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Review Fri Jun 13 2008
According to chef partner Kevin Dusinski, the addition of the brunch menu to Roy's downtown outpost was to take advantage of the Sunday morning traffic created by the church across the street. Or at least, that was the plan until the church closed. (Okay, to be fair, the Holy Name Cathedral isn't exactly closed, but seems to have shut its doors on State Street during its $8 million renovation campaign.) As the Sunday morning plans of me and many others like me more often include opening a menu than a hymnal, however, I doubt Roy's will have any trouble bringing in the brunch traffic with their Hawaiian inflected takes on weekend morning favorites, and a prix-fixe menu that can be upgraded from three courses (at $26.95) to three courses plus bottomless mimosas ($38.95). Bottomless. Without bottom. Think about it. More deliciousness after the fold.
Even without the booze, Roy's brunch has a lot to offer and already seemed to be catering to a decent-sized crowd last Sunday on its inaugural weekend. While there were clearly a couple other local media reps taking advantage of a special invitation to test drive the menu (perhaps the days of food criticism cloaked in secrecy are over -- it's pretty hard to ignore the digital cameras and notebooks on the tables...), the dining room was decently full, as well as a few braver souls negotiating the gale force winds on the patio.
The menu is a good mix of familiar brunch favorites (French toast, pancakes, eggs and toast) and fancy surprises (ravioli, mixed greens salad, coconut-crusted shrimp). The beauty of a three-course brunch seems to be that standard morning fare can be easily accented by an unusual appetizer. And dessert. And the eating kind of never stops. By the time I was scooping out the molten innards of my chocolate souffle cake, I had almost reached my limit, and that's really saying something.
For round one, I had the house-smoked salmon, which came in a perfect portion (juuuuuust right) -- a little heap of well-dressed watercress and thin ribbons of cucumber hiding slices of really perfectly cured salmon. The lemon-carraway dressing, though sweet and tangy, didn't overwhelm the fish, which is always a plus, and even brought out its flavors. There's no worse way to start off a brunch than with a limp or soggy piece of lox, so I was grateful for spot-on preparation. I also nabbed a bite of my pal's shrimp, which I remember from a previous dinner at Roy's -- coconutty, but not too sweet, crispy but not greasy, and with a firey sweet saunce on the site. And they were so...pretty.
For round two, I went for the Hawaiian omelet -- familiar enough, with cheddar, green onions and mushrooms, but with an added island twist of Portugese sausage. I've learned, after reaching my late teens and leaving home, that the way real chefs make an omelet is more what I'd grown up calling a frittata, only folded in half. The upside to this version (the "real" version) is that the little bursts of flavor get evenly distributed through the entire dish, rather than just huddling in the middle like girls at a junior high dance. The melty cheese was gooey with every bite, and the earthiness of the mushrooms played nicely against the sweet pop of the sausage. And then there was this sauce -- butter and something. Mostly butter. But it was delicious. Incredibly well-seasoned homefries and slightly too-dry toast rounded out the plate. And of course round three was when I lost my will to the souffle. Next time, chocolate goodness, you will not defeat me.
Three courses is a lot of food, particularly before noon on a weekend. It would have been nice to see a vegetarian omelet or other savory dish in addition to the pancakes and waffles. And the caramel apple cheesecake was almost overwhelmingly sweet. But service was attentive, even to the tables where no one had a camera in sight, and the food was solid. Other dishes on the main spread of the menu caught my eye, like the breakfast burrito (eggs, avocado, tomatoes, ham) and macademia and banana pancakes (I don't even like pancakes and those sound tempting), and I'll have to keep in mind for a return trip. Dusinki's favorite dish is the Loco Moco, the most traditionally Hawaiian breakfast item on the list. Because I'm kind of a wuss and wasn't quite clear on the menu description, I didn't order it, but Dusinki was kind enough to share a shot on his iPhone and clear up some of the mystery. It looks like sort of a tower of beef, fried rice, and eggs with a penthouse suite of crispy frisee of sweet potatoes. Staying upright so artfully is more than I can usually say for myself on a Sunday morning. And bottomless mimosas? Have I mentioned the bottomless mimosas? I'm totally going back. Fill 'er up, and keep it coming.
Roy's is at 720 N. State Street, (312) 787-7599.