I waddled over to the fridge one cold, Sunday afternoon and couldn’t find anything in there to satisfy my hunger after a late night of drinking. I decided it was the perfect day to follow the advice of my friends and finally try the brunch at Central Social Hall: a bright, upscale restaurant by day, and a groovy bar and club by night. Conveniently located at the intersection of 109th Street and Jasper Avenue, most people go there on a Friday or Saturday night to bask in the club scene that Central offers, throwing back drinks and dancing by the bar. However, I was only determined to have a sober (but hungover) experience of the pub, so brunch was a go. Even though it was almost 2 p.m., we were lucky to make it in time for a hearty brunch since CSH offers brunch until 3 p.m. on weekends and holidays and then stays open late with their regular lunch/dinner menu afterwards.
Our first item, the Albacore Tuna Tataki, was chosen off their regular menu as our appetizer. For $16, I was hoping this would be a large portion of albacore tuna so that it would be worth the price. When the dish came out, the portion of tuna was a bit disappointing, but I was impressed by the fact that it only took five minutes or so for the food to arrive. The crispy wontons were much too large to fit in our mouths for one big bite but were the right size to fit a slice of lightly seared tuna, with a touch of wasabi aioli and ponzu sauce glazed on top. The fresh smell of the tuna will take your mind right to a west coast shoreline.
The tuna was perfectly seared, and just thick enough to overpower the crispiness and size of the wonton that held it. The wasabi aioli, however, didn’t taste as mild as the salad did, but the creaminess and spiciness contrasted the crunch of the wonton and saltiness of the salad very effectively. I would very much recommend this dish as a light appetizer or maybe even as a small meal as I personally didn’t want to share it after the first few bites. I can confidently say that the tuna tataki was worth the full $16.
Our main dish from the brunch menu, the croque madame, arrived right as we finished our appetizer, as if our server had been timing us very carefully — impressive! The homey smell of the cheese and buttery sourdough radiated around us even before the food reached our table. The beautifully contrasting colours of the white hollandaise and green chives, dressed carefully on top of the sunny-side up egg across the bread, only made our mouths water. Pulling the bread slices apart slightly, I caught the aroma of the crispy bacon and gruyere cheese.
The first bite was crunchy at first from the lightly toasted bread, then soft on the inside as I hit the cheese. I hate to say that I was expecting more hollandaise sauce on top as I couldn’t grasp very much of it for my first bite, and I didn’t feel like I really tasted the croque madame until a few bites in. A couple more slices of bacon would’ve made it more desirable as well, as the sandwich didn’t feel complete unless I was having the middle part of it where the cheese, hollandaise, bacon, and egg all laid on top of each other. Once I did get to that bite, though, I couldn’t help but imagine my grandma’s weekend breakfasts from when I was a young girl. The saltiness of the bacon and cheese offset the sweetness of the hollandaise perfectly, satisfying my hunger at last.
Though our initial impression of Central Social Hall wasn’t the greatest due to the lack of service and attention, the place did redeem itself through the exceptional food and cheap cocktails. The appetizer did cost more and was smaller in portioning than the main dish, so I can’t say I love the pricing choices of the menu. However, it is understandable that good tuna can be pricey so no hard feelings there. You can never go wrong with $5 cocktails either. Overall, brunch at CSH is definitely worth the money. I can truly see why my friends would make such a recommendation. A late, brunch is perfect to be had here, and you can even bring your kids.