By Terry Trucco
What happens when a hip, budget-minded hotel decides to do a take on the classic hotel Sunday brunch?
You get Eat Yo Brunch at Yotel.
From our perch overlooking the hotel’s sprawling eating area on a recent Sunday, we sized up the food on our table and pictured the management tossing around ideas.
What’s the 21st-century version of buffet tables lined with Eggs Benedict, carved meats and pancake soufflé in silver tureens?
Unlimited small plates like halibut sliders, spicy tuna roll and bacon fried rice with kimchi. Dom Perignon too pricey? Go with cool cocktails like Bacon Bloody Marys and Lychee Bellinis, all you can drink. Dump the harpist and hire a DJ. Lose the ice sculpture. And keep it simple: charge $35 a head, and let guests stay a maximum of two hours to keep things moving. (The server warns you politely about the time limit before he takes your order.)
Yotel, the big purple 669-room hotel west of Times Square, can feel like a petri dish for new
ideas. We like how the beds in the tiniest rooms – and trust us, they’re really small – scrunch up like sofas with the push of a button. And Hotelchatter reports that the lobby Yobot, the robotic porter that stores your bags, is now equipped to ferry luggage directly to Jet Blue’s JFK air terminal, with more airlines coming on board soon.
But back to Yo brunch. The Dohyo restaurant, named for the Japanese sumo ring, sprawls on the hotel’s fourth floor, a Jetson-inspired expanse that feels like a space station with white walls and floors. Banquettes with tables form a raised semicircle around a huge rectangle where guests sit on the floor at long low tables. The floor can be covered over for dancing, and it’s where things get interesting at brunch.
We went spur of the moment and joined a long line of guests shortly after brunch starts at 11 am (it’s better to book ahead). After considerable juggling by the host – we loved his steel-gray nail polish – he led us to a banquette table under a lively manga mural.
The menu lists 11 brunch dishes, five cold plates and nine hot plates, all small. A mash-up of tweaked brunch offerings (Wagyu brisket Benedict, wild mushroom omelette), Asian influences (wok-seared cauliflower, hijiki seaweed salad) and comfort food (house ground meatballs), they’re designed for groups but fine for two or even one, as we discovered. Same with the drinks, which come in flutes, goblets or, if you want, say, sake sangria for the table, pitchers.
We plunged in, and within what felt like an instant, small plates began to appear, deposited on
the table by fleet-footed servers in khaki pants and purple polo shirts. The veggie Benedict, an English muffin smothered in spinach, tomatoes, poached egg and chipolte chili hollandaise, tasted zingy and bright as did the spicy tuna roll stuffed with cucumber, sesame and wasabi tohiko. The showstopper was the French toast, two slender slices dipped in roasted pineapple preserve.
We sipped our mango mimosa (delicious) and surveyed the dohyo area. The music pulsated and, as if on cue, a tall slender guy in tight jeans jumped up from a table of men and sashayed down the aisle, transforming it into an impromptu runway. Applause. As if a gauntlet had been thrown down, a woman in a shirt studded with flashing red lights leaped up and swaggered down her aisle. More applause.
Our second round appeared – a slender, juicy slice of grilled salmon with orange chili glaze and wasabi mashed potatoes, a superb seared tuna salad with miso mustard vinagrette and Yukon gold tostones (greasy – the lone dud). Another mango mimosa kept things rolling.
At the table next to us, three women celebrated the birthday of the blonde in their midst with a pitcher of mango mimosas and divvied up halibut sliders, a seaweed salad and falafel lettuce wraps, for starters. Their French toast disappeared so quickly they ordered another.
We wrapped with the menu’s closest approximation of dessert – a glass coffee cup filled with fruit, granola and yuzu yogurt, the perfect blend of sour and sweet. It hit the spot. Sounds from the other side of the room heralded another birthday. Stuffed to the gills, we threw in the napkin – under two hours so we’ll never know if bouncers appear if you run down the clock. No matter. The presentation and packaging may be new, but Eat Yo Brunch is a classic hotel brunch in every other way. We’ll be back.
Eat Yo Brunch is served Sundays 11 am to 3 pm at Yotel, 570 Tenth Avenue at West 24nd Street. 646 449-7700.