The Culinary Rhythm of El Encanto

By Zach Rosen   |   April 16, 2024

Brunch. It’s the perfect meal for when you know the day is going to happen at some point but there is no rush to get there – drifting somewhere past the time of breakfast and maybe on the precipice of lunch and beyond. This magical meal sets the pace and expectations for the rest of the day. If all you do for the day is brunch – you’ve done enough. 

The Brazilian fish stew, Moqueqa, is the one dish not to miss

El Encanto recently launched a new Bossa Nova Brunch on Sundays (11:30 am – 2 pm) that perfectly fits the tempo of this malleable meal. Much like a bossa nova beat, the menu is both relaxed and upbeat and can fit whatever rhythm you’re looking to move to that day. Set on El Encanto’s iconic Riviera terrace that overlooks the splendor of our area, the meal starts off with a deep breath of fresh fare – dragon fruit, kiwis, mango, and the Brazilian cheese buns, pão de queijo. From there, you can order appetizers like a lush guava cinnamon roll or just jump right into the rhythm. 

The menu features an aptly named “Fresh Take on Latin Flavors” section that offers a range of light and rich food to suit whatever mood you’re in. The Acai Buddha Bowl or Tropical Granola are two items that will both refresh and indulge the palate with tropical fruits that are both fulfilling and fun. The avocado toast is a California classic with an adventure of texture bringing together the silken quality of avocado and peppered lemon ricotta with the crunch of a pistachio pomegranate gremolata and a touch of bitter roughage from the purple frizz mustard greens. 

Things start to heat up with the Roasted Hearts of Palm Salad where colorful little gem greens, black beans, and quinoa are decorated with avocado, crispy shallot, mango and more. A guava vinaigrette melds together the tropical elements while providing a dash of acidity to sharpen the dish. In the chilaquiles, braised Mary’s chicken breast and salsa verde set the stage while nopales and violet slices of ninja radish bring a bit of a twist to the cilantro and sprinkles of cotija topping the dish. 

The menu’s signature plate section brings you one step further into the Bossa Nova pace with more decadent dishes that both excite and appease the palate. The breakfast burrito features a carnitas and black bean feijoada stew with red quinoa and kale accenting the familiar additions of scrambled eggs, potatoes, and cheddar cheese. On the sweeter side of things is a chocolate waffle delicately swimming in a cachaça banana caramel and coconut Chantilly cream. The crepes come folded around a blueberry lemon ricotta and are topped with a blueberry compote and dollops of a cinnamon mascarpone that add a roasty tone. Shavings of candied lemon peel bring a contrasting hue and a bit of sweet bitterness to round out the mellifluous dish. 

Truly, though – the standout offering on the entire menu was the Moqueqa. When we arrived, there was only one order left so make sure to get there early enough to get one. The Brazilian seafood stew is filled with hearty prawns and a local halibut that gently flaked off into the coconut broth dotted with roasted peppers. Fresh cilantro and a lime slice rolled in Tajín sit atop the stew, and a side of cilantro lime rice completes the flavor set. The Moqueqa is reminiscent of a Thai curry but with a Latin edge and will certainly be the part of your meal you remember most. 

If the morning brain fog still hasn’t faded away and you’re looking for a sense of the familiar there are certainly several traditional brunch options like an eggs benedict or smoked salmon gravlax on an everything bagel. Of course the steak and eggs come with a dash of chimichurri to bring a little Latin flair to the dish. The Santa Barbara Madame particularly struck a note with me. This play on the croque madame has slices of avocado to give the sandwich its ‘Santa Barbara’ moniker. The pieces of brioche were structured enough (but also not too chewy) to hold together throughout the sandwich as you work your way down the layers of egg, decadent mornay sauce, and rosemary ham from the Berkeley-based esteemed producer of cured delicacies, Fra’ Mani. It came with a side of potato hash cake that fulfilled a personal need for all things potato and the herbal, gently browned cake comes with several of the dishes but can also be ordered as an appetizer (recommended).

While brunch is usually accompanied by a mimosa or bloody mary – and certainly they have both on the menu – it was the Passion Fruit Caipirinha that captured our hearts and serenaded us into a second round. A caipirinha traditionally blends together cachaça, sugar, and lime. The Brazilian spirit Cachaça, most often seen in its unaged, silver form, is similar to rum but is produced from the fresh sugarcane (versus molasses as in rum) that gives it a livelier flavor. Their version comes with a blend of citrus and the passion fruit gave the cocktail a sunny disposition. It drinks like an adult glass of OJ and its summery character pairs well with the full range of flavors found on the menu. Its acidity can cut down on the sweeter items while its vibrant fruit character will enrich the more savory dishes.

With our bellies now bursting, the sun fully risen, and a few caipirinhas determining our pace, we had successfully ‘brunched’ and were ready to start the day – or not. It’s brunch… we had
done enough.  


You might also be interested in...