In Chicago, the birthplace of SoBe's Siena Tavern, the brunching culture is serious. "That's how people spend and plan their weekends," says co-owner David Rekhson. "Our brunch up there is a total party brunch."
Rekhson and his "Top Chef," Italian heartthrob Fabio Vivinai, are trying to replicate this culture at Siena Tavern in South Beach through tiramisu French toast, bottle service, bottomless bloody marys, and a breezy terrace.
The bottle-service component is unique to the South Beach location because, well, it's South Beach. You can fork over $150 for a bottle of Absolut, which comes with mixers as well as a tray of accroutrements (crisp mortadella, fontina cheese, celery, house pickles, and olives), or you can get bottomless bloody marys (made with Absolut) for $35 per person. Granted, the accoutrements cost an additional $20 if you go bottomless, but if you compare how many drinks you'd get from a bottle for a group of, say, five (where everyone would pay $30) to as many as you want, it's a no-brainer. Perhaps bottle service should be left to the clubs, even if this is a party brunch.
As for the food, Siena has brought over all the Chi-town staples and added a few Miami-centric dishes.
A popular item on the regular menu, coccoli, has been given an inimitable brunch twist. For dinner, the crisp dough balls are served alongside stracchino cheese, prosciutto di parma, and truffle honey. But at brunch, these fritters are paired with salmon and lox ($18). "Our chef was like, 'Wait a minute -- I'm Jewish. Why don't we have this?'" Pro tip: Cut your balls in half to create a pocket for your smoked salmon, cream cheese, capers, and onions.
Want eggs? Options abound. Think crisp mortadella eggs Benedict with pesto hollandaise; truffled scrambled eggs with roasted wild mushrooms; bacon omelets; steak and eggs; and egg sandwiches. But why would you choose any of those when you have stone crab Benedict on the menu? Two large claws are paired with a pair of perfectly poached eggs, pickled fennel, pea shoots, rosemary, blood orange, and hollandaise sauce. If you've ever wondered how to do stone crabs for brunch, this is it. The dish is priced according to market -- on our visit it was $38 (not bad considering the size of the claws).
The spinach and artichoke omelet ($14) is another egg alternative. Oven-dried tomatoes, baby spinach, fontina cheese, and artichokes make this a veggie-packed delight. Notice the stick Parmesan potatoes that have been spiked with a dash of rosemary. They are exceptional.
Lobster hash ($21) had lots going on but is still well balanced. Poached eggs, caramelized vegetables, house-cured pancetta, and truffle hollandaise make this a winning brunch dish.
After all of that savory stuff, you'll want something sweet, like tiramisu French toast ($12). Espresso-soaked brioche is topped with seasonal berries and served with marsala cream and white chocolate.
There are also almond pancakes, hazelnut-cream monkey bread, and Siena's famous bombolini dessert with whiskey-caramel, chocolate-hazelnut, and raspberry Chianti. But if you're a waffle person, go with the caramelized waffles ($14). These 18th-century-Belgium-inspired liege-style waffles are the waffle capital of the world's most famous variety, yet they're impossible to find anywhere outside that country. Made with yeast dough and crisp caramelized sugar bits, they're served with blis maple syrup and -- wait for it -- Nutella butter.
Oddly enough, though, the must-have dish is the housemade granola ($12). Before you overlook the healthful option with made-from-scratch Greek yogurt, fresh berries, and native forest puremiel honey, try it yourself. Then you'll understand what all the Chicago-brunch fuss is about.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha
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