If ever a meal were a conveyor of exclusivity, brunch is it. Farha Ternikar, a sociology professor and author of Brunch: A History, speaks to brunch's earliest incarnations as being draped in the same fine silks of elitism that we see in our modern iteration of this post-breakfast, pre-lunch meal, writing: "In England, such meals were an indication of affluence. As British families accumulated more wealth, their breakfasts became more extravagant. ... This 'conspicuous consumption' by the aristocrats further displayed the stratification of British society."
While we've replaced heaving tables of roasts and savory puddings with the flagrant consumption of alcohol and eggs Benedict, the same general thread of excess time and money runs throughout brunching history.
Of course, you could look at the modern brunch — with its drink specials and sheer prevalence — and find a more moderate, inclusive meal. While bottomless mimosas could be interpreted as a sunny yellow signal of a society becoming more egalitarian, a $24 plate of scrambled eggs suggests otherwise.
What better place to ponder the trappings and social implications of brunch than at Mirador? Mirador occupies the penthouse suite at Forty Five Ten, the multistory downtown Dallas boutique. It comes under the very capable direction of The Joule’s executive chef, Junior Borges, formerly of Uchi and FT33) and executive chef Josh Sutcliff, formerly of FT33 and Filament.
Most of the time, Mirador is a two-meal pony: lunch and dinner. But this month, it introduced a holiday brunch, served every Sunday through Christmas Eve. It is a slight brunch menu with only four entrees, three cocktails and three sides, but in its concision, we found an excellent, albeit pricey meal.
Take the $24 egg plate. It is an indulgent thing made slightly more palatable when compared with the innumerable mediocre $10 egg plates around town. This was not not mediocre. Salty pebbles of caviar beautifully offset a perfectly soft, silky French-style scramble while a few stems of baby bok choy kept things fresh. It was a simple dish that managed to be refined without being austere.
Those interested in something a bit more casual (i.e., cheap) can look to the $14 pastry board; certified members of the brunching elite can just go for the $34 braised beef. It’s really very good — a beefy, salty crust is seared into the exterior, which gives way to rosy, blushing and tender meat. Paired with a verdant take on rice grits and a heady, smoky sauce, this dish aimed to dominate the palate with big-as-Texas beefy flavors, and it succeeded.
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In keeping with the general theme, cocktails at Mirador hover around the $12 to $14 mark. The kimchi bloody mary tasted off kilter, delivering too much salt and brine and not enough funk. (Head to Junction instead, where notes of heat, fermentation and acidity lend a more nuanced riff on a kimchi cocktail.) Other offerings include the British Botanist — a downright floral combination of gin, Pimms, orgeat and lime juice — and the coalescence of hibiscus tea, tequila and Thai chiles known as a Tequila Sunburn.
Perhaps nowhere else in Dallas does brunch feel quite so extravagant as it does at Mirador. Everything, from the meal to the service to the downtown views, seemed to be designed with the same care and attention given to the designer dresses one floor down. The $100 bill (two people) that accompanied this dining experience would certainly tip brunch at Mirador to the far end of the indulgent spectrum if you were looking at it from a practical perspective. So don't. Put on your rosiest British sunglasses and brunch like it's 1895.
Mirador, 1608 Elm St. Brunch served from noon to 3:30 p.m. every Sunday through Dec. 24. Reservations not required.