About six months ago, another new brunch spot opened in Chinatown to rave reviews, particularly from my friends who worked in downtown.
In fact, one of them had gone there three times in one week.
So what took me so long?
I have no good excuse. It’s not like I’m never downtown, either. It was just one of those restaurants on my to-do list that I never got around to, well, doing.
And that was a big mistake.
Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop on Smith Street — halfway between two of my favorite Chinatown eateries Char Hung Sut and The Pig & The Lady — is a brunch-focused restaurant with a seasonal menu that features inventive dishes and Southern-inspired comfort food. It’s run by the former chef of Restaurant Epic, Brian Chan, whose parents own Little Village Noodle House nearby. (Another favorite restaurant.)
My girlfriend and I wanted to get there early — about 9 a.m. — so we sampled the breakfast offerings, which are only available until 2 p.m.
To be honest, it was hard to pick just one thing to eat.
The stuffed French toast ($10) made with Hawaiian sweetbread, strawberries, Nutella and whipped mascarpone was definitely tempting. (The restaurant only makes about a dozen of them, so you gotta get it while you can.) And then there was the “Milk & Cereal” pancakes ($10), also limited, with seasonal berries and sliced bananas.
But that’s not what we ordered.
No. Instead, we went with our lunch stomachs and ordered from the restaurant’s savory offerings.
And there were a few to chose from, including the creole shrimp and grits with a spicy smoked sausage and red eye gravy and the popular B.L.T. Benny with braised bacon and a truffled hollandaise sauce.
My girlfriend got the calentado ($12, above), Scratch’s version of a popular homestyle Colombian breakfast dish with rice, beans, potatoes and some kind of beef — usually leftovers from the dinner before.
This calentado, though, was made with a beef short rib braised with cola for 12 hours atop sofrito rice, egg, pico, lime crema, crispy tortilla strips and something called a 142-degree egg. (Clearly not leftovers.)
I couldn’t resist the smothered biscuit sandwich ($12, above), which came with these tiny smashed potatoes — that are deep-fried, too — that go through a lot of trouble to get this good.
Underneath that glob of chorizo gravy is a buttermilk biscuit with a housemade chorizo patty and a jalapeno-cheddar scramble that was so good, I was actually full — I had eaten breakfast earlier that morning — and I still finished it.
And then this happened.
The server saw me eye-ing out the pastries. (We were sitting way too close to the bakeshop!) There were platters of chocolate-cranberry scones and bacon chocolate chip cookies. (Yes, I said bacon.)
Here’s the chocolate-cranberry scone.
We sampled the poached pear muffin topped with a pear streusel and a creamy anglaise (below).
It was a lot of food — good food — and I was surprised at how much I ate that morning considering this was my second breakfast of the day.
But it was that good.
And just browsing the lunch menu, I could have stayed here for my third meal, too.
Scratch Kitchen & Bake Shop, 1030 Smith St., Chinatown. Hours:8 a.m to 2 p.m. daily. Walk-ins only. Phone: (808) 536-1669.