Back in the days when I was actually well rounded, one of my favorite things to do was grab the Sunday paper and settle into a table at a nearby café for brunch. Lazy Sundays are harder to come by lately, but Valentine’s Day was a great excuse to disconnect, which is how we ended up at Canele. The Atwater Village bistro has developed a loyal (primarily local) following due to chef Corina Weibel’s Mediterranean-influenced food and front-of-the-house partner Jane Choi’s ingratiating service. My last dinner at the restaurant was solid, but bloggers like Mattatouille and gas•tron•o•my kept raving about brunch. Their advice led to my best Canele experience yet.
At Canele, egg dishes ($11.50 each) are available “in a hole,” “en cocote,” in a deep dish quiche Lorraine, omelet or breakfast cassoulet, soft scrambled, or with bacon and fried farro, mustard greens and Sriracha. As good as several of those dishes sounded, duck hash with fried duck egg was the most irresistible option. I’m a total hash hound, and any excuse to devour duck confit is a win. Canele was a little stingy with the duck, but it was hard to argue with the crusty dome of potatoes, a buttery golden cousin of Yukon gold from Rutiz Family Farms. Spilling over the side of the dome was the seasoned yolk from a duck egg, which added good richness to the mass. It would have been impossible to overcome the dish’s density, but pickled onion strands helped to cut some of the richness. Great hash.
The other dish that @mattatouille and @gastronomyblog raved about was the Thick French Toast ($7.50), three massive slabs of pain perdu that were custardy inside and caramelized on either end. We had the option to add poached prunes and mascarpone for an extra $2.50, and gladly accepted the challenge. The sticky, spreadable prunes and creamy mascarpone added a sweet tang that helped balance the yolky richness of the toast. This was al elite French toast, with enough food to feed two people, at least.
Canele offers some interesting sides, several of which are displayed on the counter, which pretty much make them irresistible. The sticky buns looked first rate, but we opted for the pumpkin brioche with date butter ($4.50). The fluffy bread didn’t really have much pumpkin flavor, and it could have been warmer, but the date-flecked butter added winning sweetness.
It was 11 AM on Valentine’s Day, prime brunching time, so it was a surprise to see so many seats free at the airy Atwater Village cafe. Considering Canele’s hash and French toast, there should be a line out the door. There isn’t another brunch in the area that can compete.