Monday, September 27, 2010

Opulent breakfast at Lulav.

QUIET BREAKFAST:  Youd think itd be busier
  • QUIET BREAKFAST: You'd think it'd be busier
For a place that’s getting a lot of national recognition thanks to what’s going on with its chef, you’d think Lulav would be packed during business hours. Instead, I found it quite empty at 8:30 on a Monday morning. Just one other customer was seated when I came through the doors, looking to add yet another breakfast to my research.
I thought I was done with this. I had tackled Little Rock first while gathering breakfasts. But I saw the ads come up for Lulav’s breakfast last month. Please understand, I wasn’t holding anything against the restaurant (or the other restaurant nearby that’s also started serving breakfast recently); it’s just… well, you eat 70 restaurant breakfasts over a short amount of time and see how you feel.
I’d been urged to go, though, and I figured I should, especially since the boss said I should. So I did. And that’s how I came to be sitting among the opulent d├ęcor at Lulav on a Monday morning. I even knew I was going to go for that Mediterranean Eggs Benedict ($12) — I’d already looked at the menu before I got there and by goodness, that was what I was gonna eat.
But then the chef threw me a curveball.
My waitress came out and let me know that the kitchen was out of lump crab meat. Now, I coulda gone with another choice, but she said the chef offered to make the same dish but with shrimp instead. I could go for that. So I did.
I sipped my orange juice (coffee, like eggs, has become tiresome for me with this assignment) and relaxed. This was going to be the one part of my day that I didn’t have to rush, so I was going to enjoy it. I watched people and cars pass by outside the windows, overexposed in the bright sunshine. Cool jazz and downtempo tunes urged me to sit back in the richly draped chair I’d perched on. I mentally noted design elements that, if I had the money, I’d duplicate myself at home.
And I was so ready when my dish arrived. It smelled fantastic. It looked like a work of art. I thought the cheery pink of the Creole-ized Hollandaise sauce was perky against the white of the plate, the twin discs of English muffin, the super-white of the fluffy poached egg and the gold and brown tones of the hash browns. The pink shrimp perched on top, not quite obscured by the sauce, unconcerned for the fate that awaited them. Well, they are cooked shrimp, what do you expect?
After my customary round of photos, I hesitantly took a bite. The poached eggs were very, very fluffy in their whites, the yolks somehow perfect goldenrod ovoids barely under the surface. A slight press of my fork and one of the yolks burst, smearing the perfect egg-yellow paint across my plate and reminding me of the tempura colors monks used to illuminate manuscripts in Medieval times. The pliant yet still slightly chewy English muffin absorbed some of the yolk; I cut into one piece and used it to dab up some yolk and sauce and tried it.
And this dish… this dish reminded me of why it is I like eggs. I have had eggs so many ways these past few months — fried in butter, fried in lard, scrambled, over easy, over hard, over medium, in French toast, on muffins, boiled, poached, in umpteen omelets. I’ve grown so tired of eggs I’ve lamented that I will never eat another egg again. But something about how perfectly cooked these eggs were, combined with the firm muffin and a sauce that from its pinkness I knew the chef had rendered in an effort to make the best of the ingredients he had… it restored my faith in breakfast, in the delicious chicken-produced orbs I used to love. One bite, and I could eat eggs all over again.
I think my sigh of contentment disturbed the one other diner, who glanced up and folded away his newspaper before taking a drink of what I assumed was coffee.
I took a forkful of the hash browns and found another friend. The hint of smoky cheese did not in the least obscure the perfectly cooked potato strings. The rosemary and coarse salt starred and danced in these hash browns, and I found myself thinking “how could anyone slather these in ketchup?” to myself. Salty and savory and so very different from the other star on the plate, I found myself trying to dissect the method so I could reconstruct them at home.
The shrimp? Tender and well cooked. Chef must be doing something really right, taking a dish that would normally be more pale white with Danish Hollandaise and lump crabmeat and improvising out something just as grand if not moreso. My only regret is that this variation is not on the regular menu. I’d so order it again.
Just one other customer entered while I was there, and the place was almost eerily still. In many ways, I felt like I’d been allowed to dine in a fancy restaurant on my own. Well, I was, I guess, even if it wasn’t anyone else’s design. Can’t imagine why there weren’t more diners — unless folks just don’t know Lulav does breakfast yet.
There’s a lot more on that menu I want to try. For instance, the Swiss Alpen ($7) with its rosemary cherry tomatoes, field mushrooms, zucchini and Gruyere… sounds magnificent. I’d really considered having that with the LULAV Signature Parfait ($5) instead — the idea of that honeyed granola, berries and walnuts and yogurt sounded delightful. It was really a toss of the coin there.
And there are other things to note on the menu — like the pork medallions in the cranberry reduction and the Italian Job with its proscuitto and three Italian cheeses (Asiago, Pecorino, and Parmigiano Reggiano). And raspberry pancakes — never had any of those, want to, though.
Anyway, Lulav is located at 220 West 6th Street in downtown Little Rock. Breakfast is served from 6:30 to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. It’s worth checking out. (501) 374-5100 or at the restaurant'swebsite.

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