Category Archives: Brunch

Norma’s

To continue the journey of my final few days in New York, I decided to indulge in one of New York’s most beloved traditions. Brunch. Not just your mundane eggs benedict brunch at blah blah cafe, but the Gossip Girl-esque, Upper East Side brunch at the famous Norma’s located in Le Parker Meridien. The restaurant is always packed and you might have a better chance of winning the lotto than scoring a reservation here. That’s saying a lot for a restaurant that is only open till 3pm and serves only breakfast fare. As soon as you’re seated, you’re greeted with a delicious strawberry fruit smoothie shot, sweet touch (pun intended). Now Norma’s is notorious for a few items: the $1,000 breakfast frittata, and their fresh squeeze orange juice. Unfortunately, I can only afford the latter, but not by much. What do I mean? A glass of orange juice at Norma’s will not only cost you a pretty penny, but bring along a pretty gold bar as well. At a whopping $9, I better be served the damn nectar of the gods. The fact is hard to deny though, their orange juice is absolutely phenomenal and the silver lining is that you get unlimited refills, and boy did I exploit it.Another thing to note: The servings at Norma’s were not meant for those petite twigs you see on Gossip Girl, but for full blown lumberjacks with badass grizzly beards. The Scrambled Eggs and Bacon Breakfast Quesadilla with Monterey Jack Cheese, Guacamole and Salsa clearly represents what I mean. Despite the ginormous serving, the quesadilla is packed with flavor, mostly the juicy delicious bacon. However, a few pieces in you start to question yourself, is it really worth $21? perhaps..Next up we have the highly touted Potato Pancakes. As described in their menu, a James Beard award winning recipe with Homemade Cranberry Apple Sauce and Sweet Carrot Payasam. Simply put, this dish was garbage. The pancakes were cold and tasted like cardboard. I would’ve actually been irate if they served this to me on an airplane. No joke, but I’ve actually had better food at the free breakfast buffet at the Holiday Inn. If you told me this trash cost $21, I would tell you to gag yourself with a sock, blow your head off and drown yourself in the ocean.

Norma’s Scores:
Food:  5.5/10 – How could you honestly serve those potato pancakes? I’m still steaming..

Restaurant Environment: 8/10 – The restaurant is absolutely beautiful, but takes a hit because of the pretentious crowd.

Service: 6.5/10 – Service was a bit slow, but wasn’t terrible. My orange juice stayed refilled, so that’s a plus.

Value: 2/10 – Dinner prices for some bacon and eggs? I’ll pass.

Overall: 5.5/10

LA: Sugar Rush Cafe

How sweet it is to have a relaxing month at home. Unfortunately, it’s not sweet that I’ve been packing on the pounds while indulging myself in all the spectacular food home has to offer. Craving a Sunday brunch, a couple of friends and I decided to head over to Sugar Rush Cafe for a nice little bite.The tiny little spot is honestly in the middle of nowhere. Nestled in between a few industrial warehouses, you’ll find the yellow awned cafe.Enjoy your morning brunch with some Intelligentisa brewed iced coffee or latte, or a nice warm pot of tea. The traditional Grilled Cheese sandwich is done perfectly. Not too soggy, not too dry, with the perfect oozy-ness flowing from the cheese (is oozy-ness a word?). I wish I could’ve grown up eating this grilled cheese every day, because I would be the joyfullest little boy in the world. I’d also be the most obese little boy in the world, but hey, as long as I’m happy. I’m always craving breakfast burritos, no matter where I go. I think its from the nostalgic factory of eating one before every swim meet, or something like that. But now that I think about it, how can you really screw up a breakfast burrito? The averageness of the burrito put Sugar Rush a step back, after the awesomeness of the grilled cheese (wow, that sounded like some 2nd grade writing). Finally, we have a Roast Beef Sandwich with Provolone and Caramelized Onions on a Toasted Ciabatta. To be honest, it was pretty “meh.” This sandwich just doesn’t have the umph factor associated with the sandwich at This Little Piggy. However, don’t get me wrong, it is better than Arby’s, and boy do I love Arby’s, so that’s saying a lot.

Sugar Rush Cafe Scores:
Food: 7.5/10 – Simple dishes done right, but the lack of creativity holds Sugar Rush back.

Restaurant Environment: 5/10 – Feels as if they just threw a few tables and chairs together and voila! called it a restaurant.

Service: 7/10 – nothing spectacular.

