A ravishing brunch at Rover’s

The chef in the hat in actionThierry Rautureau, the Chef in the Hat, is seemingly everywhere in the local food scene. When he’s not cooking up a storm in his own kitchen, he’s out collaborating with other chefs or dining at other restaurants, supporting the industry as a whole. This is why I called him a cheerleader after enjoying a dinner of 21 tastes in celebration of the restaurant’s 21st anniversary last year.

Rover’s recently added brunch service, and when Rautureau suggested I give it a try, how could I resist? He treated my dining companion and me to a tasting menu of sorts: both of us enjoyed three courses of smaller portions (enabling more sampling) spread out over a leisurely Sunday morning. It’s the type of meal Rautureau wishes we could all experience everyday. The French way, if you will. (Recent research shows that the French eat and sleep more than anyone else among the world’s richest countries.)

Out came plate after artistic plate: smoked King salmon with chive creme fraiche; poached egg with braised pork belly, sauteed spinach and harissa Hollandaise; and preserved stone fruit crepes with creme fraiche chantilly cream.

And out came, frequently, the cheerleading chef himself. I watched as Rautureau checked in with every table, greeting his customers and asking what they thought of the food.

Brunch at Rover’s doesn’t come cheaply. (A pair of poached eggs runs in the mid-teens; a better value, if you can afford it, is the two-course or three-course brunch at $25 and $35, respectively.) And it’s not the place to go if you’re seeking big, bold flavors. This is classic French fare, beautifully presented, with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients. A chance to treat yourself to Shigoku oysters and Dungeness crab salad on a Sunday morning.

Pecan and cherry wood-smoked bacon, marjoram duck and pork sausageBut it’s the bacon that’s been the most enduring memory of the meal. The prized pork is hiding at the bottom of the “Sides” menu: pecan and cherry wood-smoked bacon for $5. Oh, that marjoram duck and pork (we call it dork) sausage was also good, but despite swelling stomachs, I couldn’t stop stealing bites of that pure pork plate. The bacon’s made in-house at Rover’s; I even got a behind-the-scenes tour of the kitchen and saw all the charcuterie action.

I asked Rautureau the secret to his bacon, and he simply flashed his quick smile and said, “No secret.” But I can tell you that Kurobuta is part of it. See the striations in the photo? A perfect balance of meat and fat led to a bacon explosion in every bite.

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