Monday, August 18, 2014

Where to Eat: The Summer Sunday Brunch @ Sonny's Hideaway

The Eats: Classic brunch items, with a gourmet flair

The Location: Highland Park

The Vibes: Simplistic setting, complex dishes

Good for: Nonchalantly brunching in a sophisticatedly relaxed and comfortable setting

When-To-Go: Sundays, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

The $ Factor: Entrees are $7–$17; Cocktails are $9-$12

The Names behind the scenes: Owner Derek Lyons, Chef Alexander Abdel-Monem

The 4-1-1: Sonny’s opened in 2013 and launched its brunch menu earlier in Spring 2014, adding a few additional items in July as well. It also has a bar program that features intricate libations and Tiki Tuesdays.

Parking Situation: Street parking on York Blvd.; nearby public parking lots in the neighborhood

I’ll Be Back…: For the Chickpea Pancakes!

Ricotta Funnel Cake, hazelnut coffee, chocolate
Citrus Custard, seasonal fruit, sesame seeds
Chickpea Pancakes, tomato, eggplant, Swiss chard, cumin, Parmesan

When I first read the entrees above, from Sonny’s Hideaway menu on the media invite I received, I blankly stared at my computer screen. The ingredients didn’t seem to make sense. What in the world was a ricotta funnel cake? Citrus custard—with sesame seeds? And chickpea pancakes? Was that correct? While I could most certainly read the words in front of me, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how what I read could all come together to be edible entrees, presented to me on a plate.

Fortunately, Chef Alexander Abdel-Monem and Owner Derek Lyons (pictured below, respectively) didn’t seem to have the same creative culinary inhibitions that I had. One sunny summer Sunday at Sonny's Hideaway, with a handful of guests present, during our brunch, Abdel-Monem explained to us that when creating the menu, he wanted to feature popular brunch items that anyone could potentially make at home (side note: there’s no way I’d be able to recreate anything I ate at Sonny’s in my kitchen). He also mentioned that growing up in Florida heavily influenced his cooking style.

After sampling about half of the brunch menu, a trend became apparent; each entrée distinctly has its own individual personality, no one dish the same—in taste, appearance or ingredients. And every entrée is as lovely to look at as it is to eat. In other words, Abdel-Monem's daring combinations work! Sonny’s also caters to everyone. There are plenty of options for the meat-lover and the vegetarian alike. There are both Sweet and Savory items, with a nice balance of light and heavier options, to satisfy all appetite sizes. The majority of the entrees incorporate some sort of fruit or vegetable, whether it’s the berry syrup with chunks of blueberries on the Brioche French Toast, the fried green tomatillos accompanying the Carnitas or the bed of fruit in the Passionfruit Custard. There are 12 entrees in total and also five sides, ranging from market greens to smoked home fries, eggs and bacon.

Here’s a look at what I sampled:

The Passionfruit Custard – More of a sauce than an actual custard, it’s generously drizzled on a bed of fruit, including blackberries, raspberries, apples, oranges, pomegranates and passionfruit. This dish gets a big plus for the diversity of fruit and for the delicateness of the sweet, subtle sauce. A perfect starter to share.

The Ricotta Fritters – Were a delight to eat. Dusted with powdered sugar, they’re crunchy on the outside and moist, fluffy and soft on the inside. I couldn’t make up my mind which sauce I liked better: the creamy chocolate, the hazelnut coffee, or a bit of both eaten at the same time.

The Chickpea Pancakes – Here’s a savory take on the traditionally sweet pancake. While the actual pancake alone has its own unique earthy flavor, it’s really the toppings it’s paired with that make this entrée so good. Whole chickpeas are mixed with poignant Swiss chard, with thin slices of Parmesan finishing it. Very filling. 

The Fried Chicken – Includes fried chicken breasts, a pan poached egg and hollandaise perched neatly atop two buttermilk biscuits. I can’t fail to mention the creamy gravy on the plate, which should definitely be sopped up with a biscuit or two – it’s divine. Don’t let it go to waste!

The Brioche French Toast – Exactly what French Toast should be: thick bread with a crunchy crust and a soft, warm center. It may seem like it’s a lot going on to have pecans, berry syrup and a cinnamon crème fraîche all covering the French Toast, but in reality, the flavors don’t overpower one another and in fact work very well together.

The Citrus Beet Salad – Is an intriguing blend of lettuce, radishes, beets, orange and goat cheese, all underneath a creamy yogurt dressing. It’s large enough to be a brunch entrée, or also a nice portion to share.

Another noteworthy mention is the Carnitas entrees. Since I don’t eat beef, I didn’t try the actual carnitas, but I did try everything else that comes with them – the delightfully tangy mix of pickled onions and peppers and fresh cilantro, the eggs with an avocado puree, and probably my favorite part, the delicious, golden-brown fried tomatillos, similar to fried tomatoes.

Just as the saying “don’t judge a book by its cover” goes, the lesson I've now learned about Sonny’s Hideaway brunch menu is clear: don’t judge an entrée by its menu description. 

See you there soon!

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