If there's one taboo I'm guilty of, it's judging the book by its cover, be it an actual book that I don't feel like reading or a restaurant/bar that looks offputting simply by the way the windows look and the faint aroma of cigarettes linger outside. Having preemptively judged The Rocking Horse in the past, I was pleasantly surprised at the breadth of its new brunch menu, which re-invents itself in a way that Lindsay Lohan is constantly trying to do and failing at. Although a few missteps pop up along the way, The Rocking Horse has much more success with its recent menu rehab.
One would expect a bar to have a stellar version of a Bloody Mary, and indeed The Rocking Horse does, though it's curiously simple compared to the rest of the daring, potentially overwrought brunch menu. Save the bacon jam egg salad for later and just drink in the aromatic, pungent simplicity of this Bloody Mary ($5). There's olives, some citrus, and the general musky satisfaction that comes with a bracing Bloody. It's a solid, safe bet when you're not looking to challenge your taste buds early in on a weekend.
Now on to the wacky. And by that I mean egg salad so creamy you could suck it through a straw, and bacon jam so heady it tastes like a forest fire. One of the greatest oddities on the brunch menu, or any brunch menu I've seen of late, is The Rocking Horse's pork pairing English muffins ($10). The bar seems to be trying to impress with its new menu by proving it knows that bacon jam is a thing and the kitchen can make it. That's all well and good, but maybe tone down the smoke, because a thin smear on an English muffin is devastatingly potent, distracting from everything else on the plate with nary a whisper of sweetness in the jam to mellow it out. Once you're done being bludgeoned in the face, everything else is pretty well-executed, as long as you like your egg salad as soft and smooth as compound butter. A rarity on brunch menus, the egg salad here is actually pretty delicious, especially when striated with thin discs of toothsome Canadian bacon on an English muffin with some ancho aïoli, and a side of fantastic, herb-flecked potatoes.
The real stunner of the menu, and one that is phenomenal enough to erase the bacon jam pockmark, is the duck confit hash ($11). I firmly believe that duck is the greatest thing to eat for brunch. It's the perfect brunch food in that it's greasy, fatty, and satisfyingly savory in all the same ways as bacon and eggs. The Rocking Horse goes a step further by working magic with their poultry, shredding the meat into paper-thin strands and cooking it to achieve a brittle, crackly patina. The resulting duck is none too oily, but boasts all the rich, salacious qualities we love about consuming water fowl. It's right at home atop a mound of potatoes, peppers, and onions, with a couple poached eggs nestled alongside.
I appreciate a restaurant that takes risks, especially one that manages to surprise with a menu far bolder than it has to be. Certainly not resting on any laurels, The Rocking Horse is going big with its new brunch menu and despite a smoky snafu now and again, the risks pay off. And that's why you shouldn't judge a book by its cover.