Ladies Who Brunch

Review: Sola by Kyle and Benjamin
February 6, 2009, 9:15 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Sola, if you can find it (hint: it’s not really on Lincoln, it’s behind the Chase on Byron) is an absolutely gorgeous restaurant.  One spacious dining room is deftly broken up with a platform, a freestanding fireplace, and a few well placed columns.  Beautiful flower arrangements, nice table settings and excellent lighting immediately set the mood for a pleasant brunch.

There was no wait for a party of three around noon on a Sunday, and while Yelpers rave about the brunch here, it certainly wasn’t packed.  The atmosphere was quite relaxed, a nice change of pace from our recent visit to the bustling Lula.  The place was far from empty, but the three (or maybe four) waiters in the space had plenty of time to lean back against the bar and watch the clock–no problem there, really, I’ve been there many times and know how painfully slowly a lunch shift can go by.  Our waitress was super cheerful and took great care of us, but I sincerely hope she wasn’t showing us her true personality–every visit to the table included at least two thank yous, and you’re welcome, and a little bit of oooing and ahhhing.  I would fault her from trying to hard, but I know I suffer from the same disease of overeagerness to please.

Square saucer, demitasse spoon, water served in a Collins glass...  three things I love so much.

Square saucer, demitasse spoon, water served in a Collins glass... three things I love so much.

Along with a round of wasabi bloody marys (I absolutely love shrimp in a bloody, but what’s the point of using wasabi in a drink that’s already packed with horseradish?), we started with an order of malazadas, a Portugese variation on the donut that I had never tried before.  Traditionally, malazadas are prepared during the lead up to Lent in order to use up all the butter, lard and sugar in the house before the season of fasting.  They are heavier than their cousins, the beignet and the zeppole, and Sola’s version was coated with large crystals of sugar, which added extra crunch and sweetness.  We devoured them, and I especially loved the mango cream dipping sauce that came with.

Ben loved the mango sauce... I preferred the raspberry coulis.

Ben loved the mango sauce... I preferred the raspberry coulis.

Sola’s lunch and dinner menus lean heavily on Hawaiian and Pacific rim cuisine, but the brunch menu went global with nods to France, Mexico and the afore mentioned Portugal.  We tried the black forest omelet stuffed with ham, Gruyere and leeks, which was well-crafted, fluffy, and balanced.  Crab cakes Benedict are, with us, compulsory, and these were wonderful.  Sola has offered my favorite Hollandaise of the year so far, a little thicker than most with herbal flavors nicely complimenting the lemon.  I was super pleased with my choice of “huevos benedictos,” poached eggs with spicy hollandaise, cornbread, chorizo, and pico de gallo.  The already tasty sauce was enhanced with a little cayenne and the savory juices of the pico.  The cornbread was OUTSTANDING, nicely sweet, and very airy–the portion looks intimidating, but like a perfect cake it melts in the mouth, belying its pleasantly low density.  My only gripe was the chorizo, and I can hardly blame Sola for that.  I usually find chorizo to be too salty and harsh on the palate.  At home, I like to use it to add texture and flavor to black beans, but I almost never eat it on its own.

One place where Sola really stood out was in their hash browned potatoes.  Grated breakfast potatoes can be done pretty badly–often just a flavorless patty scraped out of a hotel pan, too crispy on the outsides and baby food in the middle.  These were handled with care, liberally intermingled with onions and seasoning and cooked just right throughout.  We may have to hash out (sorry) what exactly makes for the perfect breakfast potato preparation in a future post.

I’m always perplexed when fine dining spots like Sola offer a Sunday brunch–is it a money maker for the restaurant?  Is it a way to pass off the weekends leftovers on a largely hungover clientele?  Does a bartender really have to show up for this?  But thank god they do–we love to find a great brunch in an unlikely locale, and brunch offers a great way to take in a restaurant that one might not otherwise be able to afford.  Our house is full of waiters, and when you factor in high winter heating bills, the slowest season on the restaurant calendar, and wallet-tightening, tip threatening economy, my guess is breakfast is the only chance we’ll get to eat at the city’s white tableclothes for a little while.


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