I have had an epiphany. I didn’t realize that there was undiscovered territory in terms of dining out. But there it was. Brunch. And now that I see the virtues, I may be in trouble.
Up until now I have not been much of a brunch-goer. It’s not that I don’t like brunch food, I do. But most weekends it’s hard to squeeze in daytime restaurant meals with all the bill-paying, shopping, and other assorted errands that must be accomplished. Darn that job. It really gets in the way of having a clear schedule on weekends, which would definitely free up more time for me to eat out.
That said, the last three weekends I found myself going out to brunch. And now…I could really get used to weekend brunching.
My first brunch was at GrillMarX in Olney, which I wrote about as part of my Valentine’s Day celebration. The more time that passes, the less I like that experience. It was supremely ordinary. My second brunch was at the newly-reopened kosher Pomegranate Bistro in Potomac. I was more than pleasantly surprised at the variety, value, and creativity of the food.
This brings us to brunch number three at The Source by Wolfgang Puck. I’ve been to The Source for dinner, happy hour, and now for brunch. Brunch is hands down my favorite meal here in terms of how the execution of the food relates to the value. This dim sum brunch is in a class of its own. There are several ways to approach the brunch, which features more than 25 dim sum options. You can order a la carte. You can order a five dish option for $30, or eight plates for $40. You can also order the five dish option and add a la carte items. Decisions, decisions.
I am with my son, who is a vegetarian. I have already told him that for the most part we’re doing our own thing here. There are too many dishes that I am dying to try. I am not in the mood for compromise. We each opt for the five item plan. A bit too much food, but this is how we roll at a dim sum brunch. (if you’re not big eaters, sharing eight dishes for two people is probably fine).
We begin with cocktails. Because, well why not? Me: Café Mocha Butterscotch, Godiva Chocolate, Coffee. It’s surprisingly not too sweet. Him: Shanghai Mary Bloody Mary with chili paste and lime juice. This is a damn good Bloody Mary. It’s one of those times when I covet something the other person ordered. (Does this happen to you as much as it happens to me?)
Our first food items arrive. Me: duck bao buns. Chef Scott Drewno is known for his killer buns, so this is one of the items I’ve planned on in advance. Yep, great buns. Tender meat with a crisp skin, just the right amount of sweet, and cucumber to add some crunch.
My son has fried rice with a wok fried egg, a modification of a version that comes with Chinese sausage. He likes it, but doesn’t think it’s anything special. I don’t taste it as I’m busy enjoying the buns.
Dumplings are next. Me: crystal chive dumpling with Chinese mustard and king crab. Son: wild field mushroom dumpling in a ginger mushroom broth. These are some beautiful dumplings. The outside is lightly crisped and slightly chewy, just the way I like it. The sauce is delicate and not too overpowering. Winning.
The next dish pretty much blows my mind- Shanghai noodles with curry, chili, and braised oxtail. The silky smooth noodles are coated with a delicious tangy sauce, interspersed with bits of meat, and every now and then a cool bite of onion or cilantro. I can’t say enough about this dish. Wonderful. Memorable. Destination-worthy. Okay, now I’m done with the adjectives.
While I am completely absorbed in my noodle dish, my son has roasted sweet potato samosa with a tamarind reduction. He is equally enthralled with his food and urges me to taste the sauce. It’s hard to tear myself away from the noodles but admittedly the samosa and sauce is pretty great.
My appetite is waning but this doesn’t mean I am going to stop eating. There is another dish I’m coveting – General Tso’s wings with roasted bird chilies. More crunch, more spice, more sweet. This is a recurring theme of many of the dishes, which is not at all to say they taste they same. Each one has a different flavor combination that makes it unique. It should also be noted that there are choices that would add variety to my meal, including Kobe beef sliders, Maine lobster club, and Maryland crab cake benedict. These don’t tempt me, however. I find the appeal in the Asian-themed dishes.
At this point, the vegetarian menu options have been exhausted. My son is given a few choices that the chef will prepare as an alternative. He decides on stir fry vegetables with yogurt and curry sauce.
We order two desserts to share. I’m ready for some sharing. We have beignets, my only disappointment with the meal. If only they were hot.
The tangerine gelato is a much better way to end. Smooth, cool, and with just the slightest bit of crisp from the candied orange zest.
My rating (on a 1-5 scale): 4.4 (for brunch)
Washingtonian‘s 100 Very Best Restaurants 2012, 2 1/2 stars (out of 4)