It was the best of brunches, it was the… well, it was another great brunch.
And okay, “best” is maybe too strong of word to describe these two restaurants and their brunch offerings but “great” is completely accurate.
I tried Luna (it’s so casual it doesn’t even have a website) last Saturday. Despite showing up there at around 11:15 am, prime brunch time, we were able to get a table with no waiting. I suspect this is due to Luna being located at Dovercount and Argyle, which is off the traditional brunch trail.
The restaurant’s small, and to be frank, cramped interior makes it a poor choice for groups or even four people. This factor likely also contributes to it feeling like a neighbourhood secret, where any local can grab a table, as long as that local is only accompanied by one other person.
Luna’s tight layout likely explains its small menu but the essentials are there, including yogurt, pancakes and several different types of eggs Benedict. Husband had one of those and was impressed at the sauce. Instead of being the traditional Hollandaise sauce, it was chipotle flavoured and gave the eggs just the right amount of kick.
I went with one of the breakfast wraps, all of which are accompanied by a fresh, lemon-dressed arugula salad. My wrap featured smoked salmon, scrambled eggs and cheese. It was fantastic and a must-try for any smoked salmon fan. I will definitely be heading back to Luna to have another one of these wraps.
Another reason I’ll be back: The raspberry lemonade, which tasted like a basket of raspberries had been crushed and added to the lemonade only moments before it was delivered to me. It was fantastic.
Our brunch came in at just under $50 for two. No, not cheap but hardly out-of-line with what one expects to pay for brunch in this neighbourhood.
Things were slightly cheaper over at Essen but then there my juice came in a glass bottle and wasn’t fresh. The rest of the food though was very fresh and quite yummy.
Essen only opened about a month ago, in the spot previously occupied by Quinta on Dundas West (it’s actually the same owners), but despite that, it operates smoothly, with warm, friendly service. The food did take a bit to get to us but I blame that on the fact that there was a table of 15 there.
Unlike Luna, Essen has space. While the restaurant isn’t really that big, it’s smartly laid out and doesn’t at all feel cramped. The tables (at least the ones I could see) are all designed for two people and can easily be shuffled to accommodate groups of any reasonable size.
We arrived at Essen at about 1 pm and lucked out again, immediately getting a table. I suspect though that that won’t always be the case at this restaurant; with its flexible seating, great food and solid service, it has all the makings of a hot spot.
While, expect for one potential issue: It doesn’t serve bacon. The restaurant is “inspired by multi-generational Jewish” cuisine and that meals no pork (though note that Essen isn’t kosher). As someone who doesn’t eat pork, this worked nicely for me but it could be a sticking point for others.
But while there is no bacon, there is brisket, eggs, French toast and lots of smoked salmon (have I shared that I love smoked salmon). I actually a really hard time deciding what to ear because there were so many tempting choices and that’s something that, being a picky eater, I rarely experience.
I ended up going with the potato rösti. When it arrived at the table, I was initially disappointed as it looked like a plate of greens with some capers on top. Then I started digging in discovered a heaping amount of wonderfully smoked salmon and just the right amount of dill whipped cream cheese. Below those items was what the menu called a “crispy potato pancake,” which reminded me a bit of Hickory Sticks (though not as salty or smoky).
I loved every aspect of this dish expect the potato part. Sometimes it worked and other times, especially if the ratio of potato-to-salmon was on the high side, it was just too starchy. Still, I’m glad I tried it and would recommend it to anyone who loves salmon and crispy potatoes.
Husband went with the brisket hash, which, in addition to brisket, had peppers, potatoes, onions, chilies, herbs and two poached eggs. He was less impressed by his Essen meal than by what he ate at Luna but he did eat all of his hash so I think he enjoyed it more than he was letting on.
I will also be returning to Essen though the next time, I think I might try out the challah French toast. I’m also curious about its dinner menu, which looks to be worthy of its own visit.