Inside Fashion Designer Humberto Leon’s New Hong Kong-Inspired Restaurant in LA

Humberto Leon is no stranger to pivots. Known for his work with Opening Ceremony and Kenzo, in 2020 he teamed up with his family to open Chifa, at LA restaurant serving Chinese, Peruvian and Taiwanese food. Now, with the opening of Monarch, they’re all turning their focus to Hong Kong in particular.

Monarch, located in the San Gabriel Valley, is an ode to both modern and traditional Hong Kong. Like Chifa, it’s inspired by Leon’s mother, “Popo” Wendy Leon, who lived in Hong Kong through her late 20s and brought the city’s cuisine with her as she moved to Peru and then the Los Angeles area. Here, Leon’s brother-in-law, John Liu, has been tasked with translating that history into Monarch’s menu, adding some dishes from his own Taiwanese background.

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“I think the beauty of Hong Kong,” Leon told the Los Angeles Times, “is that it almost has its own cuisine in itself, rather than just Cantonese, because of the diversity of people who’ve gone through [the city].”

The menu will feature items like sweet-and-sour pork belly in a sticky-sweet sauce that Leon and his sister, Rica, grew up eating. A Chinese-influenced steak tartare with snow cabbage and chili crisp is served with shrimp chips, while a silken steamed egg is accompanied by fish liver. Heartier dishes include a baked pork-inspired ragu over fresh egg noodles and braised lamb shank in tomato curry.

The new restaurant is certainly in conversation with Chifa, drawing on similar design elements and even some menu items. Chifa became known for its collaborations with artists, and the trinity shrimp fried rice that it worked on with Solange will become a permanent fixture on Monarch’s menu.

Drinks-wise, Liu and Rica’s son, Jarod Wang, has been creating the cocktail program, which will include both alcoholic and non-alcoholic options, in partnership with the LA-based Optimist Botanicals. Coffee is brewed with hand-roasted beans, and several different types of tea will be offered as well: oolong, pu-erh and flower-bud teas.

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“We’re definitely going to take our tea quite seriously, but in a fun way,” Leon told the LA Times. “Sometimes I feel like serious tea could be too serious; we’re not trying to give you a three-hour tea service, more just a delicious cup.”

Given Leon’s design background, the restaurant will also have some pretty cool merch, alongside its culinary offerings. You’ll be able to get Monarch-branded T-shirts, hoodies, totes, a metal lunchbox, a water bottle, a portable cooler/foldable chair and stickers. Some items will come adorned with the spot’s butterfly motif, while others will call out its San Gabriel Valley location.

That hometown pride is maybe the most important part for Leon, and why he’s returned to the city to become a local restaurateur, right alongside his family.

Monarch, opening January 14, will serve dinner from 5 to 9 pm Friday to Sunday. It plans to expand to lunch and potentially additional days of service.

Click here to see all the photos of Monarch.

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