The Hungry Monkey stretches out languorously over three floors, encompassing two inside seating areas and a balcony with a night-time view of the deer park opposite. The low-lit interiors are typically industrial New York with exposed brick work, extensive wood and metal-work and Edison light bulbs with a wattage matching their pedigree.
The food menu is a take on Californian cuisine a la Alice Waters and her ilk, implying a fusion of European and Asian influences with more than a twang of ol’ Americana and an emphasis on fresh, local and seasonal produce. This also means a menu that will constantly evolve. Darwin would have approved. The drinks menu, book bound and well illustrated, is mainly a tale of cocktails, both classic and contemporary, with a strong supporting cast of spirits, wines and beer.
Given the unusually extensive vegetarian selection, we begin with the Cold Spinach ‘Gomae’ and the Roasted Beetroot Tartare. The Gomae (from Goma, which means sesame), a chilled Japanese spinach salad in sesame dressing, comes executed in lines as straight and sharp as a samurai sword, the flavour intriguing thanks to the play between the spinach and sesame. The beetroot, as immaculately plated, and glazed in honey and dusted with mascarpone and toasted pine nuts is gentler. The Crispy Popcorn Shrimp (tiny crunchy shrimps deep fried in a batter and accompanied by a chunky Aioli), proves to be like HBO television programming — addictive and all-consuming, the moment you finish consuming it, stricken
The monkey here may be hungry but he’s happy too. The drinks here are of a surprising strength, craftily disguised with a muddling of freshly pressed juices and herbs. For instance, the vodka cucumber and ginger aled-Moscow Mule has more kick than the current Russian leadership, while the whisky-laced, sloshed Old Fashioned is something Hemingway could have both written on and off.
For mains, we straddle both sides of the fence, ordering The Rebel Burger and a Baked Fillet of Sole on a bed of barley. The Cajun spiced chicken burger comes on the increasingly du jour wooden board with a pail of fries and salad.
We keep dessert simple with the Soft-Centred Chocolate Pudding, a lava cake with vanilla ice cream. Despite being in California, we finish it in a New York minute.
Meal for two: Rs 2,500 (including taxes, excluding alcohol)
Address: B6/6, DDA Market, Safdarjung Enclave. 9810788196