November 3, 2017 by
Photography by Doug Meigs

The Monarch Prime & Bar resembles a scene from The Great Gatsby. Bartenders whip up whimsical cocktails; servers dance around with trays of food and drinks; meanwhile, poshly clad guests enjoy a whirlwind of happenings.

Omaha Magazine attended a preview dinner of the restaurant at Hotel Deco on Oct. 26. My dining partner and I sampled dishes composed of grasslands game meats and produce from local farms.

While waiting to be seated in the lounge area—connecting Hotel Deco’s lobby and the Monarch Prime dining area—my eyes fell on the top-shelf spirits, which included some of the most sought-after Japanese whiskies, such as Yamazaki and Hibiki.

A view of the bar

Although I normally prefer my whisky neat, Monarch’s “Blood & Sand” cocktail was tempting. Mixed with Johnnie Walker Black, Cherry Heering Cocchi di Torino, and fresh orange juice (with orange peel and olive garnish), the cocktail turned out to be an excellent aperitif.

My dining partner and I were escorted to our table through a short tunnel-like passage separating the lounge and dining area. A butterfly mural on the back wall provides the focal point of the restaurant. Other decorations include butterfly specimens displayed with preserved insects. Our server explained that the interior design incorporated themes of nature and royalty (after all, a monarch is a butterfly as well as a supreme ruler).

A view of the main dining area

On the main floor, tables are arranged intimately. Those who seek privacy, however, can reserve booths with curtains tucked into the arches. I particularly like the thoughtful lighting of the dining area; mono-point lights illuminate dishes in front of diners in an otherwise dimly lit, romantic atmosphere.

The menu features different courses in categories that range from “to begin,” “to continue,” “to dévour,” “to carve,” and “to add.” As our server told us about the game meats available and proudly introduced their in-house meat drying facility, the menu’s “elk osso bucco” and “30-day bison strip loin” piqued our interests.

She recommended we try the “potato and trout,” but we were torn between duck confit and chicken pate for an appetizer. We decided to go with the duck, “Monarch Burger with lamb bacon,” bison, adding a side of smoked maitake mushrooms, and ending the meal with donuts for dessert.

Meat aged on site

The duck was prepared by sous vide for 30 hours, rendering in duck fat, resulting in a creamy veloute formed into croquettes, lightly breaded and fried. Accompanied by a vibrant and sweet carrot puree, along with some crisp carrot and celery pickles, the duck is both rich and savory—my favorite dish of the night.

Our Monarch Burger, bison, and maitake mushrooms arrived at the same time. We dug into the bison immediately. Meat of bison is typically leaner and sweeter than beef; Chef Patrick Micheels grilled the aged bison and paired it with a light sauce that did not overpower the meat flavor. It reminds me of beef tataki and went really well with the earthy maitake mushrooms side dish.

Lamb bacon burger, bison, and maitake mushrooms

The burger came with frites and spicy aioli made of peppers from Spain. The ketchup, which they called “green tomato jam,” was a rich green and sweet with slight tang. We ordered lamb bacon with our burger—the bacon’s gaminess and fat added complexity to the flavor and aroma.

One note: you should always start with the burger before diving into other dishes as the house-made bun may soak up the cheese mornay sauce and become a little soggy—which is a shame, because their house-made bread tasted absolutely fantastic.

Our bill totaled about $130 before tip—including three dishes, two cocktails, one beer, and a dessert. While many of the items on menu were not yet available (or supply ran short on the night of our preview), we look forward to trying other game meats and unique desserts such as lemon goat cheesecake next time.

Visit monarchprimeandbar.com for more information.

Duck confit croquettes