Cafe Reviews

What's For Brunch? Scottsdale's SumoMaya and House Brasserie Serve Up Weekend Specials

Jackie Mercandetti
French toast is one of many brunch options at SumoMaya.

Where is the happiest weekend brunch in Scottsdale? It might be at SumoMaya, the stylish Mex-Asian fusion parlor in Scottsdale.

On a typical Sunday morning, the dining room is filled with the upbeat acoustic stylings of a live duo, performing love songs from The Lumineers songbook, or maybe some Bill Withers. A woman, two mimosas deep into brunch with the girls, gets up and raises the roof before collapsing back into her chair in a fit of giggles. At another table, a group sings “Happy Birthday” in full, earnest unison, as sparklers erupt like shooting stars from a photogenic platter of small dessert cakes. At the average brunch, if you hang around long enough, you’ll probably get to hear “Happy Birthday” sung more than once.

The loud, happy scene is all part of the experience of SumoMaya’s newish Bottomless Brunch, a multicourse spread of about 15 dishes, most of them small plates. True to its name, you can order complimentary seconds (or thirds, or fourths) of any small plate at any point during your meal. More likely, though, you’ll be too stuffed to finish the first go-around.

The price of admission is $29 per person — $10 more if you care to indulge in bottomless Bloody Marys, margaritas, or mimosas. For the selection, quality, and sheer amount of food involved, the pricey resort brunches uptown don’t come close to matching the value of this weekend-only fete.

Brunch, of course, has always been kind of a bougie pastime for well-to-do eaters with a surplus of lounging time. But brunch has gone mainstream — even Jack in the Box has a brunch menu — and it now seems less like a special occasion, and more like something on a busy person’s weekend to-do list. You can’t rush brunch at SumoMaya, though — you’d be missing the point if you did — and that’s a big part of its appeal.

click to enlarge JACKIE MERCANDETTI
Jackie Mercandetti
The first wave of dishes at Bottomless Brunch are mostly sweet and light, seemingly designed to whet your appetite. It starts with a basket of Mexican pan dulce, a modest assortment that might include a concha sliced into bite-size portions; half of a sugar-crusted elote pastry; maybe half of a crispy, syrup-shellacked oreja. The pastries are “locally made,” according to the menu, and they’re about as satisfying and comforting as the pastries from your favorite neighborhood panaderia.

A small cast-iron pan filled with a tres leches oatmeal brûlée turns out to be an early highlight of Bottomless Brunch. The oatmeal is more milky than dense, with a lovely caramelized sweetness. The dish is followed in quick succession by some fresh fruit served with yogurt and granola. It feels more continental breakfast than full-service restaurant, but the allure of fresh berries is hard to resist.

To finish out the first round of small plates, there’s black bean hummus, served with a handful of plantain chips. The hummus tasted tangy and sour on a recent visit — not exactly what you crave at the start of a big brunch feast.

click to enlarge The huevos revueltos al albañil (foreground) and oatmeal (background) at SumoMaya. - JACKIE MERCANDETTI
The huevos revueltos al albañil (foreground) and oatmeal (background) at SumoMaya.
Jackie Mercandetti

Four savory dishes come next, landing on the table more or less all at once. There’s huevos revueltos al albañil, well-seasoned, buttery scrambled eggs blended with salsa. There’s a slightly less satisfying bowl of migas con chorizo, scrambled eggs mottled with bread crumbs and blended with a vaguely peppery chorizo. A pomegranate guacamole, punched up with strips of dried fruit, is wonderful. A chef’s choice sushi roll is fine, but not particularly memorable, and it feels odd served amid bowls of scrambled eggs.

The centerpiece of Bottomless Brunch is your entrée — there are about 16 to pick from, and it’s pretty much the only thing on the menu that isn’t bottomless.

I tried the pork “al pastor” pad thai on a recent visit, a fusion dish that sounds pretty promising on paper. The mashup was dull, though, replete with mushy bean sprouts and too much sweet sauce.

