WHERE to Brunch in Los Angeles 2011

los-angeles-brunchLooking for Los Angeles brunch offerings? There is something incredibly luxurious about weekend brunch. It’s a meal that encourages the breaking of inconvenient rules governing things such as calorie counting or the consumption of alcoholic beverages before noon. An abundance of decadent choices remains alive and well in LA. Check out our list.

The massive hotel buffet brunch appears to be slowly fading from fashion in L.A., as many diners are reluctant to overindulge in broad daylight. In New York, these gastronomic extravaganzas have experienced a resurgence, but most Angelenos simply plan such gluttonous affairs for their next trip to Las Vegas. At the Langham, Huntington Hotel, the grand landmark in Pasadena, the once-lavish brunch at The Terrace has been scaled down to a more laid-back presentation, with an affordable breakfast buffet and à la carte menu. The Terrace, The Langham, Huntington Hotel, 1401 S. Oak Knoll Ave., Pasadena, 626.585.6218. pasadena.langhamhotels.com

The tradition of the blowout brunch, however, survives and flourishes at the Four Seasons Hotel, Beverly Hills, laid out at its contemporary Italian restaurant, Culina. There, an abundance of smoked fish, sushi, dim sum, made-to-order omelets, quesadillas, a carving station and even a dessert spread with a staff-operated doughnut fryer continues to draw crowds at this celebrity-favored hotel. Culina Four Seasons Hotel, Beverly Hills, 300 S. Doheny Drive, L.A., 310.273.2222. culinarestaurant.com

Giving the Four Seasons some competition is the Montage Beverly Hills, where Chef Scott Conant offers a luxurious brunch experience at his West Coast outpost of Scarpetta. Find everything from sashimi offerings like yellowtail and ahi tuna, citrus cured salmon, raw bar with freshly shucked oysters, shrimp and lobster; an array of baked pastries; salads such as roasted asparagus, caramelized cauliflower, roasted tomato and mozzarella; carving stations for fish, beef and lamb; omelets made to order, fresh fruit selection and fresh cheese plates made to order by The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. Topping off the experience is a room full of desserts including macaroons, bite-sized chocolate tarts, financiers, strawberries drizzled with balsamic vinegar by executive pastry chef Richard Ruskell. Scarpetta, Montage Beverly Hills, 225 N. Cañon Drive, Beverly Hills, 310.860.7970. www.scottconant.com/restaurants/scarpetta/beverly-hills

For the scene-setter, Delphine Eatery & Bar in the W Hotel, Hollywood, offers stylish locals and guests a Provençal bistro’s satisfying selection of hearty brunch and breakfast items, which include huevos rancheros, scrambled eggs in puff pastry with asparagus and mushrooms, and an expansive raw bar. Delphine, W Hollywood Hotel, 6250 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. www.restaurantdelphine.com

For healthy and sustainable brunch options, Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop Century City, recently expanded its menu of salads and sandwiches with healthy, organic hot items including a hearty breakfast sandwich with grilled chicken, portobello mushroom, egg whites, aged cheddar, shaved onions, and truffled spinach on whole grain bread. Executive Chef Kristi Ritchey (recently competed on Food Network’s new show “Extreme Chef”) also whips up a cheap ‘n easy morning muffin, a cobb salad-inspired omelet with avocado, basil, blue cheese, turkey bacon, and tomato; in addition to corn pancakes served with blueberry compote and a side of agave syrup. Greenleaf Gourmet Chopshop Century City, 1888 Century Park East, L.A. 424.239.8700. www.greenleafchopshop.com

For something with a Southwestern twist, consider Playa, the new restaurant from innovative chef John Sedlar. The Nuevo Latino pioneer recently introduced a brunch menu offering dishes such as jalapeño-studded waffles with piloncillo-pepita (brown sugar-pumpkin seed) salsa, New Mexico red chile tamales, blue corn muffins with almond butter and huevos rancheros with a spirited, luxurious chipotle béarnaise sauce. All of this is paired with the bar’s signature cocktails such as the Pablo Escobar (mezcal, pineapple, poblano chile, agave, triple sec, cumin and lemon). Playa, 7360 Beverly Blvd., L.A., 323.933.5300. playarivera.com

