September 26, 2012
REVIEW: Buoyant Brunch Keeps 'LA CERVECERIA Afloat
When thinking of a place to brunch, I must admit, my mind did not go immediately to La Cerveceria, a Pan-Latin Peruvian-driven restaurant specializing in beer at the bar. But in racking my brain to choose something in the East Village - without defaulting to my usual Cafe Orlin or Veselka - I randomly recalled an amazing meal I had had in this then new and relaxed spot back in January. (So splendid was it, I wrote a review). Coincidentally, my visit coincided with their brunch menu debut.
However, as many a New Yorker knows, dinner can be a showstopper and brunch a tomato-throwing act. Granted, it can be hard to nail this in between breakfast and lunch pastime so beloved in this city. With usually a limited menu replete with repeats of the same ol' eggs and sweets, only slightly twisted to reflect their respective cuisines, I was wary 'La Cerveceria would not deliver, especially with such a high precedented supper.
But optimism abounded on this particular Sunday, and a $13.98 prix-fixe encompassing a cocktail and entree was encouraging, as my dining gang is known to enjoy a boozy brunch (myself included).
Suffice it to say this "cerveceria" is still much more than that a year later, excelling in eats for anytime of day.
With a hefty list of entree choices on the prix-fixe menu that stepped beyond Latin fallbacks like huevos rancheros and breakfast quesadillas (which they did have), I went for the Egg White Frittata & Quinoa, which was really a thin omelete enveloping that healthy whole grain (couscous' doppleganger) dotted with raisins and creamy goat cheese. The kicker was that it arrived sans the cheese, and while the server quickly brought me a well-compensating side serving of it when I noted its absence, I wasn't even disgruntled with this misstep. The care in service was so stellar, I quickly forgot the correction.
In addition to ridiculously attentive and genial service, again the owner Kyle Saliba was omnipresent, jumping from table to table, loquacious and charming with a bright smile and a genuine European I-take-care-of-you sensibility (just as I remembered). He even sent over a round of drinks in an apologetic gesture for my missing goat cheese.
We began with fantastically fried yucca sticks wrapped in streetwise wax paper with three dunking sauces bowing at its base.
My guests also enjoyed their Lima Cobb Salad and Benedict de Lima, but I'd have to say the best thing we munched on this day gives this place its brunch stripes: the best goddamn French Toast I can remember ever having. While unassuming on paper, it makes a dynamic statement on the table and on the tongue.
Two luscious loaves of gooey egg-soaked bread sandwich a slathering of light ricotta and sliced sweet bananas with a fresh raspberry compote bursting a its seams. Multiplied by two, the generous portion would seem to be enough to satisfy, but its perfected crisp exterior and melt-in-your-mouth interior create balance so buoyant, you have room for second helpings.
Did I mention that their Bloody Mary is made with Sake? Now, you know bar none, that beats a Mimosa or Bellini in my book (though their Bellini was excellent with the clarity of pure bubbly with just an underlying brushstroke of peach schnapps). Could 'La Cerveceria tug at my heart, er, stomach strings anymore? As far as I'm concerned they can play me any day.
All photos by Rebecca Kritzer