Another entrée, waygu steak and eggs, fared a lot better. The spruced-up take on the classic breakfast duo features grizzled strips of salty-rich steak, dressed up in a delicious coconut miso sauce. A poached egg, cradled inside a crisp wonton, contributes a nice lilt of sweetness to the plate.

Entrées are served with no less than four sides, including a very good Chinese sausage fried rice, which is sweetened slightly with pineapple. There’s also a side of meaty, beautifully seasoned black beans. Starchy sides — including a potato-chorizo hash and some wok-fried breakfast potatoes — are more prone to disappoint, though. Both dishes tasted bland recently, and were served lukewarm, rather than hot and crispy.

click to enlarge You can get bottomless Bloody Marys during SumoMaya's brunch for $10 more. - JACKIE MERCANDETTI
You can get bottomless Bloody Marys during SumoMaya's brunch for $10 more.
Jackie Mercandetti

Just when you think Bottomless Brunch is wrapping up, your server announces the dessert course. It includes two of the stronger dishes on the menu. The first is a basket of disc-shaped, crisp buñuelos, dabbed with some dulce de leche. The other is a serving of “liquid” cheesecake brûlée, a dish that’s neither Mexican or Asian in origin. But it’s so bewitchingly rich and good, you won’t care. It’s very possible that you will leave SumoMaya feeling inert and very stuffed, but also sort of happy.

Another Scottsdale restaurant touting a newish weekend brunch menu is The House Brasserie, a Main Street staple that offers one of the loveliest settings for brunch in Scottsdale.

Chef Matt Carter’s Old Town fine dining outpost feels as charming as ever. It’s got a picket fence, tables outfitted in white tablecloths, walls of lush greenery, and several lofty white tents — the outdoor patio, particularly in spring, begs to be enjoyed over brunch.

Brunch, though, ends up feeling less inspired than the restaurant’s setting. House Brasserie recently announced a retooled brunch menu, but some new menu items, it seems, have already been pushed into early retirement. The pork belly bahn mi sandwich advertised in a recent press release? No longer on the menu, my server politely informed me. What about the sweet corn crepes with citrus crème fraiche? Not available, either.

You will, however, find newer brunch items like duck chilaquiles. It has all the potential for a smart, decadent twist on the humble Mexican breakfast staple. But on a recent visit, the dish registered as mostly bland. The tortilla strips were soggy and bready, and only a zippy tomatillo salsa added much vibrancy to the dullish hunks of duck meat.

There’s a steak hash, a dish more memorable for its drippy, artful presentation than for the feelings of satisfaction derived from eating it. A few hunks of chopped steak are served with herb-marinated potato rounds and withered strips of poblano peppers, all of it topped with a “chicken-fried egg,” essentially a boiled egg that’s been breaded and deep-fried. The steak serving was so modest on a recent visit, it was hard to savor much beyond a mouthful of potatoes.

What about the roast zucchini? The dish is pretty much the antithesis of typically rich brunch fare: a sliced half-zucchini, topped with rounds of heirloom tomato, crisped-up brussels sprouts leaves, a touch of citrus, and a sprinkling of queso fresco. A spicy piquillo pepper sauce, however, sort of squashes most of the flavor on the plate. And at $10, it only seems fair that the dish should come with the other half of the zucchini, too.

The brunch menu at The House Brasserie may leave you feeling cold, with not much to show but a stomachful of bellinis and the sinking realization that the weekend is almost over. Well, there’s always next Saturday.

6560 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale
Brunch hours: Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Bottomless Brunch $29 (additional $10 for bottomless Bloody Marys, margaritas, and mimosas)

The House Brasserie
6936 East Main Street, Scottsdale
Brunch hours: Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Duck verde chilaquiles $16
Steak hash $16
Roast zucchini $10
Scrambled eggs $14