Amor is always on the menu at Café Monarch.
With candlelight ever-so-dimly illuminating the opulent interior and sparkling lights strung across the dreamy patio, Café Monarch is the jewel in the crown of restaurants for the most romantic of rendezvous in Arizona.
Located in Old Town Scottsdale, Café Monarch is the result of one family’s hard work and dedication to making memories for others. It all began with Gus Lewkowicz, a native Argentinian. An entrepreneur and self-taught chef like his own father before him, Lewkowicz – who lived in New York and Texas after Argentina – moved to Scottsdale in 1999 to open Tribe American Leathers. With its success, Lewkowicz was able to find more time to devote to cooking, a personal passion. In 2013, his passion led him to purchasing a small restaurant called Café Monarch.
While the property existed for several years prior, Lewkowicz had a vision to cocoon the space – like the Monarch butterfly does before it emerges triumphant from his own cocoon ¬– and re-imagine it as a fine dining concept one might expect in New York or San Francisco but offering the ultimate in intimacy. With his designer wife Sofia Lewkowicz by his side and their sons Phillip and Christian Lewkowicz working in the restaurant as well, Café Monarch was soon named among Open Table’s “Top 100 Best Restaurants in America.”
Its popularity led to higher demand. So much so that in 2017, the family took a leap of faith and bought the building across the street from their cozy eatery. Together, the family spent the first half of 2017 remodeling the bigger space, which was home to home furnishing showroom prior, adding a commercial kitchen and bar, outdoor courtyard, and wine cellar. By that year’s end, the family built a magical fairyland of food, family, and fine dining ambiance for the ages.
Still standing despite COVID-19 and recent supply chain and workforce issues hitting Arizona, Café Monarch is now among Trip Advisor’s “Top Three Most Fine Dining Restaurants in the Nation.”
While Café Monarch’s menu changes regularly, it continues to offer a series of prix fixe dining options nightly in keeping with Lewkowicz’ initial dream. He still works to develop the overall vision of the menu as executive chef and co-chief executive officer of the business; Sofia serves as his co-CEO and oversees all décor and ambiance; and Philip and Christian round out the leadership as chief financial officer and chief operating officer, respectively. Lewkowicz is joined in the kitchen by a talented team of culinary wizards, including executive sous chef Lorenzo Castro, a veteran of Mirabel and Rio Verde Country Clubs who has been with the family for many years.
The primary menu offered nightly is four courses plus surprises. It starts with the choice of a long-simmered soup – often with a combination of roasted vegetables, lobster, truffles, cream, or crab – or sumptuous small bite for each guest. The second course is meant to be something outside of the ordinary, and there is always a choice here as well. Think big eye tuna crudo with black garlic and Asian pear or pork belly with apple butter and hazelnut relish. Once the tastebuds are tickled with the smaller dishes, the third course ups the ante, featuring the choice of a specialty piece of Wagyu beef or an ultra-fresh piece of seafood or shellfish. Finally, the fourth course brings the primary entrée. Here choose between five to seven options, including a rack of lamb; surf and turf; Chilean sea bass; Frutti di Mare with clams, scallop, shrimp, lobster, and pancetta; Maple Leaf Farms duck breast; Wagyu short rib; or a custom cut of a specialty beef. Dessert may be added as well, of course.
Too hard to choose? The Lewkowicz family also offers an eight-course tasting option, which includes a larger variety (but some smaller bites) of many of the most beloved dishes on the tasting menu. There is also a vegetarian option nightly, and special menus developed for holidays, including Valentine’s Day.
Oh, and the old Café Monarch space? Together, the family opened a sister concept called The Reserve in 2020., Limited to just a handful of guests per seating, each table is taken through the 14 courses over the course of one unforgettable night. Every single item is inspired by Lewkowicz’ culinary travels to the top Michelin-star restaurants across Europe.
For more information, visit http://www.cafemonarch.com
By Alison Bailin