Review: Honu Kitchen & Cocktails: Summer Brunch

The Scene

The sun was out, the top was down, and all I could hear were the birds as I drove indecisively around one of the municipal lots in Huntington, confounded by the luxury of choice in that usually crowded space. It was only a street crossing from where I parked to get to Honu, where huzzy and I were meeting my old mentor and his lovely lady friend for a leisurely work-/play brunch date. I was there to take pictures for my upcoming post for Edible Long Island’s web site, and to enjoy a meal at one of my favorite restaurants on the island with some of my favorite people on the island.

They were already seated in one of the squashy armchairs on the left of the entrance, waters in hand and drinks on order, and we greeted each other to the pleasant clinking of silver and glass of the alfresco diners to the right. The tall windows/doors on both sides were spread open in New York City style for an indoor/outdoor experience, with a rail to separate the sidewalk and people from the eating space and people-watchers.

Because this was only their second week in, the cavernous inside space felt even more cavernous and awesome than usual. However, with the sunlight and fresh air streaming in, this was not a problem. Instead, it felt like being in on a secret, a special VIP service provided by attentive, smiling servers and friendly managers like Kelly, who had the luxury of time to spend with each table and get to know their brunchers. No rush, no muss, no fuss.

The Food

I expected the food to be outstanding; I said so in my preview post. As a past repeat customer at Honu, I’ve literally only ever had one thing that wasn’t exceptional. Talking to the owner, Mark Zecher, before my visit only set the bar higher, and I’m delighted to share that the meal still managed to exceed expectations.

  • Bread for the table is a luxury for brunch, and what Honu provided went even further. No tired, manufactured muffins or half-assed toast here! Jalapenos added zest and pop to soft, crumbly mini-loaves of cornbread that would have disintegrated were the accompanying herb butter not at a perfectly spreadable room temperature. Dusted with the lightest bit of flour, lending the slightest hint of earthiness, I could have eaten nothing but this cornbread and left satisfied. (But of course, I didn’t. The menu is, in every sense, irresistible.) My best advice is to save some to go with the other Southwestern-inpsired dishes on the menu.
  • The Lobster Benedict was a sumptuous feast for the eyes and mouth. A full Maine lobster tail of middling size was split between two toasted halves of oversized English muffin, which was toasted just enough to stand up to the Benedict’s hefty toppings and thick, creamy Hollandaise. No separation in this sunny, butter-yellow sauce, its richness well balanced by the freshness of the sweet lobster. Wilted baby spinach created a bed between bread and egg, and its generous portion made me feel good about including veggies in my breakfast.
  • The Southwestern Benedict was probably one of the best classic Benedicts I’ve had on Long Island. I say “classic” because it’s wasn’t quite as exotic and Southwestern as they could have taken it, but that’s in no way any kind of insult. I’m a purist, so to me, the ancho chili in the Hollandaise was an elevation rather than a departure from the norm. It added a subtle smoke rather than heat, giving more dimension to a sauce that, when not done correctly, can be bland. This sauce, as tasted from the Lobster Benedict was already far from bland, and only got better with the added flavor. The country ham was lean but flavorful, griddled hot, and again, and folded over in large enough quantity that no bite had to do without. The eggs were perfectly poached, the whites firmly set and the yolks running viscously down into the oversized, toasted English muffins, and every single bite was in perfect proportion. 
  • Thick and fluffy Texas toast was the foundation for the Blueberry Cream Cheese French Toast, which again, was generous in its ingredients. Thick, solid cream cheese filled the middle of three halves, with fresh blueberries as their bedfellows. Dipped in a classic batter, then griddled golden, this would please the less adventurous and the more classically-inclined. Because the cream cheese wasn’t melty all the way through, there was a lot of richness to it, especially set against the white bread of the Texas toast. The fresh fruit served on the side lightens up the dish.
  • Homefries are as ubiquitous to brunch and breakfast as coffee and eggs, and like everything else we tried, these homely potatoes showed how basics can be anything but. Crispy but not greasy, sweet onions and bell peppers punctuated the starchy goodness of the potatoes, and unlike other renditions, these two vegetables were not fried to high heaven, but sauteed tender-crisp into the potatoes. All were seasoned well.
  • To go with my Southwestern Benedict, I chose the Fire-Roasted Corn as a substitute side; I was trying to have fewer carbs and incorporate more vegetables (starchiness notwithstanding) and this seemed like a good choice in terms of complementary flavor profiles. This was delicious and another heaping portion. Red bell peppers, buttery flavors, great spices, and that hint of char made this good to the last kernel.
  • The Sauteed Broccolini in garlic oil was initially my first choice for a substitute side (fiber! Vitamins A and K!), but I worried it would be too greasy since many restaurants tend to overdo the oil aspect of “garlic and oil.” I should have known that Honu would show refined restraint, because this was perfect. It was only lightly tossed in it, and the broccolini was crisp, a bright green, and flavorful.

The Drinks

  • Coffee is served by the clear glass mug, and brewed fresh and strong. Milk is a default, served in a chilled metal creamer, and sugar, raw sugar, Splenda, and another artificial sweetener were provided.
  • House Bellinis and Mimosas are served in glass flutes for $5 a glass, along with House Bloody Marys. Specialty drinks were also on offer, including a spicy Bloody that featured a pickled jalapeno and a tortilla-crusted rim, which was a big hit in our group.

I loved …

  • The fact that the fruit on the plate was plentiful enough to be more than decor.
  • That the fruit puree in the Bellini was ripe and not syrupy.
  • That there was a full lobster tail on the Lobster Benedict.
  • That the eggs were perfectly, flawlessly poached on every single Benedict on the table.
  • That you could substitute any side offered for the homefries.
  • That there were options that felt healthy, like vegetables and fruit salads, on offer as sides and as components to the entrees.
  • That the dessert menu was available if you really wanted to “treat yo’self.”
  • That there was a full special cocktail menu with creative concoctions designed just for brunch.
  • The big, filling portions.
  • That you could eat outside.
  • That we never once felt rushed.
  • That brunch is served all the way to 4 PM.

Honu Kitchen & Cocktails: 363 New York Avenue, Huntington

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