Brunch is an odd thing. In Dubai, where one brunches with decadence, it’s not uncommon for people to spend hundreds of dollars and eight hours indulging in everything from caviar to Krug and truffled eggs, in surfeit. One would begin with champagne at noon and while away the hours on decks and patios complete with views of the tallest building in the world or the Persian Gulf.
This was new to me. I have no problem spending hundreds of dollars on a meal that is worth the money, such as this one, but brunch to me was usually a casual but refined afternoon at Sarabeth’s or Rosewater with a Bloody Mary or two and eggs and sausage. After indulging in a year of Saturday blowouts in the UAE, my body and soul sought equilibrium, and I bid brunch decadence farewell, a decision I have yet to regret.
I brunch about once a month now, and I prefer low-key affairs. A few friends, perhaps some cava to begin, followed by a Bloody Mary. A lot of conversation, an hour or two at the table. On a recent Sunday I tried Ciao Bello for brunch, and it turned out to be a good decision. The restaurant has a new menu, and it took me but one quick scan of it to make my choices: fresh figs with prosciutto de Parma riserva, followed by beef cheek hash.
As is my habit, I began with a Bloody Mary, and it was a good one. I like mine with a solid dose of black pepper, and this one did not lack that. The tomato juice was refreshing, and the drink carried the proper amount of spice: not enough to overwhelm the other flavors, but substantial and assertive.
With the figs and prosciutto, I asked for some burrata, and you’ll want to do the same. Balsamic pearls complete the dish, which is light and soulful and more than satisfying. Your palate will be awakened.
To the hash. I love beef cheeks, and I always tell people they should make them at home. They take some effort, but it’s worth it. They are rich and full of flavor, and your guests will reward you with devotion (and requests for a recipe). The beef cheek hash at Ciao Bello is a fine dish, with peas and pepper and potatoes. I added a fried egg, which you can do as well … though I wish the yolk of mine had not been overcooked.
I’ll order this again, and request a poached egg if possible. Carrots are also in the mix, and I swear I tasted parsnips. I used a spoon to eat it, because the sauce completes the whole. It’s earthy, with great acidity.