A couple of weeks ago, Banyan rolled out its new brunch service, and it's got all the classics, like French toast, a breakfast hash, and waffles...except that the French toast is made from griddled mantou and is topped with brown butter pears and a miso caramel sauce, the breakfast hash is actually a spicy pork mapo hash with root vegetables and a poached egg (all topped with black vinegar), and the waffles are mochi waffles that are doused with a lap cheong sausage and shiitake gravy. And it is all eaten under the shade of giant banyan trees. So no, it's not quite the traditional brunch.
It's noon on Sunday, and the front room of Banyan, right by the windows that look out over the South End, is bumping. There are a couple of people seated at the bar, starting off their Sunday with cocktails. The circular table that runs up against the bar is home to a large, happy party that appears to be celebrating something, and the table is covered with food. They're all sharing, except for one woman, who is enjoying the breakfast ramen and keeping it to herself.
Our meal starts off on a sweet note with coconut rice, a perfect combination of sweet, earthy, bright, and citrusy, thanks to some puffed purple rice granola, mint, and candied kumquats. A few tables over, a couple looks deep in conversation. She has just ordered the French toast, and as she takes a bite, she comments on how interesting and unique the dish is. The two eat slowly and continue their conversation.
The kitchen, which is at the center of the restaurant, is completely open and gives diners a view of the action. All eyes are on the servers to see what the next dish to come out of the kitchen will be. The daikon fries make their way to the table, and they are served with a duo of sauces — a mushroom XO aioli and a gochujang ketchup. The fries have a crispy exterior and a smooth, creamy interior.
The larger party to the front of the restaurant is cleared up and starting to leave as a couple enters and settles into one of the large banquettes in the bar area. A couple more diners come in from the bitter cold and arrive at the bar and order drinks. Motown plays at a comfortable level to reinforce that happy Sunday morning vibe.