Brunch is that celebrated meal best known for endless variations on eggs, potatoes and cured meats. But if you want to venture beyond the usual, check out these five new brunch spots in Houston that offer some unique ethnic twists on the traditional American affair.
From a twist on the Japanese rice omelette to a classically French escargot, these five new brunch spots offer a fresh look at my favorite weekend meal.
1) Straits Cafe
The new brunch menu at Straits is a good reason to visit the restaurant, if only to avoid the somewhat douchetastic evening crowd. Straits’ brunch menu gently introduces Asian flavors into breakfast dishes and proves that Asian brunches are not all about dim sum.
Case in point: The salmon with spinach and poached eggs was topped with traditional Cantonese style black pepper sauce, but served with a poached egg and potatoes to satisfy your brunch craving.
If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Chavez’s famous moustache.
I was most excited about the Chinese pork and sausage fried rice omelette: a version of the Japanese “omurice.” Omurice is fried rice enrobed in a layer of omelette, typically with squiggles of ketchup on top. At Straits, the fried rice was perfection with slow cooked shredded pork belly and shiitake mushrooms. Instead of ketchup, Straits Cafe tops its omelette with a captivating sriracha and sweet mayo sauce.
I thought the kitchen could have used a lighter touch on the sauce, but overall this was the most interesting brunch dish I have tried in a while.
2) Latin Bites
Latin Bites did away with its brunch buffet, which was smart because with buffets you always risk lukewarm food, which had been a problem on a previous visit. The new brunch menu has some of the most unexpected brunch items.
Chef Roberto Castre is not only a master at ceviche and tiradito, he also perfects cachapa (think cheesy goodness tucked between pillowy cornmeal pancakes). I couldn’t stop eating the slightly sweet and salty corn dough, perfectly paired with creamy cheese.
Another standout was the waffles at Latin Bites. Instead of maple syrup, the waffles were served with sweet potato syrup, which was a nice and unique touch. The tacu tacu (mixture of fried beans and rice) underneath was too hearty and dense for the dish, but the eggs were poached perfectly.
The exquisite interiors at Triniti gives no hint to the fact that the new brunch menu is extremely affordable. Only chef Ryan Hildebrand can make me love breakfast tacos in a (gasp!) hard taco shell. I was extremely skeptical about the hard taco shells, but they tasted like they had just been freshly fried, and the beans were rich and creamy, like it came out of the kitchen of someone’s grandmother.
It seemed like yet another fancy place in uptown park with little substance. That is, until I tasted their bread.
I also loved the monkey bread French toast with lavender mascarpone cream. The fried bread squares oozes sweetness when you bite into it. This is probably the best monkey bread OR French toast I’ve ever had, even compared to the famous French toast at Jean-Georges’ Nougatine in Manhattan.
Although the duck confit in my frittata wasn’t as flavorful as I expected, the fresh peeled tomatoes and rich cheese made up for it. The attention to detail at Triniti, like the peeled tomato and fresh croissants in the pastry basket, is what makes this brunch experience special.
4) La Fisheria
La Fisheria has an amazing brunch on Sundays, including a soup that’s a proven hangover cure (at least for me). Start with the Bloody Maria if you believe in the hair of the dog, then go straight to chef Aquiles Chavez’s Vuelve a la Vida Caliente (hangover killer), a spicy mixed seafood soup.
For brunch, you can’t go wrong with Red Chile-"Aquiles." Not your typical "chilaquiles," these are prepared with a special red sauce with spicy and smoky Oaxacan red chiles. Then Chavez adds shredded chicken breast, fried corn tortilla strips and fried eggs topped with fresh cotija cheese.
The Mexican Paella is another fun brunch choice. Made especially for Sunday brunch, Chavez's Mexican Paella’s is flavored with his homemade red sauce. The paella is studded with a rich variety of proteins including chicken, pork, Serrano ham, bacon, Mexican chorizo, snapper, shrimp and crab.
If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of Chavez’s famous moustache. If you’re really lucky, you might get a chance to interact with Chavez’s larger-than-life personality.
I didn’t fall in love with Etoile the first time. It seemed like yet another fancy place in uptown park with little substance. That is, until I tasted their bread. The impossibly thin and crispy crust keeps the innards of the bread steaming hot and soft.
Brunch is changing in Houston. And that's a good thing.
The rolls alone was probably reason enough for a return visit, but I found that Etoile’s new brunch menu was everything you can ask for if you want to feel a little Parisian.
It may not be considered a classic brunch item, but you can’t go wrong with escargots a la bourguignonne — a classic French dish that shows off what Etoile does best. I was excited to find that it came with freshly baked bread to sop up all the garlicky parsley butter. If you prefer something sweeter, try the bread pudding-esque tahini vanilla French toast or the beignets, which rival my former favorite at Chez Beignet.
I only wish that it came with a more interesting topping than strawberry sauce. Perhaps lavender or truffle honey? I salivated as the yolk oozed onto the strips of bacon poking out from my friend's burger, but my fluffy omelette with tomato marmalade sated my jealousy.
So skip the cheap bottomless mimosas and greasy potatoes at your local joint (which always seems to be filled to the brim with people who pose instead of smile in pictures) and get yourself to one of these new innovative and affordable options.
Brunch is changing in Houston. And that's a good thing.