Thursday, October 11, 2012

Three-Course Sunday Brunch at Upstairs on the Square

The name of the restaurant, UpStairs on the Square, is certainly not a misnomer. This quirky New American restaurant in the heart of Harvard Square offers two floors of dining experience, with each level decked out in unique decorations.

The first floor--The Monday Club Bar--is a casual space with rose-colored bar on the side and purple wood-paneled dining room. From the black and white checkered floor to the artisan chandelier on the ceiling, the Monday Club Bar offers a friendly environment for diners to enjoy their food while soaking in the panoramic view of the Harvard Square right outside the window.

A level above is the UpStairs Soiree Dining Room, "reminiscent of a glowing and colorful jewel-box-like supper club," according to its website. The upscale, exuberant soiree room features round windows facing the park as well as elegant fireplaces at each end of the room. I have heard that a lot of wedding receptions take place in this room.

My first visit to UpStairs on the Square, I dined at the Monday Club Bar on the first floor. Since I went with a group for Sunday brunch, we had a prix fixe 3-course menu. For our amuse-bouche, we received a smorgasbord of pastries, scones, and muffins with a square of butter on the side.

Personally, I am not a huge fan of overly sweet bread, especially as amuse-bouche because it tends to ruin my appetite. The bread basket included coffee cake topped with chopped walnuts, mini blueberry muffins, and cheese scones. My favorite was the coffee cake, and I particularly loved the crunchiness from the walnuts.

After sipping on two glasses of green tea and some bread, the waitress brought our first course: Fruit Two Ways with Market Fruit Salad and Smoothie Shooter. Since I asked for a lactose-free version, I didn't get the smoothie shooter. Quite frankly, I was disappointed because all I got was a plate of some strawberries, raspberries, and lots of grapes that tasted a bit bitter. I expected the chef to make me something fruit smoothie-like without the use of dairy...

This is what the appetizer actually looks like...with the Smoothie Shooter on the side. I tasted a little bit of the smoothie, and it just tasted like lukewarm, liquidy strawberry yogurt. I really wasn't missing much by not having that on my plate!

For the entree, we had a choice between savory and sweet. Of course I chose the former, which was eggs benedict with ham. Again, I took the nontraditional route and asked the waitress if I could substitute ham with something else because I do not eat pork (not for religious reason...I just don't like pork). She said I could choose between the vegetarian-friendly avocado and smoked salmon, and I opted for the latter!

The Smoked Salmon Eggs Benedict & Homefries was quite petite in its portion. There was an ample amount of smoked salmon and well-poached eggs atop two halves of toasted English muffin. I skipped the hollandaise sauce because that plus egg yolk are too creamy for me. The homefries was slightly burnt, but I liked that it wasn't too greasy and had spicy seasonings.

My friend got the Smoked Ham Eggs Benedict. I thought the restaurant could have put more effort into looked like a mouse had scurried over the plate and spread the homefries apart and nibbled on some smoked ham.

I don't think anyone would be able to consume hollandaise--that thick, yellow sauce--if they watched the process of how it is made. Essentially, hollandaise sauce is just a mix of egg yolk and exorbitant amount of butter.

Only one person on the table opted for the sweet option, which was Old-Fashioned Brioche French Toast with Warm Maple Syrup, Blueberry Compote, and Bacon Strips. I personally can't start the day with sweet food because then my stomach will likely ache for the rest of the day.

Brioche, the type of bread used to make this French Toast, is very high in egg and butter content, which gives it a rich and tender texture. The blueberry compote seemed overly sweet and a bit artificial. I liked how the chef balanced the sweetness of French toast and compote with savory bacon strips.

As though we weren't already stuffed, the waitress brought platters of desserts. We all decided to share the desserts, which began with a trio of Housemade Ice Cream with a Brown Sugar Shortbread Cookie. The flavors of these ice creams were vanilla, chocolate, and toffee. The ice creams were very rich and creamy.

The Zebra Cake, or chocolate layer cake with chocolate ice cream on the side, would appease any chocolate lover's dream. It had three layers of dense chocolate cake with caramel frosting and topped with dark chocolate ganache. The cake was a bit dry, but the chocolate ice cream on the side helped to moisten it.

Finally, the special dessert that I ordered was a trio of Sorbet. The flavors were watermelon (by far my favorite!), raspberry, and orange. Sorbet was the best way to finish off a meal because it left a very refreshing mark in my mouth. Yum!

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