A Brunching of Gays heads for Uptown’s hottest eatery: Top Knot
When Uchi opened its Maple Avenue location last summer following months of fanfare, it was welcomed with orgasmic enthusiasm. Here was a sushi restaurant that was more than a “sushi restaurant;” a Japanese fine-dining establishment free of kitschy shrimp-flipping, with sophisticated recipes that resisted the dreaded label “fusion cuisine.”
So when the owners announced a more casual iteration of Uchi upstairs from the same location, called Top Knot, foodies speculated: Would it be Uchi-Lite, the junior varsity team practicing drills on diners? And the answer has clearly been “not on your life.” And the main way is has been able to distinguish itself is by offering something its big brother doesn’t: Brunch.
Top Knot, like Uchi, is an evening-only restaurant, except that starting at 11 a.m. Sundays and going for four hours, it offers a menu perfectly tailored for an upscale crowd, with elegant recipes that only say “brunch” because of when it is offered. Complex and carefully curated, it provides a feast for foodies.
Plates are divided into five categories if you discount beverages: Pastries, specialties, salads, sides and the catch-all brunch plates. And each can be explored with reckless abandon, especially if you (1) bring friends and (2) have an appetite.
Some of the items echo traditional offerings, but with the same twist that gave Uchi its unique flair. When we ordered the Thai French toast ($12.50), we were wowed by what arrived: A two-inch block of bread that appeared, at first, to be strangely charred. But no, that color was not the result of too much toasting, but from being soaked in Thai tea, which imbued the brioche with a brickish tint. The crust, which seemed imposing, embraced a fluffy center. Add a savory dollop crème fraiche in place of the usual sweep whipping cream, and you have a Texas-sized staple with an Asian tweak.
And the menu just kept moving that way, in strange places that delight the palate.
My dining companion loves brunch, but isn’t much one for eggs, so Top Knot offered him a playground of alternatives. We ordered the bakery board ($12), a sampler platter of carbohydrates. We all instinctively dove for the kolache first (filled with a kind of pork paté), but every item was a hit, from the creamy-sweet cornbread (served in a cast-iron mini-skillet) to a fluffy honey-glazed biscuit to a miso-caramel cinnabun and oaty muffin top.
We doubled down on the carbs twice more. First with a one-of-a-kind item none of us could have anticipated: The potato-shishito hash ($4) was a bowl of small skin-on glazed potatoes, topped with blistered peppers. It, like everything else, didn’t last long. We then backtracked to more biscuits ($5), this time doused in a waterfall of white gravy.
Valentine indulged in a hot fried chicken bun ($7), a bite-sized barbecue-sauced slider that packed less heat that we could have handled. The breakfast bun ($14) was an almost unwieldy stack of Canadian bacon, egg and pimento cheese on a poppy-seed roll, but it ate less like a sandwich than a slowly deconstructing casserole; we ate it with knife and fork more efficiently than both hands.
Two rice dishes got everyone excited. The daily onigiri ($7) was a kind of Japanese arancini cake, crowned with a delicately poached egg and hint of sweet vinegar from a kim chi caramel. It conjured Japanese cuisine without overwhelming the palate. Very similar was the Katsudon ($13), a similar dish with the addition of sliced pork cutlet. No complaints on the taste, though one of my dining companions was disappointed by its smallness. (It’s not like we could have eaten much more than we did. Top Knot’s brunch seems designed to be tapas style — shared plates everyone can take a bite of.)
While mimosas and bellinis are also available at lunch, we were all drawn to the more mixology-focused cocktail men, which included a mescal mule ($12), a whiskey punch ($8) and pamplamousse ($9).
Service was effortless and friendly — you could tell the waitstaff was genuinely proud of what they were serving — though it would have been nice if when we ordered a side of hot sauce ($2.50) they had told us it also came complimentary with the dish we ordered it for. That’s a minor point at such an agreeable and inviting addition to the local landscape. Who knew brunch was in need of reinvention?
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 20, 2016.