Happy Monkey Sizzles With Latin Flavor in Greenwich

By Jean-Georges Management

Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s first Connecticut restaurant is not your average Latin hotspot, thanks to an exciting menu and lush interior.

What can one expect when acclaimed chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten does Latin cuisine? “The menu at Happy Monkey is a blend and trade of flavors and techniques between my ethos and what one would consider Latin,” says the Michelin-starred chef, who has a home in Pound Ridge. “I’ve added my touch to [Latin dishes], whether it’s a playful combination of ingredients, the addition or replacement of certain spices, or even the plating.” An example is the tuna tartare: Instead of a ginger marinade and avocado, there’s salsa macha, avocado, cucumber, and mint.

restaurant menu
A white-tablecloth, fine-dining experience is what many might expect from a Jean-Georges restaurant. Not so with the Michelin-starred chef’s newest venture, Happy Monkey, on Greenwich Avenue, his first Connecticut location. Expect Latin-inflected cuisine, including shareable snacks, small and large plates, crudos, salads, and tacos in a fun, lush interior of moss-green banquettes, rattan lights, and hanging plants. By Jean-Georges Management

Starters to try include the deliciously original squash blossom quesadilla, sweet-pea guacamole with sunflower seeds; and grilled maitake mushrooms with goat cheese.

On a short list of entrées, there are six tacos (the crispy barbecue pork with pickled pineapple is a worthy order), plus beef tenderloin with chimichurri; a whole grilled lobster in smoked chili butter; and arroz con pollo with addictive crackling skin. Don’t neglect a dribble of the house-made habanero sauce, bottled daily, on just about anything you order.

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Shrimp tacos menu
Shrimp tacos with spicy citrus peanut slaw and cilantro. Photo by Jean-Gorges Management.

Helming the kitchen at the 100-plus-seat restaurant is Executive Chef Ron Gallo, who recently served as executive chef at the Inn at Pound Ridge by Jean-Georges. The same ethos prevails in his Greenwich kitchen as does in Vongerichten’s other 49 restaurants worldwide: Work with local, organic products; use acidity (lemon, lime) in every dish; limit the use of butter and instead opt for natural oils and a hint of spice. Some of the local purveyors used are Mill Stone Farm in Wilton, Norwich Meadow Farm in Norwich, and The Tortilla Guy for heirloom corn tortillas.

The dessert menu proffers such house-made treats as a cocoa tres leches cake, a strawberry mango crisp with macadamia coconut streusel, and rotating popsicle flavors. A highlight of the beverage program is a margarita menu that reflects the seasons.

When opening a new restaurant, location and history are very important to Vongerichten. “Greenwich Avenue is a historic location — the strip of restaurants and retail have been the pulse of the town for hundreds of years. I have a home about 30 minutes away and have visited Greenwich Avenue numerous times. It has an energy that isn’t like other areas in Greenwich or neighboring towns.”

376 Greenwich Ave, Greenwich 203.405.5787

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