[UPDATE] A Sneak Peek at the New DooWee’s Cambridge Menu at Monroe
UPDATE, August 5, 11:20 a.m.: If you were hoping to check out DooWee’s Cambridge at Monroe this weekend, you’ll need a Plan B. The latest iteration of chef Duy Tran’s eclectic bar food is “closed indefinitely,” after the City of Cambridge hit its host nightclub with a seven-day license suspension and other penalties, Eater Boston reports.
“Im not sure what’s happening at this point but I’ll update you all as soon as I get word..thank you for the unyielding support,” Tran wrote on Instagram last night.
A Central Square nightclub might not come to mind as a place to go for creative, umami-laden fusion fare, but come August 1, that will change. Next month, Duy Tran will debut lunch, dinner, and late-night fare at Monroe.
Tran’s unique cuisine will be familiar to Boston-area diners who got to try his short-lived DooWee & Rice restaurant in Somerville, or, more recently, who visited him at Wonder Bar in Allston. He debuted his brand (a play on the phonetics of his name) and his signature, spicy bao (filled buns) at Wonder Bar, hawking homemade food from his car outside the club late at night, he once told the Boston Globe.
In 2012, he opened a no-frills, take-out restaurant near Tufts University, immediately catching the attention food fans around the city with inexpensive, flavorful chicken and rice plates, “heart-y fries” (like poutine with crispy, spiced chicken hearts), and more “universally clever and enticing” fare, Boston magazine Man Food columnist Richard Chudy wrote. DooWee & Rice closed about a year later, and Tran announced plans to rejoin with Wonder Bar, with the Allston club renovating a subterranean restaurant for him to take over. Last summer, DooWee’s at Wonder Bar finally launched. The transition took longer than Tran had anticipated, and other changes, like renovated restrooms, never materialized, he says. This spring, he decided to part ways with Wonder Bar.
Tran, a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef, announced last week that he’s taking over the dining room at Monroe, formerly known as a restaurant called Moksa and a club called Naga, Boston Restaurant Talk first reported. Co-owners Solmon and Rokeya Chowdhury (Shanti, Dudley Cafe) and managing partner Brig Dauber debuted their new concept earlier this year. At the time, Dauber reached out to Tran about taking over the kitchen.
“I’ve been a huge fan of his for a long time,” Dauber says. “The initial renovation was to upgrade the lounge, and open up the space so the restaurant had more connection to the lounge, more fluidity to it. It’s much brighter: We have these new graffiti walls, and crazy colors. We wanted to get in line with the funkiness of Central Square, and Cambridge in general. Duy will help complete that equation.”
The Monroe owners are giving Tran complete sovereignty over the culinary program, and there are already cooks on staff who can help him execute his menu, Tran says.
“I’m just really excited to be able to focus on creating. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do, but I was always stressed out about a ton of other things. Now with the extra help, I am finally able to dig into my ideas,” he says.
Expect to see about six bao options at any given time, including old favorites like smoked salmon, honey-mayo shrimp, and fried chicken, as well as tuna poke bao (Pokemon reference intended), and some new, vegetarian buns. At lunch, he’ll offer his versions of halal-style rice plates with chicken or grilled steak, with scratch-made sauces like chili garlic and chimichurri. At dinnertime, there will be a selection of bao, chicken wings, and seasoned, skin-on fries—”It’s still a bar, after all”—but Tran also plans to expand the DooWee’s menu to include tapas-style dishes, sandwiches, like crispy fried pork belly with garlic butter oyster mushrooms, grilled seafood, and other specials.
Monroe is right across the street from Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette’s brand new Little Donkey, and Dauber says to get ready for a whole new food frontier in Central Square.
“[Tran is] really on point. I think this culinary uptick in Central Square will draw more people into the square for dinner, and that’s really what we want to see overall,” he says.
DooWee’s at Monroe will softly open August 1, with a grand opening slated for September 1.
DooWee’s at Monroe, 450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-661-4900, moksalounge.com.