Combining classic French technique, an Italian culinary heritage and a predilection for Asian ingredients could be a recipe for disaster. But Shawn Monday has a formula for keeping things from going awry. “It’s all about starting with the freshest ingredients, using proper technique and not going overboard with the whole fusion thing,” he says.
Monday’s endgame is a menu of tantalizing dishes that offers a range of portion sizes, tastes and textures. A perfect example is the chorizo-stuffed dates with bacon, off the small-plate portion of the menu. “The dates are sweet, the chorizo is spicy and the bacon is smoky,” says the chef. “It’s just three simple ingredients, but the result is an explosion of flavor.”
As a chef who works closely with the seasons, Monday knows well that each spring heralds the arrival of the same crop of ingredients, such as halibut, peas and morels. “The key is to package them up in a new, interesting way,” he says, pointing to a spring dish, his wild salmon with fava beans and morel sauce. Flavors such as miso, ginger, sake and sesame also help him keep the menu fresh. To further push the envelope of excitement, he sidesteps humdrum starches such as mashed potatoes in favor of risotto, gnocchi or Asian dumplings.
And to satisfy his sweet tooth, Monday is a huge fan of chocolate and cheese. “I know it sounds weird,” he says, “but Camembert drizzled with melted chocolate is amazing.”