When the guy who did for Miracle Berries what Captain Planet did for the environment begins brunch, you take notice. When Homaro Cantu and his executive chef Tim Havidic serve brunch at iNG, it's a pretty big deal. Like a curious group of kids gawking at a magician, wondering what they'll pull out of their hat next, diners likely approach with awed anticipation. Dovetailed with iNG's current craft beer-themed dinner menu, the "Chicago Craft Beer Brunch Menu" is at once perplexing, exciting, and enticing.
Of all the themes to instate brunch with, craft beer seems an odd choice. Do people commonly associate brunch with beer? Aside from the occasional beer cocktail, likely not. But I wouldn't expect conformity from the Cantu clan, so I appreciate the candor that comes with a beer-minded brunch debut. With iNG's Craft Beer 'Mosa ($6), this makes two weeks in a row that I've had a beer cocktail with brunch. This one is light, effervescent, and crisp, with pungent beer notes ricocheting harmoniously off the sweet sparkling wine.
Another parallel to last week's brunch excursion is the smoked salmon ($16), although this interpretation is so different from last week's gravlax and bagel combo that it'd be like comparing apples to antelopes in putting the two next to one another. At first glance, the plate looks pretty formulaic, what with a smattering of smoked fish slivers, some wilted scallions, and an egg, but what really sets this plate apart is the potatoes. A far cry from any standard breakfast potato, these fritters explode like molten lava cake, with a delicate crust giving way to a starchy interior that is so creamy and light it is practically vichyssoise. Each dish on the brunch menu comes with some sort of beer element, in line with the sudsy theme. This dish contains a splash of I.P.A., the bitterness of which is a pleasant addition to the melee of smoke and buttery spuds.
No surprise here, but iNG's biscuits and gravy ($12) are unlike anything you've consumed at any diner. Unless you frequent diners that peddle pig face and pimenton gravy. This humble-looking dish contains a couple doughy biscuits shellacked with chorizo- and pig face-infused pimenton gravy, which basically takes care of your protein consumption for the week. The chorizo slivers are left in tact, providing a bit of chew against the shredded niblets of pig face, which essentially melt into the sauce and give it the cheeky infusion it really needs. There's also a bit of heady stout thrown into the mix, just because this thing isn't rich enough as is.
Compared to some of the other things Cantu and co. have done over the years, iNG's brunch is relatively tame, but that's probably because people aren't quite ready to have their minds warped that early in the day. Still, diners can expect novel twists and turns throughout the menu, as commonplace brunch dishes undergo inventive re-interpretations.