Normally I don't visit a restaurant for brunch before trying it out for dinner, but I have been on a Latin brunch-kick lately, and Rayuela's menu caught my eye, allowing me to skip dinner and go straight to brunch. Rayuela means "hopscotch" in Spanish, which I believe references Chef Maximo Tejada's cuilnary dabblings represented in his menu, and his brunch menu is no different.
Before I get to the food, I'd like to point out the decor because I liked it a lot. There is a live olive tree growing in the middle of the restaurant, roots sprouting and all, the bar in front looks like it's sitting atop piles of rocks, and the walls are lined with river stones from Peru. Oh and the banquette seating is so comfortable, you won't want to get up. I know I'm making it sound like some weird indoor wilderness with couches, but it's actually very cool. I like.
What is the one thing you won't usually see me start a meal with? Aside from a bowl of cilantro, it would probably be oysters, however Chef Maximo sold us on these blue point oysters crusted in quinoa, deep fried and drizzled with a poblano pepper and serrano ham aioli. This is the third time Hal and I have gotten stuck eating oysters together, and I think this was the first time we actually enjoyed it. The sauce was creamy and mild, a perfect compliment to the crispy, salty oyster. Again, oysters are not my favorite thing in the world but they're growing on me, and how many times do I have to say it? If you fry it, I'll try it.
Bread is often overlooked these days during brunch, which is kind of disappointing, so you can imagine my happiness with Rayuela's basket of bread and muffins with creme fraiche butter. Corn muffins, parmesan bread, rolls, raspberry muffins (delicious), and chocolate muffins. There weren't any that I didn't like.
Next up was probably my favorite dish that we tried: the squid ink corn-cake tamale with collard greens, lobster, shrimp and a rocotto pepper and pisco sauce. The corn cake was a deep blue color thanks to the squid ink (and if the sound of that scares you, trust me you don't taste anything fishy), studded with bits of corn, floating on top of perfectly cooked shrimp and lobster. The pepper and pisco sauce was nice and spicy too (pisco is a type of Peruvian brandy) with it's bright red-orange color.
At this point, I was sincerely hoping for some eggs and fortunately we got them in the form of Nuevo Latino eggs benedict and a farmer's breakfast. The eggs benedict are made with yuca and quinoa cakes as opposed to an English muffin, serrano ham in place of Canadian bacon, and topped with a delicious poblano pepper and basil sauce instead of hollandaise. I thought this was tasty, but I have to say it was a little hard to eat. The serrano ham doesn't cut easily (think of it like prosciutto), and the egg was a little runny, so things were slipping and sliding all over the place. The farmer's breakfast (forget actual name but that's what it was like) was eggs, pancakes with brandied pineapple jam and chorizo. The chorizo was delicious, but I thought the pancakes were just ok. The pineapple jam was too sweet for me, and I'm more of a french toast person anyway. More on that later…
Ok is it time for later? Damn it. Not yet. We tried the seafood paella with saffron rice, mussels, lobster, and clams. This is definitely something for sharing, and one of those heavier lunch items I referenced earlier. The lobster here was consistently good, but the mussels were kind of like biting into the ocean. For some this isn't a bad thing, in fact it might even be considered a good thing but for me it was a little too strong. Next time I'll take the mussels, hold the ocean.
Now…behold the brioche! French toast stuffed with peanut butter, that is. I love this city for feeding my addiction to peanut butter; it's popping up more and more lately and I am all for this movement. Oddly enough, Hal and I had different opinions on this one - I thought it was close to PB Perfection, but he said that the french toast was too soggy. I happen to like my french toast on the squishier side, so maybe it's a matter of preference. We both agreed that the peanut butter was a nice, creamy consistency, and the caramelized bananas on top were a nice touch. Good thing I went to the gym prior to this meal, right?
Chef Maximo manages to keep Rayuela's dishes consistently tasty, despite how different some of them may be. I'd certainly go back for dinner, and would not mind another brunch. Did I mention the watermelon-acai sangria? Umm..divine. The inspired cocktails would be reason enough to go back, in my opinion. Sangria and french toast, anyone?