke bar), Monki­tail, in Hol­ly­wood’s re­cently ren­o­vated Diplo­mat Re­sort.

Chef Michael Schul­son, who made his name at New York’s Bud­dakan and owns some of the hottest restau­rants in Philadel­phia, was ready to ex­pand to Mi­ami a few years ago, after his Philadel­phia land­lord Tony Gold­man in­tro­duced him to the bur­geon­ing Wyn­wood area. “I al­ways loved Mi­ami, but I didn’t want to open in South Beach,” Schul­son says. “So I’d been wait­ing for the right op­por­tu­nity.”

When Hol­ly­wood’s Diplo­mat re­sort ap­proached the restau­ra­teur, he was daz­zled by its ex­tra­or­di­nary $100 mil­lion ren­o­va­tion plans: “The Diplo­mat is an iconic ho­tel, so to get into the Florida mar­ket through some­thing like this was kind of a no-brainer.”

The new restau­rant, Monki­tail— like his award-win­ning Dou­ble Knot in Philly—of­fers a mod­ern take on a tra­di­tional Ja­panese iza­kaya, a ca­sual gas­tropub serv­ing small plates. The menu opens with a host of cold ap­pe­tiz­ers, like the so­phis­ti­cated, won­der­fully salty toro caviar on toast; a va­ri­ety of sushi rolls, in­clud­ing the per­fectly bal­anced big­eye tuna rolled in warm rice (a Schul­son sig­na­ture) and topped with av­o­cado purée; and fresh sashimi, like the but­tery golden-eye snap­per.

The star of the menu, though, is

the huge se­lec­tion of ro­batayaki—over 40 dif­fer­ent skew­ers of meat, fish, and veg­eta­bles, from Kobe beef, lamb, and quail to scal­lops and oc­to­pus to king oyster mush­rooms and miso egg­plant—cooked slowly over a char­coal grill. The skew­ers re­ceive a sim­ple treat­ment of salt, tog­a­rashi pep­per spice, and yak­i­tori sauce be­fore they’re gen­tly grilled to per­fec­tion.

“The Ja­panese grill is a dif­fer­ent process— it’s ev­ery­thing you’re not taught [in culi­nary school],” Schul­son ex­plains. “It’s all about low and slow, turn­ing 100 times.”

While the starters mir­ror tra­di­tional Ja­panese cui­sine, the hot dishes are where the chef’s imag­i­na­tion shines. One surprise hit: a duck scrap­ple bao bun with an un­char­ac­ter­is­ti­cally fla­vor­ful coat­ing (like a fluffy “ev­ery­thing” bagel) that mar­ries Asian fla­vors with Amer­i­can gusto. A large wine and sake list ac­com­pa­nies cre­ative cock­tails such as the Monki­tail, a bour­bon, rye, and ver­mouth combo topped with a cin­na­mon and clove smoke, con­cocted at the ta­ble.

The ex­pe­ri­ence at Monki­tail is a de­par­ture from that of the re­gion’s typ­i­cal beach-in­spired restau­rant. “I’m all about the abil­ity to trans­port,” Schul­son says, “bring­ing some­body into Monki­tail and hav­ing an ex­pe­ri­ence that could be in New York, Sin­ga­pore, or Lon­don.”

In ad­di­tion to the 200-seat restau­rant, Monki­tail houses Nokku, a dis­creet cock­tail lounge with pri­vate karaoke rooms. “These days, din­ner out has be­come the en­ter­tain­ment all by itself,” Schul­son says, “so we’ve cre­ated a place for peo­ple to go after din­ner.” Karaoke or not, a meal at this mem­o­rable eatery will un­doubt­edly have you singing about your sup­per. 3555 S. Ocean Dr., Hol­ly­wood, 954-602-8755; monki­tail.com

“THE JA­PANESE GRILL IS A DIF­FER­ENT PROCESS—IT’S EV­ERY­THING YOU’RE NOT TAUGHT [IN CULI­NARY SCHOOL].” —MICHAEL SCHUL­SON

A mouth­wa­ter­ing as­sort­ment of ro­batayaki dishes and the duck scrap­ple bao buns from Michael Schul­son’s Monki­tail.

Hang­ing glass lanterns dec­o­rate the din­ing room at Monki­tail, cre­at­ing an in­ti­mate and sul­try feel­ing.

Not only is Michael Schul­son a master of Asian cui­sine, but he also learned Ja­panese dur­ing his time work­ing at pres­ti­gious Tokyo restau­rants. ƫƣơơƭ: Duck shabu shabu.

The Monki­tail cock­tail, fin­ished off with a cloud of clove smoke, is pre­pared at your ta­ble.

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