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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Identity Crisis at The Glass Monkey

One cannot force an identity upon a restaurant. It must evolve organically and iteratively. Identity must meld with every aspect: decor, personnel and, of course, food and drink. It is easy to rattle off names of restaurants with well-defined identities, for one can "feel" the coherence. It is less easy to single out the reasons that an eatery lacks a clear identity; one tends to file such experiences under the realm of "something was amiss." The Glass Monkey occupies the former Lendrum haunt of Jack's Grill, but is burdened by the presence of its predecessor.


Parsnip Puree promises a nutty intermingling of root vegetable and hazelnut, underscored with velveteen mascarpone, but the puree's icy temperature belies a recent voyage out of the refrigerator. It's a pity; were this dish warm, the flavours would sing, but instead, they land on a flat note. It's like having a bit of cold Thanksgiving dinner out of the fridge, long after any last breath of warmth has withered away. Tuna Salad (pictured at rear) fares better. Equal parts tuna, capers, artichokes, and eggplant live in happy, salty synchrony.


Ricotta pleases with chunky apricot preserves and elfin, toasted sunflower seeds. Temperature, as with the parsnip puree, is problematic, and this unfortunate recurrence clouds the ability to perceive nuances within this delicate preparation.


Olive Oil-Poached Squid furthers the theme of temperature mismatch. The decapod is barely lukewarm and is lost amidst a murky sea of fennel and black-eyed peas. No dominant flavour emerges.


Chicken Yakitori, at least, arrives piping hot. The tender meat is lightly charred, avidly juicy, and reveling in the company of a grilled scallion.


Pork Sausage saves the day. An implacable duet of juicy links crescendo with sweet meat and finish with a playful nip of black pepper. A delightful tangle of caramelized onions add notes of honey, while red pepper relish lends ruddy acidity. A warm - thank goodness - dune of Isaac Hayes-smooth potato mash would be an enviable nibble all on its own.


Chocolate Cake, unfortunately, returns to the precedent set by the earlier courses. While billed as "warm" and "molten," the cake is neither. Rather, the semi-solid chocolate interior oozes out rather half-heartedly., while the tepid exterior is bitter and overly dense.


Bread Pudding fares somewhat better, but is chokingly sweet to the point of inducing hyperglycemia where no such condition existed previously. Raisins are a-plenty and rum is abundant, but sugar keeps this dessert in a stranglehold.

The Glass Monkey lacks clear identity. The menu, quite literally, is all over the map with no connectivity among Yakitori, Feta, Pizza, and so forth. This severe disconnect affects every aspect of these dishes, from glaring temperature discrepancies to injudicious contradictions of ingredients. Moreover, a number of menu items were prefaced with "Jack's Grill Feta" or "Jack's Grill Somethingorother," and were clearly salvaged from the previous incarnation's roster of recipes. This does little to bolster the Monkey's identity. To the contrary; clinging to dishes that are so obviously named for a different restaurant is wholly ineffectual. The Glass Monkey's identity has yet to coalesce.


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