Monarch Ramen and Noodle House is one of Coeur d'Alene's hottest new restaurants, literally and figuratively. Ever since owners papered over the windows of the former Syringa Japanese Café & Sushi Bar location, which relocated further up on Fourth Street earlier this year, people have been stopping by to check on their progress, reports co-owner Autumn Basso.
The interior of the new place resembles the old Syringa with a few upgrades, like the windowside counter. Thirteen-and-a-half years took its toll on the place, says Basso, who opened Syringa in 2007 with husband and chef Viljo Basso. The couple also launched Garnet Café, which they've since sold, as well as the bistro Midtown Bluebird and White Pine Coffee Shop, all on Fourth Street.
Beyond the virtual and real-life food fans following Monarch's October unveiling, the little restaurant is just plain steamy. Drive by on any given day (except Monday, when they're closed) and you're likely to see the front window fogged up from all the brothy goodness that makes ramen such a welcoming meal.
"We picked ramen because we saw a niche that hasn't arrived in Coeur d'Alene yet... and we like it," Basso says.
Monarch's menu includes a few dishes that overlap with Syringa's offering like gyoza potstickers ($9) and agedashi dofu, or fried tofu ($6). The bulk of the menu, however, is ramen, a Japanese noodle soup with origins in China. Key ingredients are the typically chewy noodles, some kind of broth and toppings.
Monarch, which honors Idaho's state insect, the monarch butterfly, features a variety of broth types, each one an homage to the Bassos' other restaurants.
The Bluebird Ramen ($13), for example, features curry, chicken, carrots, caramelized onion, egg and togarashi, a common Japanese spice blend they make in-house.
"The G-Star ramen is an ode to when we owned the Garnet," Basso says. "Viljo was in the kitchen and he worked his magic and came up with a dish that was a play off the spaghetti and eggs at the Garnet."
It's also atypically brothless, so more like a stir fry than soup.
You can build your own ramen, too ($13). Choose one of six broths from vegetarian to pork to miso, as well as noodles, including a gluten-free option. Add a protein, from chicken katsu to beef short rib, and up to three toppings, from mushrooms to egg to the pungent takana zuke, pickled mustard greens.
Unlike their other restaurants, Monarch includes a kids' menu, albeit with one item: Kids Cup Noodle soup ($5).
"We believe that our whole menu is diverse enough to find something for everyone, kids included," says Basso. "There are many things on all our menus that will satisfy the pickiest of eaters." ♦
Monarch Ramen & Noodle House • 1401 N. Fourth St., Coeur d'Alene • Open Tue-Sat 11 am-8 pm • facebook.com/monarchramen • 208-966-4230