The shtick Rustic morning fare, Pastoral-style.
The vibe We paid a visit to the Pastoral crew’s latest spot—a 75-seat bistro/wine bar attached to a sandwich/deli/retail space—just two weeks into its weekend brunch service. The room is welcoming and warm, and the mellow tunes were a perfect leisurely meal soundtrack. We mostly had the space to ourselves, but eventually a smattering of neighbors shuffled in. 9 out of 10
The drinks The brunch booze list plays is safe with the usual suspects (mimosas, bloodies) and other familiar stuff, including a Gin Rickey. The grapefruit mimosa (sparkling wine and grapefruit cordial, $8) was a subtly different, not-too-sweet take on the simple drink that can go wrong for so many reasons. Bravo! 7 out of 10
The food Chef Jesse Williams, formerly of the now-defunct Birchwood Kitchen, has already earned her stripes as a brunch genius, and the dozen dishes she offers here (divvied up by “sweet” and “savory” headings) forced us to make tougher decisions than we were prepared for.
The poached pear slices on top were too crunchy, but the rich, coconut-scented arborio rice porridge ($5) proved a tasty, shareable prelude to the meal. A sprinkling of honeycomb brittle elevated things from “that’s just okay” to “well, that’s fun.” Grilled hanger steak with two sunny eggs, cheddar grits, and kohlrabi-Brussels sprout slaw ($15) reminded us of something the dearly departed Birchwood might’ve run as a special. It was plenty hearty and partly successful—appropriately runny yolks, grits made flavorful with copious cheese—but the steak cried out for seasoning and the cold slaw just didn’t jibe with the other elements.
Baked eggs floating in squash-herb cream sauce and served with baguette slices and prosciutto ($13) brunchified the essence of Pastoral: The meat, the bread, the creativity—all accounted for. The runny cream sauce and eggs were made for bread-dunking and required more than the two measly slices we received. Other than that, we finished the plate with all cravings for salty, sweet, and carb-y sated. 7 out of 10
The service It was pretty much a given, seeing as we were her sole table to tend for the majority of our meal, that our server would be attentive. But she was also all the other things she should have been: knowledgeable, honest about her menu preferences, and happy to be there. 10 out of 10
Overall The creativity of Birchwood Kitchen coupled with the quality ingredients of Pastoral: Let’s just say we don’t expect to ever be the only brunchers in the restaurant again. 8 out of 10