In contrast, a Mediterranean feast is available at Fig & Olive, a branch of a popular New York eatery showcasing the olive oil-drizzled cuisines of Spain, Italy, Greece and Provence, France. Chef Pascal Lorange has created an extensive brunch menu that includes plates of jamón ibérico—the prized and pricey Spanish ham from a special breed of pigs that feed almost exclusively on acorns—and various carpaccio or crudo preparations teased with fine olive oil infused with truffles. It’s usually more fun to graze on small plates at this gorgeous place, particularly on the sun-bathed, olive-tree-shaded garden terrace. But for main courses, the kitchen’s signature rosemary lamb chops and branzino brushed with balsamic vinegar aged 18 years are available at brunch. Fig & Olive, 8490 Melrose Place, West Hollywood, 310.360.9100. www.figandolive.com

An honored L.A. brunching tradition lives on at Campanile, where the scene by the courtyard fountain adds the romance of the Mediterranean to timeless brunch dishes and chatter about pending Hollywood projects. Campanile, 624 S. La Brea Ave., L.A., 323.938.1447. www.campanilerestaurant.com

For the Francophile, BREADBAR serves classic Parisian breakfast fare highlighting housemade all-natural breads and viennoiserie including petit chocolate and almond croissants, pain au raisin, and white chocolate and dark chocolate baguettes. More substantial offerings feature quiche Lorraine; a Croque Madame on BREADBAR’s signature pan de mie Bread; and the classic French toast with housemade brioche. Guests can wash it all down with an artfully-prepared cafe au lait or chocolat chaud, and watch strollers and shoppers at the quaint West Third Street outpost or the bustling Century City spot. Breadbar, 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., L.A., 310.277.3770; 8718 West 3rd St., West Hollywood, 310.205.0124. www.breadbar.net

Comme Ça in West Hollywood offers a casual French brunch whose choices include hazelnut pancakes with foie gras butter, deftly prepared quiches, pain perdu and the classic croque monsieur or croque madame sandwiches that are on every brasserie menu in Paris. Comme Ça, 8479 Melrose Ave., West Hollywood, 323.782.1104. www.commecarestaurant.com

Another option for Francophiles is Bouchon, the Beverly Hills bistro from superchef Thomas Keller, where options include steel-cut oats and steak frites. Newly opened Bouchon Bakery on the ground level, offers take home goodies like macarons, chocolate bouchons and their signature dessert Pastry chef Roy Shvartzapel’s kouign-amann. Bouchon, 235 N. Cañon Drive, Beverly Hills, 310.271.9910. www.bouchonbistro.com

The tour through France keeps going at Monsieur Marcel where either location (LA Farmers Market or Third Street Promenade) offers a leisurely afternoon of people watching while noshing on French favorites like frisee aux lardons—the 6-minute egg pairs perfectly with the bacon-truffle vinaigrette and baby heirloom tomoatoes—quiches, charcuterie and cheeses and fondue. Sip on more than 55 wines by the glass, or at the Farmers Market location, shop from more than 500 bottles in the market’s wine collection. Monsieur Marcel, 6333 W. 3rd St. (inside the LA Farmers Market), L.A., 323.939.7792; 1260 Third St. Promenade, Santa Monica, 310.587.1166. www.mrmarcel.com

The wine is always flowing at Corkbar and to compliment it, Chef Albert Avile offers “Breakfast” for dessert. His  cinnamon brioche muffin is drizzled with rum caramel sauce and topped with vanilla whipped cream and smoky bacon pieces. Co-Owner Caleb Wines suggests pairing the sweet treat with a glass of Cabernet Franc, Port, or Black Muscat—a perfect option for late risers on the weekends (open from 3 p.m.). Corkbar, 403 W. 12th St., downtown, 213.746.0050. www.corkbar.com

For those whose passions cross the border into Italy, West Hollywood’s Dominick’s features quality ingredients woven into tempting creations such as polenta waffles with mascarpone, fresh berries and honey, and biscuits with mushroom-fontina gravy. A play on the ubiquitous Benedict is a pair of eggs poached with roasted wild mushrooms, served with steak and fennel-and-pollen-infused hollandaise sauce on grilled bread, or poached eggs layered over herb waffles and smoked salmon, bathed in dill-scented hollandaise. The Brooklynesque dining room is perfect for supper, but brunch is best on the shady brick patio. Dominick’s, 8715 Beverly Blvd., West Hollywood, 310.652.2335. www.dominicksrestaurant.com

