Taking the place of the short-lived Sovereign Southeast Kitchen + Bar is Monkey King, which has soft opened on the corner of 5th and Island in the Gaslamp. Now under a new proprietor, industry vet Matthew Nosse who previously opened West Coast Tavern and barleymash for the Verant Group, the restaurant continues the historic building’s long tradition of housing Asian concepts and is named for a Chinese gambling house that once operated below the space in the pre-Prohibition era.
Currently open for lunch from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and serving a menu that includes Vietnamese pho, Thai curry and noodles, plus beer and wine, Monkey King should be open for dinner service soon with a menu of mostly shared and small plates that ranges from Korean bibimbap bowls to Japanese onigiri, or rice balls, and yakitori.
There are 12 beer taps at the bar and focus on dark spirits, with a good selection of harder-to-find Japanese whiskeys and select bourbons that will be half-off during its 4 to 6 p.m. happy hour. A specialty cocktail list crafted with Asian flavors, including the signature Monkey King with Cutwater Spirits Three Sheets Barrel Aged Rum, Amaro Montenegro, banana chai tea and lemon, was created by esteemed barmen Christian Siglin and Eric Johnson. Nosse plans on offering a late night food menu and keeping Monkey King open until 2 a.m. daily, playing downtempo music in the space as a nightclub alternative. He says that he will continue to run the adjacent Food Shop, which specializes in grab-and-go Vietnamese banh mi and other casual dishes, with its existing menu.