NOTE: What exactly is BrunchHeart? Educate thy self here)
The BrunchHeart crew arrives semi-promptly (2 out of 4 members a
typical fashionable 10 minutes late) at our 2:15 pm reservation. The atmosphere is surprisingly roomy and airy for your typical NYC haunt. Essex has a type of loft feel with a spacious floor, large bar area, two flanking upper floors for additional seating, and loads of bright sunlight.
Although we wait …. and wait … and is told our table is almost ready …. 3 times …. until we are seated a full 40 minutes after our reservation. Now a wait is pretty standard for last minute brunching, but what is the point of making a reservation if you are expected to wait that long? Off to a little sour start, the BH crew tries to keep our spirits positive … and this was enhanced by our quick order of well…spirits.
Essex has a pretty good brunch deal going on down in the LES:
Not bad, not bad at all. But much to my personal dismay their signature drink, The Bloody Morty (A Bloody made with their house Bacon-Infused Vodka), was an extra $3 a glass. I, having an ardent love affair with bacon, couldn’t resist. My other crewmates were less enamored with the idea of adding bacon to alcohol. But alas, I know better. Adding bacon to just about anything improves it significantly.
I must say … I was not disappointed. The Bloodys (both the regular and Morty version) were a little on the watery side, but held a solid amount of booze. The Baconized version I would say was significantly better, hands down. The smoky bacon flavor permeated through the drink and perfectly complimented the savory tomato. And low and behold at the bottom of my glass I found actual chunks of bacon. Which I then ate. And clearly was super freaking happy about that.
Next up, the food. The Crew dined on a wide assortment of delectables. The menu seemed to be a random mix of high end and low end, often with a Kosher twist (ironic from a place that serves pork in their beverages … but that’s the beauty of America ain’t it?). There were several things that sounded pretty appetizing, but only so many BrunchHearters to consume. So we will have to leave lovelies like the Challah French Toast with Bananas Foster Sauce and Fresh Fruit and The Deep South (chicken fried steak with biscuits, eggs, and sausage gravy) for another trip.
We settled on the Lobster Benedict, The Sunday Platter, The Aristocrat with a side of Spinach-Shitake-Black Bean Hash and the very curiously named Mexican Matzo Brei with Chorizo.
While we waited for our food, a nice Kosher touch of Jewish Onion Rolls were brought out. Savory, but not overwhelming in onion flavor made me a quick fan.
The Lobster Benedict was pretty good. Eggs perfectly poached, lobster fresh. Only complaint being the dish seemed a little cold. Which is not ideal for any type of eggs … especially when mixed with seafood.
As far as presentation goes the clear winner went to The Aristocrat with the side of Spinach-Shitake-Black Bean Hash. The dish consisted of a potato pancake topped with house-cured salmon gavlax, salmon caviar poached eggs.
Verdict? Solid dish. Salmon and caviar tasted fresh, egg poached well, although there was a bit of a let down with the potato pancake. Essex claims to be ‘famous’ for these, but to us – while not bad by any means – just kinda tasted like hash browns. Granted we are four Shickas so what do we know?
The Hash looked absolutely gorgeous and tasted equally fresh. Very refreshing to be able to order such a healthy side during the artery-buster Brunch usually turns out to be.
We couldn’t initiate BrunchHeart without the quintessential NYC brunch dish. Bagels and Lox. So we ordered The Sunday Platter - house cured salmon gravlax, whitefish salad, fresh cream cheese, capers & Kossar’s bialy. It was the same salmon as on The Aristocrat, so no complaints there. The bagel was fresh and chewy. Only comment was that the whitefish seemed a little “fishy” for our liking.
Last but not least is a very weird sounding and not very visually appetizing Mexican Matzo Brei w/Chorizo: A concoction of scrambled eggs, tortilla crips, monterey jack, chorizo, and avocado served with black beans and pico de gallo. How do you even properly pronounce Brei? We still don’t really know. And where is the Matzo?Is that what the tortilla crisps are made out of? Wouldn’t then the correct label be Matzo crisps? But we learned our lesson: don’t judge a book by it’s cover. This thing was not just good, but really good. Taste wise this was the clear winner out of our four dishes. It covered all the basics of classic brunch meal – eggs, pork, cheese, veg, and carbs … all with a little Jewish/Mexican fusion twist. Although adding the chorizo was an extra $2, it’s smoky and slightly spicy qualities was the clear stand out that brought cluster of flavors together. Granted, the presentation was a kinda sloppy, after our 3rd Bloody – taste rules supreme.
The service in general (minus the wait) was attentive enough. To keep the AYCD crowd happy without stressing out the servers too much, Essex cleverly hired separate drink servers that keep the Mimosas and Bloodys flowing — Replacing and refilling our glasses before we were even fully finished. So really those “three” drinks you get kind of get lost in the shuffle. Depending on how long you linger over your meal … those three turn into 5 or 6 fairly easily. An excellent deal for $22.95 along with your graciously portioned meal.
Overall we recommend Essex. A moderately priced “AYCD” with a substantial dishes, and an added bonus … the real NYC find: a spacious floor layout ideal for large parties.
RATINGS: (out of 5)
Add cooked bacon to a clean pint sized mason jar. Trim the ends of the bacon if they are too tall to fit in the jar. Or you could go hog wild and just pile in a bunch of fried up bacon scraps. Optional: add crushed black peppercorns.
Fill the jar up with vodka. Cap and place in a dark cupboard for at least three weeks.
At the end of the three week resting period, place the bacon vodka in the freezer to solidify the fats. Strain out the fats through a coffee filter to yield a clear filtered pale yellow bacon vodka. (Recipe by BrowniePoints) ◊ Post written by: KZJ