For the pop-art enthusiast, Royal/T, the playful 10,000-square-foot art space, retail store, and Japanese “cosplay” maid café serves its weekly “Tokyo Nouveau” Sunday brunch champagne party, combining electronic beats, bubbles, and brunch fare wit bottles of Veuve du Vernay champagne, a variety of bottomless mimosas and brunch favorites including brioche french toast with fresh berries; a smoked salmon plate; and weekly specials like the salmon croque madame with potato, leek, and roasted bell pepper corn hash, while listening to the tunes of rotating guest DJs including local mix-master DJ noelectro. Royal/T, 8910 Washington Blvd., Culver City, 310.559.6300. www.royal-t.org

For a taste of pure extravagance, nothing beats a brunch whose menu revolves around caviar, and the experience is offered at a reasonable price in the relaxed, contemporary dining room at Petrossian Restaurant & Boutique in West Hollywood. The kitchen at this branch of the famed Parisian gourmet shop, whose name is practically synonymous with caviar itself, is presided over by rising star chef Giselle Wellman. You can pair a Bellini or lavender mimosa with a tasting of classic transmontanus caviar with all of the accoutrements, followed by a bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese dressed up with precious roe, caviar-scrambled eggs or a crème fraîche-smothered flatbread topped with caviar, capers and chopped eggs. The theme even continues into dessert, with a panna cotta crowned with tiny espresso-flavored spheres that mimic caviar, a clever molecular gastronomical trick Wellman might have picked up during her stint at Chicago’s Alinea under renowned chef/alchemist Grant Achatz. Petrossian Restaurant & Boutique, 321 N. Robertson Blvd., West Hollywood, 310.271.6300. www.petrossian.com

At eclectic Elements Kitchen, an attractive, casually elegant restaurant adjacent to the historic Pasadena Playhouse, the brunch menu reflects diverse inspirations, from Thai-spiced shrimp salad to Belgian waffles embellished with maple ice cream, house-made peanut butter or lemon curd. Also compelling are breakfast pot pie, buttermilk fried chicken with waffles, and shrimp and grits with Cajun tomato cream gravy. Innovative brunch cocktails include the Blueberry Pancake: spiced Tahitian rum, maple syrup, lemon juice and blueberries. Elements Kitchen, 37 S. El Molino Ave., Pasadena, 626.440.0044. www.elementskitchen.com

Gjelina is a beloved and respected Venice restaurant where loyal customers from the neighborhood are joined by foodies willing to drive across town for the imaginative cuisine. This is a lively, laid-back place that eschews pretense, as some guests congregate at communal tables, sharing introductions over duck sausage pizzas, plates of artisanal cheese and glasses of Slovenian wine. At brunch, the menu is wide-ranging, featuring Moroccan-inspired baked eggs with merguez sausage chili, and poached eggs over polenta with braised cavolo nero and bacon. Order some blueberry-brown sugar scones, share a pizza or discover some incredibly tasty vegetarian dishes. Gjelina, 1429 Abbot Kinney Blvd., Venice, 310.450.1429. www.gjelina.com

For the illusion of being a thousand miles from town, take the scenic drive to Saddle Peak Lodge, where biscuits bathed in wild game gravy and candied pecan-dipped French toast are enjoyed in rustic elegance amid the rugged Santa Monica Mountains. It’s a great diversion from the usual big-city hotel dining room. Saddle Peak Lodge, 419 Cold Canyon Road, Calabasas, 818.222.3888. www.saddlepeaklodge.com

For the morning after, Public Kitchen & Bar at The Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel offers a three-course weekend brunch menu includes a choice of Champagne, bellini, or mimosa with dishes such as buckwheat cardamom waffles with butter and roasted apricots, and duck confit hash with poached eggs and Meyer lemon hollandaise. Bottomless bellinis and mimosas are also available, and other morning cocktails include a bloody Maria, spiced cucumber Collins, or a Kentucky brunch. Public Kitchen and Bar, Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel, 7000 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood, 323.769.8888. Public Kitchen & Bar website

And where’s the rule that you have to sip Champagne at Sunday brunch? At Fig, an under-the-radar restaurant at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, a “Kegs & Eggs” promotion pairs any brunch item (e.g. bacon waffles served à la mode with trockenbeerenauslese syrup and hearty corned beef hash) with an endless pint of handcrafted draft beer for just $25. Fig, Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows, 101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica, 310.319.3111. figsantamonica.com

—Adapted for online use from an article by Roger Grody in the August issue WHERE Los Angeles magazine. Read the WHERE Los Angeles digital issue.

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