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Fatemeh | Oct 12, 200112:42 AM     2

As I'm sure most 'hounds did, we decided to take advantage of the October 11 benefit affair, and go to dinner on a weeknight (rare).

About the only place I could get in and actually wanted to try was Cafe Monk. It wasn't TOP of my list, but seemed like a good excuse to try it. I can definitely say I'll be back.

A short word about ambiance - kinda loud. That's it. Service was fine, even with the busyness of the evening. Beautiful space, but it's a high-ceiling loft space; you get the drift.

A fairly small wine list, but they had several nice selections by the half-bottle. We ordered a Franus (sp?) '98 zin; '98 wasn't really that great a year, but this was a superb wine for $20/375ml.

Started with mussels & manila clams in a red pepper vinaigrette - YUM. Really outstanding combination of flavors, with a few capers and some cilantro sprinkled in there. Just very fresh. And quite a generous portion.

Next came my porkchop. This is quite possibly the best chop I have ever eaten... no small feat. But I don't exaggerate. Tender, buttery (how often can you describe pork as being "buttery"??). Lightly pepper-crusted and mesquite grilled (wood-fire cooking seems to be their specialty). Served with a delectable homemade applesauce and a potato "latke" type thing, made with carmelized onions and plenty of butter. Again, YUM.

The S.O. got the wood seared rare albacore - quite an interesting preparation. It was tuna nicoise, except warm and an "entree". A few nice kalamatas, beautiful heirloom tomatoes, french beans and a boiled egg. Unfortunately, the fish seemed a bit too fishy for my taste, though it was quite fresh. Personally, I don't ever serve tuna w/tomato as I think it upps the fishy flavors. But he really enjoyed it.

We had to pass on desert, but they had a few things which seemed interesting (scharffenberger chocolate cake, in particular). They also had one of my favorite tawnys, A Niepoort Colheita, '86. Wound up w/a glass of that. God's nectar, as usual - and it hadn't even been open too long.

We wandered upstairs after dinner. I'm definitely going back, but I will request a table in the upstairs nook. A little more quiet.

Actually, this might be a nice place for a chowhound dinner - they have a great big communal dining table in the middle of the room which seats about 35!

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