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In Which I Remember Why I Chose The Name “Thelonious Monkfish”

In Which I Remember Why I Chose The Name “Thelonious Monkfish”

The Jazz Baroness Room is finally open!

Five years ago when we began building our Sushi/Asian Fusion restaurant in the heart of Central Square, we hoped that one of the adjacent stores would become available. When Marina decided to move her men’s Italian clothing store, Rulls, to more fertile grounds, we jumped at the chance to take over! When you name your restaurant Thelonious Monkfish, it suggests a room with live jazz, no?

Why did I name our sushi-selling-pad-thai-hocking restaurant Thelonious Monkfish? I’ve been asked this question many times. It is odd for people! Shouldn’t I have named it something like The King & I in Osaka or Cherry Blossom in Patpong?

One Yelper wrote right after we’d just opened, “The food was great, but the name is hideous! I don’t get it! They should change the name!”

My original choice for the restaurant’s name was Yellowtail. It implies sushi, and for a week or so I was sold on it. I thought that I would make the servers dress in black and keep a yellow cloth napkin in their back pockets. After the novelty of that silliness wore off, I decided against Yellowtail because it was too straight-ahead! What could it be other than sushi? Wine, I guess, but I wanted something less obvious.

Thai Monks in Ochre Robes

I settled on monkfish because when one thinks of Japan and Thailand, images of bald monks in ochre robes come to mind. When I casually mentioned this choice to Chef Ginger, though, she was taken aback and said, “No, we can not use religion to further our business agenda! It’s a sin!” So it was back to the drawing board.

I sat back in my library at home–yes, a real library with books, Lemon Pledge-scented shelves and dark overstuffed leather chairs–and let my mind wander. In a little while, I heard the name Thelonious Monkfish in my mind’s ear. That’s it! I thought. Let me Google it! I checked and found that the only mentions of the name were in some punny conversations about fish-themed musicians like Duke Eellington and Fats Walrus. Great! No one is using it as a restaurant name. “Who would?” you say. I don’t know. But I did.

I did because I love jazz and I love a good pun! (Well, not all jazz, but I will write about that in a later blog post!) I have written of how we use the term jazz as a metaphor for great-tasting food with seemingly incongruous ingredients that harmonize when used together in a dish:

“…Great food and jazz are characterized by spontaneity and joy. Nothing warms the palate like an explosion of flavor or the heart like a burst of song! He and Chef Ginger are passionate about jazz and ethnic flavors, and that’s why they’ve branded their unique take on sushi and Asian specialties: Thelonious Monkfish. We love to jam on Asian culinary themes. Our menu reflects both our respect for gustatory tradition and our sense of play and innovation.

“The trouble, though, he quips, ‘with running a jazz-themed sushi bar is that our fish is so fresh, it blows its own horn!’”


Frontispiece of Thelonious Monkfish Restaurant with Musical Fish Logo

Our logo reflects our dedication to this metaphor of jazz as culinary innovation by using a fish whose scales are a musical staff with the first measure of Thelonious Monk’s most famous composition ‘Round Midnight emblazoned thereon.

With the opening of The Jazz Baroness Room, the metaphor has come to life! We offer jazz performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday Brunch. I hope to see you here! Introduce yourself if you come in. I love meeting people who enjoy great food, wine and song! Dig it, Daddio?

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