Examining profitable breakfast and brunch menus
n the quest to recapture diners who have cut back on eating out for dinner, restaurants are stepping up their game and giving more care to the brunch menu. Chefs are still able to be original but can control the use of expensive products by intermixing lower-priced breakfast staples. Guests see brunch as an affordable indulgence, so the extra attention to the nuances is really a win-win.
Washington, D.C.’s fusion hotspot Masa 14 (www.masa14.com)—a joint venture from chefs Richard Sandoval and Kaz Okochi—serves brunch on Saturday and Sunday. When creating a brunch menu that would resonate with customers, chef de cuisine Antonio Burrell looked to the cuisines that inspire the restaurant’s weekday dinner menu. “Here at Masa 14, we use such a wide array of spices, herbs and produce that don’t facilitate use in a normal brunch menu,” says Burrell, who has been with the restaurant since it opened last summer. “So, in keeping with the Latin-Asian theme, we started by looking at what
people typically eat for brunch in Latin and Asian countries and then took some of those ideas and used those flavor profiles to construct dishes that are suitable for brunch.” Brunch highlights at Masa 14 include: • Masa 14 breakfast pizza of house bacon, egg yolks, Gruyère cheese, pico de gallo and arugula ($7); • tenderloin Benedict with a scallion kimchi pancake and poached egg, topped with green chile hollandaise ($12); and • chilaquiles, corn tortillas layered with chorizo, queso cotija, soft scrambled eggs, black bean purée and salsa verde ($7). Burrell says Masa 14’s chilaquiles are the top-seller on the brunch menu because of the well-balanced combination of eggs, meat and starch. “It hits all the common brunch points.” According to Burrell, Masa 14’s brunch customers are there for some morning comfort food in a low-anxiety setting, and chilaquiles offers them both. “People don’t want to ask a lot of questions about what they are eating at brunch. So when I was writing the brunch menu for Masa 14, I wanted to
highlight tried and true Mexican brunch staples that people would recognize but with an updated twist,” he says. “Chilaquiles is quite possibly the most identifiable Mexican breakfast food. It’s comforting in a rustic sort of way.”
by Lacey Griebeler
Brinn Sinnott, executive chef at Noble: An American Cookery in Philadelphia (www.noblecookery.com), doesn’t let the brunch menu get tangled up in fancy preps and ingredients. “I try to keep the dishes within certain creative boundaries and just focus on making the food tasty. It’s been my experience that people just want to sit down, order, eat and/or drink and not be too bothered with witty combinations or overwrought presentations,” he says.
Notable dishes from Noble’s rotating brunch menu include: • a seasonal French toast ($11), such as winter’s banana and bacon French toast with peanut butter sabayon, or spring’s local strawberry brioche French toast with vanilla-infused whipped ricotta; • jumbo lump crab eggs Benedict with country ham and choron sauce ($14); and • house-cured king salmon tartine, served on grilled house-made ciabatta and garnished with tomato chutney, smoked steelhead trout roe, green apple parisiennes and green sorrel ($11). The latter was inspired by the breakfast staple salmon plate, says Sinnott. “The salmon is cured ‘lomo’ style with Spanish paprika and just lightly smoked. The tomato chutney is a take on a friend’s recipe, which I thought would
Antonio Burrell, chef de cuisine, Masa 14, Washington, D.C., www.masa14.com; wine pairing by Marlene Rossman Yield: 4 servings 2 oz. yellow onion, diced 2 garlic cloves, crushed 1 lb. tomatillos, cleaned and grilled 1 lb. Anaheim chiles, roasted, peeled and seeded 1 c. water 1 t. dashi 1/4 c. cream 1/4 c. cilantro, chopped Salt and pepper, as needed 4 oz. house-made black bean purée 8 corn tortillas, fried and drained 2 oz. clarified butter 8 large brown eggs, beaten 4 spicy chorizo links, baked and reserved warm 2 oz. cotija cheese, grated 2 oz. crema mexicana Green onion and cilantro, for garnish Method (1) For salsa verde, sweat out onions and garlic until translucent. Add tomatillos and chiles; cook down, 10 minutes, over low heat. Add water, dashi and cream. Bring
Chef Burrell says: “This recipe is all about mise en place. You will need three sauté pans: one for scrambling the eggs, one for heating up the tortillas and sauce together and one for heating up the bean purée.”
Masa 14 Chilaquiles
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to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Cool, then purée with cilantro. Season with salt and pepper. (2) Place 3 sauté pans on medium heat. (3) In first pan, slowly heat bean purée. (4) At the same time, place tortillas and most of the salsa verde in second pan; heat until tortillas absorb most of the sauce and are soft enough to be handled but not so soft they tear apart. (5) When tortillas are almost done, in third pan, place 2 oz. clarified butter, and make soft, fluffy scrambled eggs. (6) For assembly: Place equal amount of black bean purée in center of 4 plates. On top of beans, in order, place 1 tortilla, 1/8 of eggs, another tortilla and another 1/8 of eggs. Add chorizo, sliced in half. Top with remaining salsa verde. Finish with cheese, crema, green onions and cilantro. Wine pairing: The smoky, silky, blueberry-flavored Niner Wine Estates Syrah 2006 (California) will smooth out the spicy chorizo and fiery salsa verde.
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