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The Brunch List: September '13
Classy gluttony at Jing'an, happy silence at el Willy, down home country grub at Hillbilly Tea and an exercise in spiritual discipline at Lynn.
By Sep 3, 2013 Dining
The Brunch List is our monthly column pinpointing great brunch spots around town. Everything below is all you need to know about where to get leisurely weekend eats.

Our September brunch selections are in. This month an exercise in patience and spiritual discipline at Lynn, edible luxury at The PuLi, happiness in silence at el Willy and Appalachian eats at Hillbilly Tea.

Jing'an at the PuLi

Good For: Gluttony, classed up

Brunch at the PuLi Hotel’s Jing’an restaurant is probably how Marie Antoinette and her cohort of spoiled brats used to eat. The central room has buffet tables laid out with things like pate, crab legs, lamb chops, grilled artichokes and fresh Chantilly cream made from real vanilla beans. High class stuff. On top of having this AYCE area at your disposal, the wait staff brings you made-to-order dishes straight from the kitchen (you can choose an additional two entrees and one dessert from parts of the restaurant’s regular dining menu, stuff like cod in red curry, softshell crab sliders or grilled pork belly).

Your tabletop will be covered with fancy food. Service is super attentive. The interiors are elegant and the other diners speak in muted tones, making for a relaxed, swanky sort of vibe. Probably best to leave the kiddies at home for this one. The whole thing will run you 398rmb plus a 15 percent service charge per person, which includes free flow coffee, tea, soft drinks and juice. 588rmb and they’ll throw in beer and house wine, while 788rmb gets you all of that plus champagne.

Sun: 11.30am-2.30pm
For a full brunch listing, click here.

el Willy

Good For: A really quiet brunch on the Bund

el Willy has a Saturday brunch that's pretty close to what its Mediterranean cousin Elefante does over on Donghu Lu. The main differences are that el Willy has that Bund view, and the focus here is on more traditional Spanish flavors. The rest of the brunch concept is the same: 175rmb gets you six courses — a soup, a salad, an egg-based tapas dish, a main, a rice dish and a dessert. Drinks are extra. The specifics of the menu change every week based on the seasonal ingredients the kitchen is able to get.

When we went, they had gazpacho with horseradish ice cream, a fresh but forgettable salad, a lightly poached egg with mushrooms and prawns, chicken tinga tacos, red mullet over pilaf and a basil sorbet with berries. It was all well executed. Even then, there was something lacking in the experience. On the day that we visited, the place was totally empty and most of the staff was hanging around, looking bored and tapping away at their cell phones. Only two other tables were occupied in the huge space. Might be a good spot for people looking to brunch on the Bund in total peace and quiet, but for us, it felt strangely subdued for a meal branded as the “Happy Happy Brunch”.

Sat: 11.30am-3pm
For a full brunch listing, click here.

Hillbilly Tea

Good For: Stick to your ribs Appalachian eats

Hillbilly Tea has dispatched Executive Chef Arpad Lengyel from the home base in Louisville, Kentucky to revamp the menu, and the brunch menu has seen a change for the better. He's removed some of the awkward items—like "spicy" shrimp and grits served on a glass pedestal plate—and replaced them with stuff that Shanghai can better wrap its brain around. From the stockpot they have a hearty chicken and wheat berry soup with grilled bread (36rmb). Or there are cold starters like an arugula salad with fresh watermelon and goat cheese (48rmb).

Brunch mains are limited, but probably all that this microscopic kitchen can handle, so we won't fault them. The skillet pancake (59rmb) is a definite standout performer with its pillowy texture and delicately toasted crust. They also do traditional biscuits and gravy with an egg (68rmb). The best deal, though, is the Hillbilly Deluxe. For 83rmb you get that skillet pancake, scrambled eggs, cheese grits and a choice of bacon or homemade sausage. We suggest the sausage. For something a little more lunchy, they've got a pulled pork and corn pone plate (66rmb), or that down-home Southern classic, the tofu burger (79rmb. ). If you need a caffeine recharge, don't ask for a coffee. Don't be that guy. Instead, go for one of their proprietary tea blends (35–60rmb). They're strong several brewings, so rest assured, you will be thoroughly wired.

Sat-Sun: 11am-5pm
For a full brunch listing, click here.


Good For: Cheap grub... and that's about it

Lynn's weekend dim sum special has been a Sunday afternoon standby for dim sum staples like turnip cakes, shrimp dumplings, rice rolls and crispy tofu skin. They do dim sum portions of lots of local dishes, too, like xiaolongbao and drunken chicken. But to truly enjoy Lynn's dim sum, one must cultivate total cessation of mind, what Zen Buddhists call satori. It's a state of purity of body, speech and mind. Picayune matters no longer affect you; you have achieved total consciousness and awareness. At Lynn, you can reach this state through a regimen of controlled breathing as you concentrate on the following mantra: "But it's 88rmb for all you can eat."

Here is a practice exercise:

Once you are seated it will take at least 10 minutes before any server will acknowledge you. "But it's 88rmb for all you can eat." A surly waitress will stand by your table, visibly exasperated that you're taking so long to order. "But it's 88rmb for all you can eat." 20 percent of what you order will be out of stock. "But it's 88rmb for all you can eat." Your server will return from the kitchen to let you know that an additional 10 percent of what you ordered is out of stock as well. "But it's 88rmb for all you can eat." Stuff you ordered will never arrive at your table. "But it's 88rmb for all you can eat." Stuff you never actually ordered will arrive at your table. "But it's 88rmb for all you can eat. But it's 88rmb for all you can eat. But it's 88rmb for all you can eat."

Sat-Sun: 11.30am-2pm
For a full brunch listing, click here.


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