Tamales, Pho and Pork Belly Bowls: Brunch at Henry's Majestic Runs the Gamut
She's not a looker, but that ham broth though.
With each new year, Americans summon whatever shreds of mental energy that were not suckled dry by the previous year’s exploits in order to set resolutions. Chief among these resolutions, of course, is to be healthier. For you, this resolution might take the form of increased exercise, losing weight or inverting your current dietary pyramid (candy corn and broccoli should probably switch places). For us, it meant sitting down for one brunch out of the year that did not involve the sacrifice of various sentient and delicious animals.
Of course, the vegan restaurant where this meal was to take place was closed because not only do they respect animals’ right to live but also their employees’ right to sleep the hell in on New Year’s Day. With a pin in our seitan bacon rumspringa, we sallied forth to a place where animals are happily introduced to frying pans and where the employees not only work holidays, they work holidays that are punctuated with hungover college kids. This place, Henry’s Majestic, proved to be just the meaty meal our morally apathetic hearts truly desired.
Situated close to the university, Henry’s not only plays host to SMU’s student body but to a young professional audience as well. Part of Henry’s appeal may be in the care with which the restaurant was outfitted. Old industrial parts spring from walls and from the furniture, rustic hardwood planks run the length of the bar's ceiling and charming, sea glass-colored lighting fixtures cast a warm, dim glow. The overall effect is a very hip antique store, and one in which the eye is always rewarded for taking a second look.
Don’t be afraid to belly up to the bar if it’s busy, as they offer the full menu. Brunch cocktails hover around the $10 mark and include the zippy, lemon-forward Death by Brunch, which consists of elderflower liqueur, Champagne, absinthe and citrus. The sparkling bar is also a popular a choice, with its DIY approach to mimosa-esque beverages.
There are worse ways to go than Death by Brunch.
The menu, meanwhile, is one of the larger and more diverse on the market. You can get pork tamales, a porchetta egg sandwich or beer-braised corn beef hash. Or, how about some pho or a pork belly bowl? As varied as the offerings were, the presence of meat – nice, high quality cuts – unified them.
The Texas pho ($12) derived its name from the incorporation of Akaushi flank strips from Beeman Ranch (located in Harwood). Unfortunately, this prime-time cut was given the late-night infomercial slot of broths in which to cook. Ideally, these whisper-thin cuts of beef would be introduced to the broth just before eating, and the broth would be hot enough to render the beef cooked but not overdone.
Henry’s broth was served warm, not hot, setting the stage for a tepid experience. While perfumed with the requisite warm aromatics, the broth's flavor was anemic. A generous squeeze of lime and additions of herbs and a spicy chili sauce inched the pho toward a more robust flavor profile, but only just.
So leave the pho to your local Vietnamese haunt, but whatever you do, do not skip the pork belly bowl ($13). This dish incorporated ham broth, or what we like to call The Addition Against Which All Future Additions Shall Henceforth Be Measured. Ham broth manages to capture the salty, cured, porky essence that so permeates memories of Easters past, diffusing it into a thin, opaque broth. Homestead Gristmill grits were laden into this broth and resulted in both soupy, hammy grits and creamy, pudding-like broth.
Texans should stick to barbecue.
It was a beautiful thing, made all the more enjoyable by a measure of mustard greens, a couple of fried eggs and strips of fatty, crispy pork belly. Taken together, this dish stood out as not only the best brunch dish of 2017 so far (not a difficult award to win, given the two competitors), but in fact as one of the best brunch dishes these chronicles have ever known.
Yes, you will have to wade past the valeted BMWs that belong to 21-year-olds. You may even have to wait for a table. But just think of that great, big, globetrotting menu that awaits you, and the pork's belly that will soon be in yours.
Henry's Majestic, 900 McKinney Ave. Brunch served 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
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