The Dutch — the SoHo showcase for chef Andrew Carmellini’s upscale American comfort food — topped several of New York’s “Best of” lists in 2011. But while the city’s top critics dreamily dissected The Dutch’s dinner offerings (smoked chicken and mushroom Stroganoff, steak and raw oysters), little was said about its carefully crafted brunch menu.
But that doesn’t mean that brunch was a mere afterthought for Carmellini (Locanda Verde, Café Boulud), who has offered the meal on Saturdays and Sundays since The Dutch opened just over a year ago.
Fully aware that “no one likes to cook at home in New York,” even on the weekends, the well-regarded chef put much thought into his list of elevated sweets and savories.
“There’s a lot of crappy brunch out there,” says Carmellini, who strove to offer New Yorkers more than overcooked omelets, carved ham and stale coffee cake.
As with his more formal dinner menu, the chef “wanted to look at America as a whole.” And Carmellini is “interested in what your grandmother is cooking” — whether you call her nonna, abuela, bubbie or grandma. So the manageable list is filled with brunch favorites. But his dishes include some melting pot spins (Italian-style burrata cheese here, pico de gallo there) and a bit of contemporary tweaking.
“I always do a little bit of high and low,” Carmellini says. On the “high” side, for example, is a fluke crudo appetizer ($15) with Meyer lemon, crispy artichokes and basil. On the “low” is Carmellini’s signature hot fried chicken with honey butter biscuits ($19).
“I love fried chicken,” says Carmellini of his buttermilk-brined, batter-dipped, fried-to-order birds. “I’ve made a lot of fried chicken. It’s a recipe that has developed over time.”
And that’s what my middle son, The Connoisseur, ordered during an early spring outing to The Dutch. Juicy, spicy and amply seasoned, the platter-filling bird was encased in Carmellini’s golden, crackling crust and served with fluffy house-made biscuits and a side of giardinera-spiked slaw.
Although Carmellini’s chicken — which is only served at brunch and lunch — has received tons of attention, other items were also praiseworthy.
First off is Kierin’s pastry board ($14), which features a warm assortment of pastry chef Kierin Baldwin’s fresh-baked goodies. Paired with a fresh fruit bowl ($10), these baked goods could stand alone. But our group — which also included The Husband, friend and SoHo resident Charlie, and his teen daughter Rocky — ordered the pastry board as a starter. And the morning’s offerings (a tangy lemon-buttermilk doughnut, a crumbly apple-cheddar scone and a fresh blueberry-studded buckwheat muffin) quelled our hunger as we waited for our main dishes.
On the savory side, Rocky enjoyed Carmellini’s take on the traditional New York lox platter. Here, soft scrambled eggs ($19) were plated with smoked sable and trout roe and accompanied by a toasted bagel. The Husband consumed a straightforward frittata ($16), which featured his Achilles’ heel combination of mushrooms, tomatoes and goat cheese.
I went with cornmeal flapjacks ($16), a corncake/pancake hybrid that was magically both gritty and fluffy. The cakes were accompanied by salted butter and a sweet-tart warm blueberry sauce.
Charlie graciously offered me a taste of his thick-cut almond French toast ($16). The downy bread was coated with a rum-kissed ripe bananas Foster sauce. Not wanting to appear greedy, I declined Charlie’s invitation to take more — although I secretly wanted to lick his plate.
It was probably a good thing that I controlled this urge, as The Dutch treated our table to a trio of pies ($10 each).
“I opened up The Dutch to make pie for myself,” says Carmellini of the restaurant’s trademark dessert. “No one makes really good pies.”
Okay chef, my mother makes knockout pies. But I see your point. Decent restaurant pie is hard to find, and The Dutch’s, which are made daily, were truly quite good. Banana cream (with sour orange ice cream) boasted a spicy gingersnap crust and a crown of rum whipped cream. Crumble-topped Dutch apple (with walnut ice cream) held a custardy center along with its fruit filling. But my favorite was lemon poppy meringue (with vanilla frozen yogurt). Served with slivered Meyer lemons, the pie gets a crunchy kick from the sweet poppy seeds that fleck its mile-high meringue.
Not my mom’s lemon meringue, for sure. But certainly a most worthy contender.
131 Sullivan Street
New York, New York 10012