Brunch with a Side of Unexpected
by Sharon Stirling
I’ve always loved Frank Ruta’s cooking. His simplicity, technical execution, use of intriguing ingredients, and overall finesse continue to make Palena in Cleveland Park a favorite for many jaded food lovers.
For me, the most memorable meals are the ones in which I’m presented with a well-known dish—roast chicken, risotto, or soup—executed perfectly with a touch of something unexpected. Dishes with ingredients that are familiar but the flavor combinations seem new and inspired. It sends my mind and palate into a frenzy, searching for reasons as to why their version tastes so good. Those are the meals that I walk away from thinking, “How did they do that?” and “Why didn’t I ever think of that?”
This is the case at Palena. With their brunch offerings, Frank and his team seamlessly marry simplicity with elements of surprise to elevate what we all love for breakfast: eggs, meat and potatoes.
I found myself trying to break down the homemade tomato condiment, hoping to learn its secrets. The same goes for the spicy candied fruit that accompanied the pâté. Salsa verde isn’t anything new, but when the ramp salsa verde arrived alongside my bacon and eggs I suddenly wondered if what I’d been identifying as salsa verde all these years was really just a poor impostor.
Palena is currently serving brunch on Sundays and I suggest you head over there before word gets out and tables become unobtainable. As soon as you sit down put in an order for the fresh donuts. Then sit back and load the sweet, warm pillows of goodness into your mouth as you meander over the menu options. My suggestion? Lay claim to the bacon and eggs, then prepare to ward off the invading forks of your dining companions.
Potato frittata with mozzarella and house cured salmon
Pork and pistachio pâté with fennel remoulade, spicy candied fruit and mustard glazed endive
Buckwheat crepe filled with Raschera cheese and spinach. Topped with a fried egg and bacon
The famous Palena burger with its glorious truffle cheese, sitting on mushroom marmalade and topped with a fried duck egg. Served with house pickles
Bacon and Eggs: grilled pork belly, potato pancake and coddled egg. Served with grilled ramps, salsa verde and Palena’s tomato condiment