Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Brunch - We Take Reservations Two!

I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again. Brunch is a wonderful invention. So yes, I still love brunch. When else in your life is your toughest decision choosing between an egg dish or a syrup one? Since Brunch - We Take Reservations!, my culinary weekends have been countless and it's time to share them with you again. I really do appreciate that most of the tastiest spots still take reservations. I (and I know most women reading this can completely relate) do so much better without those hour-long waits, especially when I have been saving up for a feast. Having to snack before a brunch just to make sure I actually make it to the table certainly takes away from the overall experience.

First stop, Maialino, Danny Meyer's latest venture located at the Gramercy Park Hotel. This is an excellent setting for brunch with a group. And, I was actually very nicely surprised by the casual feel of the dining room. The location in the GPH does not intensify the experience, allowing for a comfortable, leisurely brunch - the best kind in my books. I highly recommend starting with one of their pastries for the table. The toffee glazed brioche is incredible - they had me at toffee. But, it's really the main dishes that will make a regular out of me. Don't let the simplicity of the scrambled eggs with pecorino and black pepper let you overlook it. The eggs are perfectly prepared. I also highly recommend the roast pork sandwich served with fried eggs on ciabatta. The restaurant is known for their excellent preparation of pork dishes and the tender meat in this sandwich met my expectations without hesitation.

For a more bustling scene, stop by Commerce in the west village. While it is tucked away on one of the only cul-de-sacs in the neighborhood, this restaurant can be quite a scene on Sundays, the only day they offer their official brunch menu. The quaint exterior is offset by its wide open dining space. The menu offers some extremely rich brunch options from all kinds of pastry selections to spaghetti carbonara and pork schnitzel, which can often satisfy cravings after a late night out. However, again, it is the egg dishes that I am really drawn to - and on a regular basis. The slow cooked eggs with creamy polenta and mushrooms is an excellent variation on grits and eggs. I also highly recommend the Israeli working man's breakfast for a unique and lighter brunch option. Fluffly scrambled eggs are served in a homemade pita with hummus, parsley, and tomatoes.

My top brunch option at the moment is Tipsy Parson. This restaurant has brunch nailed - both in setting and cuisine. Just be prepared to leave stuffed to the brim as it's truly worth overdoing it on this outing. I know I have already gone on and on about my love for dinner here, but I can honestly say that I feel the very same way about their daytime, weekend service. Here, I love to order from all ends of the spectrum, but always starting with some sort of pastry whether it be the monkey bread, pecan sticky buns, or chive buttermilk biscuit. On top of that, I've got a favorite dish in every category of the menu. For the syrup lovers, the lemon cornmeal pancakes served with blueberry syrup, lemon butter, and powdered sugar are incredible. If you are attempting to go the healthy route (but honestly, let's hope you have blown that with an order of monkey bread), the flax seed, almond, and pumpkin seed granola with Greek yogurt and berry compote is delicious and very satisfying. And, my all-time favorite egg dish (although they really all are wonderful), the scrambled eggs on grilled potato bread with herb ricotta and sauteed wild mushrooms is a must. I am basically drooling as I think about brunch at Tipsy Parson.

And, finally, a new addition to the brunch scene - Recette. I have recently shared a wonderful dinner experience with you all here as well. And while it is now quite difficult to get into this charming space in the evening, the brunch is still undiscovered. And by that I mean, totally empty. If I had not experienced such an excellent dinner at Recette, I may have been nervous about the number of open tables this past weekend. But, to no surprise, the brunch was of the same standard of excellence as my previous meal. As soon as the neighborhood realizes that the doors are open for brunch, it too will be buzzing. The egg dishes are excellent - all served with a simple salad tossed with a light vinaigrette. I recommend the frittata currently offered with spring peas, olives, mozzarella, and basil. The roasted mushroom omelet with parma ham, ricotta, and spinach is perfectly prepared. Be sure to add a side of their light, white toast to chase down any extra egg.

It's amazing that even after giving a shout out to these four hot spots, I could go on and on with more options. Ok, it's no secret that I love to brunch - and yes, it's an even better word as a verb. Both 10 Downing and DBGB also offer a delicious brunch, and both let you call up and reserve ahead of time. but, I think I've gone on for long enough here. So now it's up to make the final call. Maybe this post has just made decision-making around brunch-time just a touch tougher, but hopefully even tastier.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Umi Nom

When looking to start a restaurant, most owners strive to set up shop in the most happening of neighborhoods. It's hard enough to stay open these days, so heading to the well-trafficked areas tends to ease some pressure, allowing them to focus on the actual kitchen. Well, meet Umi Nom's Chef King. He continues to do the opposite and continues to beat the odds. With the opening of Kuma Inn in 2003 on the second floor of a lower east side tenement, he was one of the first to discover this neighborhood that was not all that long ago considered a rough one. Now, one of the hottest areas in the city, the lower east side is home to countless high quality restaurants and bars, with a line continuously streaming out of Kuma Inn.

On the very outskirts of Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, Chef King has opened up his latest, risky endeavor - Umi Nom. Similar to the successful Kuma Inn, the menu is a tribute to his upbringing, offering the most delicious Filipino and Thai creations. And similar to Kuma Inn, he has moved into an area that is still off the beaten path. In fact, the closest subway is the mysterious G train - have you ever even ridden on it? Nevertheless, when I visited midweek, the place filled up in no time. The neighborhood has certainly embraced this ethnic treasure and it won't be long before others follow suit. As the draw to Brooklyn continues, there is no doubt that this location will no longer seem so far off the map.

And the minute you enjoy the food, you too will realize the very reason that the G train continues to operate. All dishes are meant to be shared and don't hold back. They are all extremely well-priced and filling all at the same time - a carnivore's heaven. If there is one dish that you must order, it's the sauteed sweet sausage served with sticky rice and a Thai-chili lime sauce. We all know that sausage is my weakness, but honestly, this dish will make any one go weak at the knees. The sausage and the rice are both perfectly crisp on the outside, and soft on the inside. I also highly recommend the ma-banh beef tapa. This is fried, thinly sliced dried beef served with a smoked chili sauce. If that is not enough meat for you, try the grilled marinated pork chop served with fish sauce, plum sugar, lemongrass, and garlic. The charred, thin meat boasts extremely rich Asian flavors. I was also impressed with the umi nom crispy wings tossed in salt and anaheim peppers. This was an excellent Asian preparation for an American classic. You will also find more traditional rice and noodle dishes on the menu - which are all excellent as well. However, those dishes were not quite as original as the unique dishes that I mentioned above. The innovative dishes mixed with the traditional made for an eventful and satisfying evening from start to finish.

Now that summer has arrived, it's the perfect time of year for an adventure. A subway ride or two becomes a little less daunting as the days are longer, warmer, and just somehow more manageable all around. It's time to step out of your comfort zone, hope on that G train, and see what Umi Nom (and that delicious sweet sausage) is all about. Who knows, you may even discover your new favorite up-and-coming neighborhood and barely glimpse back at Manhattan. Based on Chef King's excellent location intuition, he may also be your perfect real estate guide.

Umi Nom on Urbanspoon

Umi Nom
433 Dekalb Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11205
(718) 789-8806

FOOD RATING (Out of 5):