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Howard County dining: Brunch at The Kings Contrivance Restaurant

Dining and DrinkingRestaurantsBrunchCooking

With Mother’s Day in the offing, consider Sunday brunch as a great gift. Actually, brunch seems like a well-deserved indulgence any time of year, for any of us. 

The sit-down-and-be-served Sunday brunch at The Kings Contrivance Restaurant is easy and effortless. Except, of course, for deciding what you want to order. But then you get to enjoy a bit of the bubbly while you ponder what goodies you want next.

Part of the attraction of The Kings Contrivance, which opened in 1962, is the charming Federal-style mansion that is its home. Especially appealing at brunch is the sunporch, boasting an entire wall of large windows that overlook the restaurant’s expansive lawns and gardens.    

The seasonal Sunday menu we tried wasn’t all that huge, but Executive Chef Sugunya Lunz has devised plenty of temptation. It’s a prix fixe affair, with appetizers and breakfast main courses, including champagne or mimosa, at $25, and champagne, appetizers, a few upscale dinner entrees (like crab cakes, veal piccata and New York strip), as well as dessert, for $42.

We luxuriated in the food, which, for the most part, bespoke good coordination between the kitchen and the front of the house.

From among eight appetizers we chose five different dishes. Shellfish bisque was that lovely orangey-pink hue, boasting plenty of shellfish bits in a thick, smooth sherry-laced sea. A bit salty, but comforting and satisfying, especially to a native Free Stater.

The word “jumbo” in the shrimp cocktail description was no exaggeration. The shrimp were set on a bed of radicchio with a seafood cocktail sauce and a spicy housemade mayo dunk.

Crispy fried oysters were especially generous and especially good. In this case, the bivalves were perfectly golden-crisp on the outside, and tender-juicy within, and served with a pair of dunking sauces to boot.

Baked brie was the most attractive appetizer that day. A good-sized wedge of creamy brie had been wrapped in phyllo and baked so that flaky dough layers provided a charming textural contrast to the warm, oozy cheese inside. More texture was achieved in the fruit compote (apricots and figs) smoothed with port wine sauce, along with the toasted almond slices that were sprinkled atop and beside the brie.

Mainly eggs

Eight of the 10 brunch entrees feature eggs in one form or another: four Benedicts, two omelets, a frittata (egg whites only), and a roast beef hash topped with “sunnyside” eggs. Brioche French toast and grilled Norwegian salmon filled the rest of the bill.

Lobster Benedict lived up to its name with plenty of lobster arranged over the traditional bed of toasted English muffins and perfect (e.g., “runny”) poached eggs, all under a generous pool of bright and sunny, herby and lemony hollandaise sauce. The dish included crisp-tender oven-roasted potato wedges and a cheese-sprinkled baked tomato half. The veggie Benedict received the same loving treatment, with freshly cooked mushrooms, asparagus and barely wilted spinach.

We guessed at least four eggs were featured in the Cajun omelet, along with small bits of seafood, plus that pleasant zing for which “N’awlins” cuisine is noted.

The Norwegian salmon was not huge, but it was lightly flavored and perfectly grilled, then drizzled with a silky lemon butter enlivened with capers. A side dish of freshly cooked spinach provided a salty-spicy contrast to the fish.

This particular brunch was also a birthday celebration, so even though it wasn’t included, we ordered up a profiterole ($8) from the dessert menu. (Actually, the servers had heard us talking, so also brought a candle-topped mini-sweet to our honoree.) The rest of us shared the large ice-cream-filled cream puff, which featured very generous “garnishes” of raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and blackberries. Because one of our guests has a chocolate allergy, the traditional chocolate sauce was served on the side.  Plenty for all of us, although we wished the cream puff itself hadn’t been quite as limp, and that the chocolate sauce had been heated.

But that’s picking nits. Food, service, setting and even price made all of us feel special.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Dining and DrinkingRestaurantsBrunchCooking
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