The big difference between Sunday brunch at Equinox and at many of the restaurant’s competitors is not immediately apparent. Like other sources of the weekend ritual, the downtown fixture owned by chef Todd Gray pours its share of bloody Marys, sets out a colorful buffet and even serves live music, most recently reggae.
Closer inspection of the occasion reveals what’s missing from the meal: bacon and eggs. That’s because in July, Equinox took over the vegan brunch it made popular at the Muse Cafe within the Corcoran Gallery of Art. (After years of financial and other woes, the Corcoran is being merged with George Washington University and the National Gallery of Art.)
Gray is happy to be on home turf. Unlike Muse, Equinox has “fire power” in the form of a grill and gas stoves, he says. So no more heating food on a panini press. The relocated brunch also gives the restaurateur a chance to talk up the vegan tasting menu Equinox offers at dinner. To make Muse regulars comfortable in his upscale dining room at Farragut West, the chef uses the branded coffee mugs and the pale green plates from the previous brunch site.
Gray presides over the “scramble station” near the entrance. What looks like scrambled egg is tofu tinted with turmeric, curry and (local) saffron and cooked with a choice of vegetable fillings, including eggplant tapenade and caramelized cauliflower. Other main dishes — pear-stuffed french toast crackling with a veneer of house-made granola, a cassoulet built with lentils, beets and Brussels sprouts — call from the bar counter. I found myself going back for seconds of the wrinkly string beans tossed with red pepper, toasted cashews and fragrant Thai basil, as well as a comforting squash soup made with almond milk and pecan bits. On the sweeter end: gingery muffins and macaroons.
No stranger to meatless ways, the chef, a carnivore, has a reliable sounding board in his wife and business partner, Ellen Kassoff Gray, whom he describes as “vegan 80 percent of the time. She still puts cream in her coffee and enjoys a local oyster.”
Earthy-crunchy this brunch is not. While they’re in season, fresh white truffles from Alba, Italy can perfume any dish — for $20 a shave.
818 Connecticut Ave. NW. 202-331-8118. equinoxrestaurant.com. Brunch served Sundays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Buffet $30 for adults, $15 for children younger than 12.