Brasserie Brunching

Wireless Kitchen

So many selections, and Sundays are so short

Northshore Brasserie ⢠9430 S. Northshore Drive ⢠539-5188

by Gay Lyons

Northshore Brasserie, which has developed a loyal following since its opening about a year and a half ago, is now serving Sunday brunchâ"or more precisely a buffet style brunch and lunch. On special occasions such as Easter and Mother's Day, only lunch is served, but most Sundays it's a combination.

The impressive buffet includes both regular and rotated items. The day I visited I found a mesclun salad, braised peas and carrots, garlic mashed potatoes, crabmeat quiche, grouper and risotto, steak, roast pork, oysters on the half shell, smoked herring, bacon, sausage, polenta and shrimp, French toast, eggs Benedict, omelets, crepes, fruit and cheese, pastries, popovers, tarts and chocolate cake.

Unless you're someone who likes to pile food randomly on a plate and have at it, some kind of strategy must be devised in the face of so many choices. My solution was to create my own four-course meal of appetizers, brunch, lunch and sweetsâ"all in tiny, mostly shared, portions. Since this was my first visit, my goal was to have a bite of everythingâ"without stuffing myself silly.

My first course consisted of salad, oysters and herring. The salad was fresh and simple, just greens with a few bowls of ingredients as mix-ins and three choices of dressing. My favorite was the creamy parmesan, which is only slightly creamy and has a bit of a tangy taste. The oysters were fresh and cold, good with or without the lemons, cocktail sauce and crackers. The big chunks of smoked herring were smoky and flaky. Since I had three more courses to go, I sampled lightly, but on another day, I'd be satisfied with these three things alone: a nice big plate of salad, a stack of oysters and a couple of chunks of herring.

My brunch consisted of eggs Benedict, an omelet, sausage, bacon, crabmeat quiche and polenta and shrimp. I decided to save the French toast and pastries for the final sweet course, but I grabbed a popover. I wasn't sure how well the eggs Benedict would fare in a chafing dish, but it was fine. I took the last serving in the pan, and the egg was still perfectly cooked, not too firm and not at all rubbery. The made-to-order omelet was light and fluffy with just enough filling to complement the eggs. The chunks of sausage and bacon strips were fine, but nothing special. The round miniature quiche was moist, flavorful and the perfect sample sizeâ"about two bites. The polenta with tiny shrimp was moist and tender but seemed somewhat bland contrasted with the other items. The freshly baked popover was delicious, crumpled and browned on the outside with an airy interior. An omelet, perhaps a bite of quiche, a popover and, if you must have meat, a piece of sausage or a strip of bacon would make a delightful brunch. However, I'd be tempted to bypass the quiche and meat and splurge on an additional popover with soft, fresh butter.

Halfway through my four-course meal, it was time for lunch, so I filled a plate with peas and carrots, mashed potatoes, grouper, steak and roast pork. The tiny peas and long baby carrots with stems on were perfectly cooked and lightly seasoned. The garlicky mashed potatoes had a pleasingly bumpy texture. My favorites in this course were the hunks of mild baked grouper draped across tender risotto and the thin slices of flatiron steak with a lovely rare interior and seared edges. The roast pork was fork-tender, but it wasn't as special as the grouper and the steak.  

The final course included tarts and cake as well as a couple of sweet brunch items. Those who like French toast will appreciate the thick, browned slices served here. The fruit-filled pastries, chocolate and lemon tarts and chocolate cake were all good, but the crepes were the most outstanding item. At the suggestion of the preparer, I ordered a crepe with dried apricots and apricot jam as filling. It was good, but the soft crepe was delicious enough that I'd have been satisfied with the thin layer of jam alone.   

At the end of my four-course meal, I felt satisfied but not overly full. This was partly the result of careful portion control, but it also helped that the food was not too heavy and that sauces, dressings and toppings were served on the side.

Some buffets emphasize quantity instead of quality. That is not the case at Northshore Brasserie. The items on the buffet exhibit the same quality as those on the menu. The trade-off is that this is not a bargain buffet. The cost is $21.95 per person with an automatically added 18-percent gratuity. Drinks include a Bloody Mary bar; mimosas and champagneâ"for $3. Children 10 and under are charged $10. For many people, including me, this cost is in the â“special occasionâ” range.

But I have a plan. My friend Audrey always knows about special occasions such as International Left Handers Day or the 60th anniversary of the invention of the slinky. I'm thinking I'll just borrow her calendar.

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