Like many, I have fallen into a Sunday brunch rut. I return to Hawthorne’s in Bella Vista for a perfect omelet or crab cakes Benedict. Or, I head over to Fishtown’s Kraftwork for pancakes and the best scrapple in town.
High Street is owned by Ellen Yin, who opened Fork, her groundbreaking restaurant, 16 years ago. The kitchen is under the creative and careful eye of chef Eli Kulp, who has created a unique brunch menu. Ingredients, from the milk used to make the best yogurt one will ever taste, to flours and grains for his handmade breads, pastries and rolls, are sourced from local mills and farms.
Edward and I arrived around noon on a chilly Sunday. Yin was seating people and helping her servers throughout brunch. She recognized me as we are members of Les Dames díEscoffier, an international nonprofit organization for women in the food, wine and hospitality industries. I am not sure she knew I was reviewing High Street.
The room has an urban rustic farmhouse feel. Maps of High Street during William Penn’s time along with a large antique mirror, proper lighting and a community table added to the warm and casual atmosphere. Some of the dishes are served on wooden boards or in wooden bowls.
I began brunch with a Bloody Mary ($8.50) that was dotted with horseradish and properly spiced. Edward went retro with a screwdriver ($8.75), and we discussed the menu.
Kulp’s innate respect for ingredients and his imprint are all over the menu. One will not find pancakes, omelets or French toast on offer, but will discover some of the finest in-house smoked fish this side of a Lower East Side Jewish deli.
Smoked whitefish on a black Russian pumpernickel bialy with pickled peppers ($5.50) was a contrast in flavors and textures that we enjoyed. A bialy is more of a yeast roll with an imprint in the center, usually filled with grilled onions. Kulp filled it with smoked white fish and pickled peppers, playing off the smoky flavor of the fish (probably smoked trout) and the tang of the peppers.
Kulp’s take on bagels and lox was truly inspiring. He cures his salmon with beet juice, slices it paper thin, rounds it out with homemade fluffy cream cheese, fronds of fragrant dill along with dill cucumbers and serves it on a homemade long soft pretzel roll ($9). I don’t know where Kulp gets these ideas. He takes classics and puts his own spin on them.
Yin sent us a sampling of Kulp’s other dishes. Yogurt with ginger and chopped pistachio nuts with thinly sliced Granny Smith apples and a drizzle of honey ($6.50). His yogurt imparted a rich flavor and texture and lacks the strong tang of commercial yogurt. Roasted beets and feta ($4) proved when something is simply good and fresh and straightforward, leave it alone.
The Sicilian cauliflower ($5) packed the right punch. The smoky flavor of grilled cauliflower mingled with the sweetness of currants, and the crunch of pistachio nuts was in perfect balance, resulting in a dish I am going to try to prepare at home.
One will get big eyes when reading the list of pastries on offer at High Street on Market. Pistachio escargot ($3) was shaped like a snail’s shell and prepared with a dough that I can only describe as a combination of croissant and puff pastry. The pistachio nuts were candied but not too sweet. Steaming mugs of Rival Brothers coffee ended our flawless brunch.
Service was efficient and quiet. The staff watches the tables, and thank goodness there was no endless chatter. We enjoyed the same fine service as everyone in the packed room.
Customers can walk up to the counter and see the dishes they might want to order. Edward and I decided to buy some of Kulp’s unusual breads, a half a loaf of potato bread and half a loaf his caraway rye ($7) that we used for a late supper of egg salad sandwiches.
I don’t think there is a restaurant in the city that can match Kulp’s brunch creations. The restaurant just started dinner service. A quick glance at the menu insured a return visit.
Four tips of the toque to High Street on Market.
308 Market St.
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