After fifteen years, Ayako and Lawrence Elliott recently closed Williamsburg’s Rabbithole, a restaurant popular for its American brunch classics and homemade baked goods. The couple is now focusing on their newer venture, Monarch (146 Metropolitan Ave.), which opened three years ago, a few blocks away from Rabbithole. Luckily, the Elliotts were able to bring most of their team from Rabbithole to Monarch, so they didn’t have to let people go. 

The menu at Monarch differs greatly from the one at Rabbithole. At Monarch, the Elliotts draw inspiration from the food they like to eat the most, and thus, Monarch’s menu showcases the foods of Asia with influences from Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan and Thailand. Now, that the couple has more time to focus on Monarch, they are ready to launch a new and creative brunch menu, featuring Asian-inspired flavors.

The Black Sesame French Toast from Monarch. Photo: Michael Tulipan/MST Creative PR

The brunch menu includes dim sum as well as fun (and vegan) takes on classics such as a kimchi waffle with poached egg, cumin cilantro sauce and spring onion; ube ricotta pancakes with maple butter and a hibiscus poached pear; black sesame French toast with brûléed bananas; and the Hangry Panda with mushroom Thai “sausage,” a tofu scramble, spring onion, and cilantro. 

Greenpointers spoke with Ayako and Lawrence Elliott about their decision to close Rabbithole, vegan options at Monarch, and the reason why they always make their food look as good as it tastes. 

Ayako and Lawrence Elliott. Photo: Billy Kidd

Greenpointers:  We all saw the sign outside Rabbithole. You have closed the restaurant after 15 years to focus on Monarch. Do you want to provide sad Rabbithole fans with any additional reasoning?


Lawrence Elliott:  We tried to get partners to work at Rabbithole, so we could focus on Monarch. But we never got that done. For us, running two places by ourselves meant that we weren’t doing either one as good as we could.

Greenpointers:  What made you switch from an American menu at Rabbithole to an Asian-inspired menu at Monarch?

Ayako Elliott: I am Japanese, grew up in Japan, and love Asian food.

Lawrence Elliott: Ayako stopped wanting to eat at Rabbithole, so we started trying to find new places with foods that she liked. And we wanted to offer those foods to Williamsburg. 

The first floor dining room at Monarch. Photo: Monarch

Greenpointers:  Let’s time travel back over 15 years ago. Tell us what you were doing before you opened Rabbithole.

Lawrence Elliott:  I used to own a café on Bedford Ave. that closed in 2007. It was called Read Café. It opened in 1998. There was a similar reaction when I closed Read. I had people that came everyday and loved it. We created a place for people to get away and feel like they were somewhere else. That’s where I came up with the name for Rabbithole. I wanted to let people know that we were trying to create a space that took them somewhere else. 

Greenpointers:  What made you decide to open your restaurants in the Williamsburg neighborhood?

Lawrence Elliott: The same thing that attracted me to Williamsburg in the first place! Boston, where I grew up, was overrun by corporate restaurants and coffeehouses. Williamsburg had independent, individually owned places that had character. And I wanted to be a part of that.

A collection of small plates from the dinner menu at Monarch. Photo: Michael Tulipan/MST Creative PR

Greenpointers:  What is your favorite thing on the menu at Monarch?

Lawrence Elliott: The Cod in Coconut Lime Broth was something I wanted before we had the whole menu put together. It is one of my favorites. The flavors are based on tom kha gai soup. I always wanted it to be a full meal, so that’s what we made it.

Greenpointers:  Monarch recently launched a brunch menu. What is your favorite brunch item?

Ayako Elliott: There are so many restaurants doing brunch. And we felt we wanted to do something Asian-inspired. A favorite item is hard to pick. But the most unique one is the kimchi waffle. We created a cilantro and cumin yogurt sauce that is vegan. It’s very flavorful and unique.

We bake sesame brioche. The bread is black and sesame flavored. With that, we make the black sesame French toast. It has brûléed bananas and mascarpone cream. This one is special.

The ube ricotta pancakes too! We use Asian ube potatoes, so the pancakes comes out a pinkish color.

The Use Ricotta Pancakes at Monarch. Photo: Michael Tulipan/MST Creative PR

Greenpointers:  The menu at Monarch includes vegan dishes. Tell us more about those.

Ayako Elliott: Nowadays, there are so many plant-based or vegan restaurants. But some of your friends who are not vegan don’t want to go to those places. 

We realized the dinner menu naturally has a lot of vegan items, or items easily converted to vegan. So, we created a separate vegan menu without trying too hard. 

We felt we also had to make a vegan brunch menu. Sourdough bread is naturally vegan. We make a great fennel raisin sourdough, and with that, we created the vegan version of the Hangry Panda which has mushroom Thai “sausage” and tofu scramble that looks like egg.

We also have the Hungry Bear which is not vegan, so we feel everyone can enjoy our place for brunch. 

A selection of brunch items, including the Kimchi Waffle, at Monarch. Photo: Michael Tulipan/MST Creative PR

Greenpointers:  Most of the menu items have a strong design aesthetic. Why is it important to you for the food to not only taste good, but look good too?

Lawrence Elliott:  Ayako was a clothing designer before I dragged her into this world, so she has a strong taste for aesthetics. And I was a painter. So both of us can’t help but make things unique aesthetically as well. We try to make things appealing to the eye because they say you eat with your eyes before you actually put it in your mouth.

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