Monarch Restaurant

Fit for a King (Almost)

Part of Monarch's obstacle to being as provocative as the hotel itself comes from its need to meet the quotidian demands of being a hotel restaurant. At a full-­service hostelry like this, guests expect to have the option for on-site breakfast and lunch (and room service). Some hotels handle that with a secondary coffee shop or café operation. But Hotel ZaZa doesn't. Instead, the lounge is pressed into service and does double duty during the day. A respectable lunch is served — I enjoyed a freshly made turkey club sandwich and a companion was impressed with a hearty black bean soup larded with chunks of beef tenderloin — but service was spotty, to say the least. Inexplicably, our order for iced tea couldn't be filled. They were out. Who runs out of iced tea in Houston in the middle of summer?

One answer might be a kitchen and staff that are trying to do too much. Running a restaurant is a strenuous and demanding enterprise. Running a hotel restaurant can be even more so.

The summer salad and the mushroom-crusted halibut were delightful.
Daniel Kramer
The summer salad and the mushroom-crusted halibut were delightful.

Location Info


Monarch Restaurant & Lounge

5701 Main
Houston, TX 77005

Category: Restaurant > New American

Region: Kirby-West U


Breakfast hours: 6:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. daily. Lunch hours: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. Brunch hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. Dinner hours: 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Summer salad: $8

Black bean soup: $6

Hot and crunchy crab

cakes: $15

Seared ginger beef: $33

"Make your own topping

cupcake": $9

5701 Main (in Hotel ZaZa), 713-526-1991.

Last year, USA Today ran an article about the 100 best hotel restaurants in America, and Houston got dissed pretty good, scoring only one — the Remington at the St. Regis — in that august group. (For the record, Dallas had four, Austin two and San Antonio one.) I'm not sure I agree with those rankings. Bistro Moderne at the Hotel Derek, Bank at the Icon and 17 at the Alden certainly warrant consideration. But I do agree that hotel restaurants, the really good ones, are often facing a higher degree of difficulty. Since Monarch isn't as fussy and flamboyant as some patrons will be expecting — and paying top dollar for — they could wind up royally disappointed. The rest of us will settle for the great location and a meal that's almost fit for a king.

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