Good Taste: A Bunch of Brunches

Food news and views on the Bay Area's most surprising flavors.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Tamara Palmer
    Chaya Brasserie serves an open-face sandwich of soft scrambled parmesan egg, pork belly, and black truffle sauce, served with a tater tot tower.

    Brunch used to be a bad word to Good Taste. Not because the concept of eating in between breakfast and lunch is bad — on the contrary, eating what's considered brunch-style food at any time of day sounds like a recipe for happiness.

    No, brunch used to be a bad word because, in San Francisco at least, weekend brunch often meant the indignity of waiting in line for far too long. An interminable period during which we could have whipped something rather marvelous up ourselves, even on a hazy day.

    Due to the fortuitous arrival of a handful of brunch invitations from restaurants serving really good brunch food timed with a willingness to avoid those aforementioned lines by just making reservation or showing up at the beginning, it's no longer an expletive. As many restaurants forego lunch service, others are making a grand compromise with thoughtful weekend brunches.

    Eating at State Bird Provisions for brunch means missing out on the fun, dim sum-style carts that everyone loves during dinner, but it also means missing out on the roar of noise that accompanies the evening. One can still order chef Stuart Brioza's addictive signature dish of fried quail crusted in breadcrumbs, croutons, and pumpkin seeds, and the nighttime's popular (but small) ricotta sauerkraut pancakes are often replaced by a big fresh seafood pancake at brunch. Most curious of all in a restaurant built on curiosities is its leading brunch cocktail, a Korean take on a Mexican michelada called a kimchelada, served with real kimchee juice.

    Epic Roasthouse is known as a place to sit down for a steak at night, but a weekend brunch now takes advantage of the restaurant's stunning Bay Bridge and East Bay view. Chef Jan Birnbaum is having fun with this new meal, creating dishes that seem typical on first glance yet conceal playful twists, such as with a little gems salad with Point Reyes Royal blue cheese dressing and candied bacon brittle, empanadas filled with blueberries and served with tangerine curd, and a breakfast pizza topped with duck egg, bacon, fontina, and arugula.

    Town Hall nails the new market for languid and lazy Southern/Californian brunch whether from a plate of expertly fried green tomatoes served with tuna tartare and Tabasco vinaigrette or a side of curled up bits of Andouille sausage, served like French fries with a honey aioli. The Southern Comfort comes with two sunny side up eggs and is served with a stapler-sized slab of pork belly, ham hock laden collard greens, bacon gravy and red pepper jelly, a recipe for total blissful inactivity for the rest of the day.

    But the most novel new combination to be had at the moment might be over at Chaya Brasserie, where chef Yuko Kajino offers his full sushi menu alongside a new set of brunch dishes. His selections aim for the American comfort food heart yet avail themselves of Asian and European technique, resulting in beautiful yet insanely hearty plates as an open-face sandwich of soft scrambled Parmesan eggs and crispy Niman Ranch pork belly on an English muffin that's topped with black truffle sauce and served next to a tower of tater tots or a huge ration of duck confit hash crowned with a big fried duck egg. Kajino makes a solid case for sushi rolls pairing perfectly well with an apple fritter and jalapeno-bacon cornbread. If you're on speaking terms with brunch, that is.