If there ever was the perfect name of a restaurant to utter the line I used in the headline, it’s “Valentina.” It should be said with an air of sophistication and whimsy when calling your favorite brunch friend to make a date of it and that’s exactly how I did it when I contacted my neighbor Ian, followed by a long period of silence, then a “sure man, I’m in.”
I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned brunch to Ian, nor have I been one to partake in brunch regularly, but when I heard Valentina had one going, I thought it the perfect time to revisit.
My history with brunch goes way back to college when I was a valet dude at Charley’s Crab in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Sunday brunch was mine and I loved the mix of getting great tips, driving all kinds of cars, popping into the restaurant during a lull to snag some quiche or frittata, and laughing at the folks who were not regular day drinkers coming out tipsy and flirty.
Anyway, maybe it was the fairly typical brunch fare that tends to be ever-present, but the concept just never stuck with me.
But back to Valentina, which just happens to be on my “somewhat obsessed with” list currently. When I saw that the menu had as many dishes from its dinner menu on it as brunch items, I was about to become a brunch guy.
Let me step this back for a minute and mention that Valentina has plenty of patio and sidewalk seating and is open through the current restrictions limiting restaurants to outdoor dining. My evening sunset bike rides are interrupted in a very good way by an open seat on the outdoor patio and I have been indulging on a regular basis.
So we made a reservation for 11 a.m. on a fairly warm Sunday morning in Leucadia and were happy to see that all the seating was shaded. And while one might consider brunch to be more of a yacht rock or, heaven forbid, smooth jazz soundtrack, there was a full-on DJ happening and it sounded more like a sexy, pulsating lounge getting ready to take it to the next level.
We could hear our conversation so it was cool with us (wow, that makes me sound really old) and I’m sure if we were in day drinking mode I would have been shaking it around in our seats in no time as many in the very attractive crowd were doing.
Sexy environment, outside seating and Ibiza soundtrack aside, Valentina has always backed it up with one of the most eclectic, innovative menus in North County. Some of my favorites from the dinner offerings that are on the brunch menu include the Spanish Sashimi, which I could eat every day. Make sure you get at least a half baguette with it as the olive oil and capers are perfect to dip in and I make little sandwiches when salmon is in the mix.
Shrimp n Grits, Mussels & Fries, Carbonara, Chicken Paillard, Steak Tartare and Fries, Flat Iron Steak & Fries aka Steak Frites, and my absolute favorite, Weiner Schnitzel with a lemon caper sauce and mixed greens, are all on the brunch menu. The Weiner Schnitzel is a huge portion and can easily be split three ways or brought home for an amazing next day sandwich. Every single one of these items is amazing in their own way.
That said, I felt compelled to try something new so we started with the Jamon y Melon with Iberico Jamon and cold pressed olive oil and a simple tomato salad to start. Brunch can get rich so we decided to keep it simple out of the gate. I moved on to the Huevos Rotos with tater tots, broken eggs and chorizo, and Ian ventured to the dinner menu with the Carbonara as it does include an egg.
Both were solid dishes and a mental note to self was made to try the Coastal Crepe with scallop, shrimp and a mornay sauce along with the lobster omelet, French Toast and to finish things off with Valentina’s Beignets.
They have a special beer and wine for brunch section with a fun selection of reasonably priced bubbly selections and such. And just in case you want to go really, really big, you can throw down $475 for a 2012 Louis Roederer “Cristal” or similar high-end indulgence.
Don’t let that freak you out, though, as there is not an entrée on the menu over $28 with most coming in much less. The servers are all well versed on pairing wines with just about everything and will most certainly provide a taste prior to ordering.
The word is definitely out on Valentina, so I would highly suggest a reservation. It’s a gem and I highly suggest it.
Find out everything at www.restaurantvalentina.com. Located at 810 N. Coast Highway 101 in Encinitas.