Value: 7/10 – Not to sound like a cheap ass, but I’d expect cheaper for the location.

Overall: 7/10

Paradou

When you think of words that are synonymous with New York City what are some that come to mind? Crowded, rude, freedom, driven, etc. If you ask me, it’s brunch. Not just any kind of brunch, drunk brunch to be exact. And actually, not just drunk brunch, but all-you-can-drink drunk brunch. With an abundance of these all-you-can-drink restaurants in the Greenwich area, that’s where we decided to head, a quaint little place by the name of Paradou.Make sure you either get to Paradou early or have reservations made. Unlucky for us we didn’t do either and had to wait a good hour or two until a table opened up.

For $29 ($35 for parties 7+)  you get your choice of entree with an unlimited champagne brunch. The kicker is not only is it just champagne, but you get your choice of mixer, making it an unlimited mimosa, bellini, etc. fiesta. The Oeufs Paradou or basically a Salmon Eggs Benedict over a piece of shitty toast (which they dare call brioche). Not the prettiest plate of the bunch, and not the tastiest either. So what does that equate to? You got it. A terrible dish.The French Toast with a Fresh Berry Compote was no different. Just tasted very average and not to sound boastful but was something I could’ve probably mocked up by myself. I would’ve never paid the menu price of $12 for it.Finally we get to the $5 supplement. An extra Abe Lincoln would get you this bad ass Duck Reuben with Fingerling Potatoes. Straight from the menu verbatim: “The Height of Decadence!!! The Royalty of Sandwichdom!!!.” And yes, they did have all three exclamation marks, which made me three times as excited. Pieces of Duck Confit, Duck Magret, Choucroute (not gonna lie, I have no idea what the last 2 were), and Arugula. It must’ve been worth it right? Wrong. This concoction was blander than cardboard and oilier/greasier than the Gulf of Mexico. If this was really the height of decadence, then shoot me now.

As a result of the constant pounding of delicious “champagne” cocktails, I wasn’t able to get around and take pictures of the rest of the food. Failed.

Paradou Scores:
Food: 3.5/10 – Although edible, it was nothing close to being enjoyable.

Restaurant Environment: 7.5/10 – Maybe it was because we turned the entire back patio into a playhouse, but we had a great time none the less.

Service: 7/10 – The constant refilling of the drinks might have frustrated most, but the workers at Paradou kept up a good job.

Value: 5/10 – For the food, I’d probably give it a 0, but for the unlimited drinks it deserves a 10, so I’ll meet it half way.

Overall: 6/10

LA: Jack and Jill’s

Shortly after landing at LAX for my week back home, my friends and I headed over to Santa Monica to grab a quick brunch. We made our way down Santa Monica Blvd and arrived at a quaint brunch spot called Jack and Jill’s.We placed our order (a la Corner Bakery/Panera Bread style), grabbed our coffee, and soaked in the charming decor. I didn’t notice until now that it said “up the hill” when going upstairs, clever. The Chicken Pomodoro Panini featured grilled chicken breast with smoked gouda, basil, and tomato sandwiched between rosemary sourdough parmesan bread. We also opted to get a side of french onion soup. The french onion soup was somewhat average. On the downside, it was too heavily seasoned with salt. The Chicken Pomodoro Panini was simple and satisfying. Something you could definitely make at home. If it were up to me, I’d just make the shorter drive out to Corner Bakery for their Pomodoro. I heard Jack and Jill’s is also very well known for their crepes. You can either get sweet or savory ones. We ordered the pompously french sounding savory crepe named the Choudrant. The Choudrant is filled with pulled chicken, pancetta, garlic, peston, mozzarella, mushrooms and sherry cream sauce. My friend adored it, but to me it honestly tasted like a chicken alfredo with crepe instead of fettucini.My friends in NY all know how much I want and crave a hearty homely breakfast burrito, but I feel like I’m always stuck with a meager pretentious Egg’s Benedict. Not this time! Jack and Jill’s had something on their menu which they dubbed “The Big Spicy Burrito.” This behemoth consisted of 4 eggs, chorizo, roasted potatoes, bacon, cilantro, onion, cheddar cheese wrapped in a giant tortilla served with home fries and salsa. Contrary to its name, it wasn’t spicy at all; actually not even a little bit. But it does live up to “big” portion. This little baby could probably feed an entire village if it wanted to. Instead of using the accompanied salsa, I used my favorite condiment, ketchup (and tons of it). The burrito was everything that I love in a breakfast burrito (maybe if it was hashed browns instead of potatoes it would be perfect). I only got past half of this big boy, I’m ashamed. However, after everything, the burrito definitely manifested a sense of nostalgia bring me back to my swim team days. When I would wolf down a giant breakfast burrito right before an event (I definitely never waited 30 minutes). Finally, we finished off our culinary excursion with a little taste of Louisiana Banana Cream Pudding with Shortbread Cookies and homemade whipped cream. Holy sweetness Batman! This thing is a 10 year old boys dream, every bite laced with tons and tons of sugar. I expected something along the lines of Marie Callender’s Banana Cream Pie (which I should add are $6.99 right now). The over sweetness just killed the dish, we ended up just trying to eat the bananas to fight off the sugar rush. I knew the South really loved sweet, but after eating this I suggest sending the world’s supply of insulin to Louisiana to combat their inevitable cases of diabetes.

