Monday, April 27, 2009

Sunday Brunch at ENVY Steakhouse

I have come to the conclusion that very few cities really know how to put on a killer brunch. Buffet brunches seem the norm in the places that don't understand what brunch is really all about. And since I've never lived in a city that understands brunch, like New York or New Orleans do, I've had my fair share of buffet brunches, some good, some bad, and all lacking the relaxing, sit and enjoy atmosphere that befits a Sunday afternoon. ENVY Steakhouse does a pretty good job with their brunch buffet, and at $25 ahead with all you can drink champagne, mimosas, Bloody Marys, and wine it's one brunch buffet where you can definitely justify the price (especially if you're comfortable drinking like you did in your college days).

They call it "Mimosas & Music" and they certainly have both covered. The mimosas are served at a station at the back of the restaurant, and the music is served up by pianist Wes Winters. He puts on a good lounge act and nearly drowns out the din of clanging plates and serving utensils that is omnipresent at a buffet. My dinner visit to ENVY gave me a picture of a hip yet romantic little spot that would excel as a place for an anniversary. The view at brunch is not quite the same. The natural light flooding in through the floor-to-ceiling windows did enough to transform the normally sedate and candlelit dining room without the decidedly older clientele. Drop by Denny's at 4:00 PM and you'll have a pretty complete picture of the clientele at this brunch.

Enough about ambiance, on to the important stuff: Food. If you've been to a decent brunch buffet you won't be surprised by anything you see here. The usual omelet station, common Belgian waffle station, bacon, sausage, well above average cheese blintz, normal french toast, pedestrian pancakes, bland "breakfast potatoes," and better than expected eggs Benedict make up the breakfast selections.

A tastier-than-most-buffet-prime-ribs prime rib gets the action started on the lunch oriented leg of this journey and is joined by perfectly cooked shrimp with a well put together cocktail sauce, long but unfortunately lean crab legs, an assortment of average little "sandwiches" on toast points, an overly soggy tomato and mozzarella "salad," very fishy smoked salmon, bagels, and a nicely stocked but, given the volume, poorly presented (if anyone from ENVY reads this, the stone is nice for intimate gatherings, but should be augmented with individual plates and utensils for each different cheese when so many are partaking) cheese platter.

The desserts were, overall, the most disappointing thing in the restaurant. Although the bread pudding held up well and was tasty, the little cakes were mostly over sweet, and the mousses were so bad that I had to call my father the chef to ask what could have gone so wrong.

I know, I've been hard on them, but it's only out of love. On the night of one of their monthly wine dinners this place supplied me with one of the better meals I've had and I want their brunch buffet to live up to those high standards. Most of the complaints I have about this meal are specific to buffets, and especially buffets which must cater to the, "Hold the salt, please," geriatric segment of our population. But others just point to a restaurant trying to turn a buck in this brutal, business devouring economy. Although, I'm pretty sure they didn't make much money on me after two mimosas, a Bloody Mary, and three glasses of wine. I know they are better than this, and that is what bothers me the most.

Brian William Waddell is a foodie, beer geek, and author. His numerous blog posts range from food to politics. He also has a book of poetry, Fractured Prose, available here, and is ready to publish his second poetic endeavor.

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