Giavos' concept for 3 Monkeys is simple: "Not so upscale like Stella's. Not so casual as Sidewalk." He says that since the deal leading to 3 Monkeys came together so quickly, simplification was the key. "I put the menu together as a kind of 'greatest hits' from my other places. You'll really see that in the specials, too. The ahi tuna with the sesame. The bourbon sauce on the rib-eye. Hopefully, we hit the mark of what's needed in the Fan at this point."
I can't help but think of Rocco DiSpirito's failed attempt at such a feat in the guilty-pleasure TV show for foodies, "The Restaurant." But there's a big difference here. Whereas Rocco wanted to hang out with his clientele in the front, Johnny loves to be in the kitchen. Rocco's restaurant failed in large part because he lost touch with the most essential element in the joint, the food. There's no danger of that happening here. If there's one thing that Giavos is committed to, it's the food. He doesn't just want you to dig the ambience at his bar, he wants you to love the food at his newest restaurant.
A quick glance down the menu shows little in the way of surprising or exotic fare. Though the eclectic reigns here, there is little in the way of fusion a fact I find refreshing. My wife, who is six months pregnant, exclaimed that everything sounded so good. And she was right. To find crab dip, saganaki flambée, falafel sliders, a hummus plate, and grilled garlic shrimp all on the same appetizer menu and all $7 or less made our decisions difficult. We tried the falafel sliders (petite versions of the ground chickpea patties) on one occasion and the grilled garlic shrimp over homemade cornbread the next. The falafel were hearty enough to be a meal in themselves. The garlic shrimp were light and not overpowering with the cornbread absorbing the delicious sauce.
Choices on the salad menu ($6-$8) include a standard Asian grilled chicken salad, a traditional Caesar, a buffalo mozzarella with tomato and basil, a classic Mediterranean, and couple of unusual options in the sweet and plump fried oysters gracing a spinach salad (which proved a wonderful combination) and a Caribbean-style avocado-pineapple-cilantro salad (which should be a hit this summer). All the salads are large enough to be a meal alone and a great value at this price.
George Tsipas' contribution to the menu is specialty pizza ($7-$9). The crust is reminiscent of that at Bottom's Up, and the combinations are classic and tasty. There's a white three-mushroom, Greek, grilled eggplant and peppers, andouille sausage, and the Monkey Pie with ham, pineapple and caramelized onions.
The menu really shines in the entrée section ($12-$17). Here we see the best of what Giavos has to offer: simple combinations and little twists on the classics. The best meal I had at 3 Monkeys was, by far, the roast pork, sliced razor-thin and heaped atop homemade mashed potatoes, covered in caramelized onions, bathed in au jus, and complemented by grilled asparagus and roasted red peppers.
Also on the menu: New York strip with Gorgonzola butter, jambalaya served with penne pasta and the seafood pasta diablo. There's even a lowbrow fried seafood platter for those who can't get enough of the crispy golden goodness.
All in all, Giavos is hitting the mark with his newest venture. With a good dose of comfort food and a strong kitchen staff to execute it well, he could hardly miss. S
3 Monkeys Bar and Grill ($) 2525 W. Main St. 204-2525 Lunch Monday-Friday 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Dinner Monday-Friday 4 p.m.-1 a.m.; Saturday-Sunday 2:30 p.m.-1 a.m. Brunch Saturday-Sunday 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
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