Jack and Jill’s Scores:
Food: 6.5/10 – The sentimental breakfast burrito is not enough to carry the rest of the mediocre food and the chef’s inability to season the correct amount of salt/sugar.

Restaurant Environment: 8/10 – The captivating and witty designs help build the restaurant’s quaint character.

Service: 8/10 – The attentive servers always kept your coffee mug filled without being overly intrusive.

Overall: 7/10

Taste of Connecticut: The Pantry

Before heading back to the city to get to work, my friend and I headed over to The Pantry to grab a quick breakfast. As soon as you walk in, you notice the walls of the diner are decorated with year after year of “Best of New Haven” awards. Oh boy, I’m in for a treat!

When I first arrived in New Haven, I had told my friend that I want to eat things that I couldn’t get in New York. I wanted a grand hearty breakfast that you see on Triple D, and not those fancy New York brunch items like “eggs benedict” (you have to say it in that snobby french way for it to work). So let’s just all take a wild guess of what I adventurously ordered…That’s right, Egg’s Benedict. The dish itself was mediocre, nothing different from the egg’s benedict back in NY. Home fries that tasted like they were cooked/roasted for a couple minutes too long. A well poached egg, paired with an immensely buttery hollandaise. There just wasn’t that wow factor. Looking around I knew I made a bad decision, seeing that everyone else ordered a beautiful French Toast dish with fresh strawberries. Next time New Haven.

On a lighter note, the diner did serve a marvelous Gingerbread Pancake with Raisins. Usually, it comes in a stack of 3 or 4, but we opted to just try a single pancake. This thing was ginormous! More like a “man-cake” than a pancake (please, just laugh out of sympathy). All jokes aside, this pancake was truly fluffy and flavorful. Better than anything you can get at IHOP or Denny’s, but not better than the blueberry at Clinton Street Baking Company (review soon to come).

So, do the prestigious awards at Pantry fit the restaurant? If you remember that you’re in New Haven, then I think so.

The Pantry Scores:
Food: 6.5/10
Restaurant Environment: 6.5/10
Service: 7/10
Value: 7/10
Overall: 6.5/10

Balthazar

So Today I had a nice New York Sunday Brunch at Balthazar before shopping around in SoHo.Upon entering, we were told that the walk-in wait would roughly be around 45 minutes. But we could try our luck at the cafe. Again, a 45 minute wait at the cafe. HOWEVER, we could sit at the ultra super tiny table in the middle of the cafe without waiting. We happily obliged.

O well, it definitely beats waiting. A $4 small cup of coffee?? only in New York.What to order… what to order…

Balthazar bartenders busy at work; and their beautifully stocked bar.I opted to get the Bar Steak with Maitre D Butter and Balthazar’s world famous Pommes Frites. Also made famous by Bobby Flay’s spectacular piece on Food Network’s ‘Best Thing I Ever Ate’. Yes, that is the same Chef Lee Hanson from Minetta Tavern; which was from the previous post – giving Minetta Tavern a share of the title of Best Fries Ever. As far as the steak, it was a little tough, but edible. It’s almost acts as though the steak is the side dish for the fries.

Oeufs en Meurette (Eggs in Red Wine) – Poached eggs in red wine with mushrooms and slab bacon.

Balthazar was a spectacular meal indeed. However, with all the strings attached (long wait, limited seating, impossible reservations,etc) it definitely dropped to a somewhat mediocre restaurant. I’m not extremely ecstatic to return back to Balthazar, but if you told me that we were going to grab a bite there, I’d definitely give you a “sure why not.”