Shakshuka, or shakshouka? Either way, it tastes great.
Brunch can be a tricky thing. How early does one go? How late is feasible? Should it be the meal of the day, the only meal? Start with Champagne, or Bloody Mary? I have my traditions, and though I do not make it to brunch every week, when I do, I like to make it the day’s main repast. It’s great to arrive around 11:30, and I always begin with a Bloody Mary.
I did just that a few weeks ago at Seasons 52, in Houston. In fact, I tried two different versions of the tomato juice-centric staple, and while they were both good, I urge you to order the Shrubby Mary, the restaurant’s bespoke Bloody Mary. It’s slightly sweet, a bit tangy, and full of fresh tomato juice. There is no pre-made mix in this libation, and the Sriracha provides a nice kick. Your lips will tingle in the proper way, but your palate won’t be stunned. Start with this, then move on to some Champagne, or perhaps a Prosecco Bellini if that’s more to your liking.
We began the food part of our brunch (James Holets is the chef here, and he has a confident approach) with scallops on skewers, a great opening. Firm, well-cooked scallops, seasoned with care, and fresh peaches that added a pleasant amount of acid to the mix. Microgreens provided an aesthetically pleasing and slightly peppery touch here.
Next came shakshuka (also spelled shakshouka). I’ve had great versions of this dish in Cairo and Beirut, and I make a modified version of it in my own kitchen that involves Merguez sausage and potatoes. The shakshuka at our brunch was more than satisfying, though I would have preferred looser eggs; the yolks here were slightly overcooked, and I missed the runny yellow goodness. The feta was salty and lively on the palate, and the chorizo moist and spicy. I would love to revisit this in the autumn.
Flatbreads rounded out our brunch. These things are huge. Huge and crisp and amply topped with — in our case — salmon and lobster (not on the same bread … we had two). I don’t like bread that tastes of cardboard, and this certainly didn’t. A pleasing amount of salmon paired with horseradish crema and capers, plus red onion. None of this was left at the end of our meal, and for good reason. The lobster flatbread was similarly crisp, and the lobster was done well. Nothing rubbery or bland.
Service at Seasons 52 was exemplary; Jay has some serious hospitality chops, and knows his menu and food. He urged me to try the Shrubby Mary after I told him I was a Bloody Mary fan, and he was attentive without being overly chatty or obtrusive. (I do urge that extra cutlery be taken from diners’ tables.) I’d say this place would be great for families and groups, and its spacious interior would allow one to enjoy a long and leisurely (and anonymous) brunch.