Monkey King: Downtown’s Newest Hotspot
Article by Antoinette Genevieve
A nod to the downtown days of old, Monkey King is a relatively new dining destination that has entered the San Diego culinary scene with some fanfare. Housed in the space that once held the most notorious gambling parlour and cafe owned by Tom Ah Quin, the venue provides guests with a taste of modern Chinese cuisine, tantalizing cocktails, and a lovely space to enjoy it all. Serving up dim sum and freshly made bao, they even play Kung-fu movies on the bar TVs! Upping the ante, co-owners Brad Termini and Matt Gerold have managed to wrangle Chef Brendan Mica all the way from The Standard Hotel in New York. Per co-owner Matt Gerold, “Just like the Monkey King of old, this restaurant will be the most happening destination to enjoy food, drinks, and conversation into the late evening hours – with a lively, contemporary vibe”. Vanguard Culture was able to sit down with Chef Mica for just a few moments to get his thoughts on the vision for the restaurant, and what enticed him away from the foodie capital of the US.
VC: You have just relocated to San Diego from New York, what drew you here and more importantly, why Monkey King?
Chef Mica: To be honest the reason to come back to the West coast, San Diego, in particular, was primarily family. This opportunity with Brad presented itself, and the idea of working with Monkey King and the shop next door. “I have always had a love for Asian cuisine, it’s balanced complexity and deep flavor profiles. The Monkey King menu will have no tricks. We’re crafting recipes inspired by true Chinese cooking, driven by ingredients from our local farming community”.
VC: Is there one dining experience that has stood out for you in all of your years in the industry?
CM: Best service I ever received was Jean Georges in New York. It is a 3 Michelin star restaurant in New York, and my wife knew some people there, which made it an even more exceptional. I have dined at many places and had amazing food, but this was one experience that also provided an elevated level of service, unlike anything I have previously enjoyed.
VC: This is your first foray into Chinese cuisine, is there anything you think has impacted your style?
CM: Not necessarily. I am quite familiar with Asian cuisine, due to my experiences at Asia de Cuba and my own culinary experiences.
VC: What is the most memorable dish you have ever made?
CM: “Hmm.. I suppose that would be when I cooked a whole pig for my wedding. It was made caja china style and was for about 100 people.” Chef Mica chuckled then added, “I definitely could have used a sous chef, but was quite pleased with how it turned out”.
VC: Last one, please list a few must-have items from the menu.
CM: Well the Bao are at the top of the list. I have been in process of training our team how to make the bao from scratch. It is a process, but something that I am quite excited to have on the menu. A staple item on the menu is The Hoisin Braised Ribs. I would also highly recommend trying the Fat Boy, which is flavorful and definitely appeals to all demographics. We do have desserts, but I don’t think I have a favorite at the moment. We will be adding more items, both savory and sweet in the coming months. Cocktails: We are currently developing a 5-spice Old Fashioned. I am quite excited about that, nothing better than a big ice cube and some nice whiskey. Scorpion King, a refreshing mix of vodka, gin, light and dark rum, mixed with a medley of fresh juices.
Monkey is open daily from 11 a.m.- 2 a.m. daily.
**They offer a dining menu available until midnight on weekdays and 2 a.m. on weekends.
Monkey King SD
467 Fifth Avenue
San Diego, CCAa 92101
(619) 359.8897 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Images: Jim Sullivan Photography