On any given weekend in San Francisco, a staggering number of people are willing to stand outside in a misty sheath for up to two hours in a ritual called “brunch”. Though waiting for several hours for a plate of Eggs Benedict is hardly how I like to spend my precious time off, I have no quandaries going out to brunch to try something that I would not make in my own kitchen. Gems such as Verbena go beyond cooking poached eggs and serve a noteworthy repast that you cannot find anywhere else in the city.
Pancakes are a ubiquitous brunch item that are a dime a dozen (almost literally). Verbena’s sunburst pancakes are a notable exception, as the chef masterfully creates a hearty, yet fluffy, pancake made from corn and infuses it with kaffir lime butter. Topped with fuji apples and real maple syrup (no offense, Aunt Jemima), these pancakes are one of a kind.
I tried the seasonal frittata, enveloped with black trumpet mushrooms and veiled with a delicate layer of fried nettle leaves. Crunchy fried potatoes paired with a dashi sauce and yuzu furikake added a Japanese twist to this California dish and enhanced the subtle creaminess of the eggy dish.
As with the previous dishes, the elegant presentation transformed the identity of the poached eggs into a idiosyncratic breakfast dish. The layers of fat on the pork belly dripped onto the eggs and the braised baby potatoes resting below. The nasturtium aioli added another layer of richness. This is the ultimate bacon-lover’s dish.
Whether coming to Verbena for brunch or dinner, one should absolutely order the sprouted seed bread. There are few places in San Francisco, and The U.S. for that matter, that serve hearty, seedy bread. The aroma of the garnished dill hits you just before you bite into the nutty bread. Smeared with chèvre and topped off with grilled onions and sprouted lentils, the only thing left after eating this bread will be happy memories.