The service runs warm and enthusiastic; Monty’s refers to its staff members as “ambassadors.” The restaurant’s diplomacy starts at the host stand, where a plate of cookies begs to be sampled, not just by customers who are leaving, Khash explains, but by the curious potential diner who might drop by to scope out the place. “May I take your coat?” a staff member asks. Wearing white jackets and infectious smiles, the young servers attend to each guest like concierges. They have a tendency to helicopter around tables, but the whir is probably better than a vanishing act.
As for the cooking, well, things get interesting here, especially for the diner who has heard Monty’s compared to the popular Ray’s the Steaks in Arlington. Brioche buns and banana bread show up as you’re scanning the menu; both are baked here, in a kitchen run by Bolivian native Marco Camacho, and both are good, although I’m more accustomed to eating banana bread in the company of coffee than with wine.
You expect Caesar salad and a crab cake to take the lead on a steakhouse menu, and sure enough, there they are on the list of appetizers. The crab cake, freckled with herbs and offered with bright coleslaw, is a winner. The soups all show attention, too. Clam chowder is a standout, brimming with seafood, potatoes and celery and liberally seasoned with pepper.
Less predictable, but appreciated, is the eggplant pâté, a smooth mash of roasted eggplant and ground walnuts bolstered with caramelized onion and served with garlic toast. There’s seviche, too, built with ringlets of squid, red onion, corn and lime juice, and staged in a martini glass. The seafood cocktail packs a nice pepper punch.
“Shrimpcargo” (rhymes with “escargot” — get it?) translates as cheese-draped shrimp on a saucer of meaty portobello. The first course is more amusing than something you’d want to eat again.
Monty’s menu is marbled with cliches. Who, other than a youngster playing restaurant, says dishes are “grilled to perfection” — or worse, “Oh yum!”? The French onion soup nicely balances onions and cheese in its chicken broth, but “C’est magnifique!” stretches the truth. A combination plate of shrimp and scallops is described as “a sure hit for everyone.” This customer would give the main course, marinated in an herb dressing, a B-minus, partly for the undercooked potatoes in the gratin I requested as a side.