Monkitail, created by Philadelphia-based chef and restaurateur Michael Schulson, opens to the public tomorrow, Friday, April 28. The eatery's debut brings a contemporary izakaya — or Japanese gastropub — with sharable small plates and sushi, as well as an array of specialty cocktails and sake, to Hollywood's Diplomat Resort.
"Living in Japan really gave me the experience and background to do [a restaurant like this] right," Schulson says. "Everyone who does Asian food has a tendency to use too much sugar and soy sauce, and that's not what Japanese food is all about. It's about using the best, freshest ingredients and doing as little to them as possible."
At Monkitail, Schulson's passion for authentic Japanese cuisine is palpable. For starters, all dishes are served almost immediately after they are made, meaning patrons bite into fresh cuts of fish minutes after it has been sliced. "Because we use warm rice, it's important to get that contrast with the cold, fresh fish," he says. "At the end of the day, our goal is to be accessible to everyone, good food executed at the highest level."
Schulson suggests choosing items from each section of the menu. For the adventurous, there is a chef's tasting option ($65), which allows customers to pick one item from the menu's ten sections plus a dessert.
With dozens of plates offered at Monkitail, two that Schulson recommends first are the albacore tuna with onion ponzu, and the hearts of palm salad. "They are light, refreshing, and bold in flavor," he says. "The ... freshness of the hearts of palm, which is flown in from Hawaii, and tossed with Meyer lemon makes it a clean crisp and refreshing dish."
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Otherwise, Monkitail's large menu is similar to Double Knot, Schulson's Japanese restaurant in Philadelphia. Find an assortment of rolls ($6 to $20), packed with spicy tuna, blue crab, and lobster tempura; as well as cold dishes like wasabi ceviche ($12) and octopus sunomono ($10); and small plates such as pastrami bao buns drizzled with a Japanese mustard ($8) and edamame dumplings with a hint of truffle ($8).
Larger plates include donburi ($10) — a Japanese rice bowl — along with grilled and crispy meat and fish. Consider an order of Japanese fried chicken with kewpie mayo ($9), sapporro chicken ($19), or broiled seabass with truffle soy ($25).
There is a section on the menu dedicated to robatayaki or robata, the method of slow-cooking food on skewers over an open charcoal flame. Inside Monkitail, an open robatayaki kitchen sits at the heart of the restaurant, along with a 15-seat sushi bar and a private dining area overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. There are close to 40 items available for order, ranging from quail, turkey neck, rib eye, and foie gras, to lobster, octopus, and a wide variety of vegetables. All of the food is simply seasoned with nothing but salt and togarashi, and served with ponzu.
Diplomat Beach Resort, 3555 South Ocean Dr., Hollywood; 954-602-8755; monkitail.com.