Restaurant review: Urbane brunches at de-NOVO are a damn good time

By Columbus Alive
From the November 21, 2013 edition

You’ve gotta hand it to Yavonne Sarber. As an apparently tireless owner of the brand new Chez du Bon (expect a review on that place soon), Manifesto and de-NOVO, she’s been ambitiously investing in — and betting on — our Downtown’s revival. So whatever you think about her flamboyant enterprises, the bottom line is if her businesses thrive, it’s great for Columbus. This is why I was glad to discover the fun and urbane Saturday and Sunday brunches (9 a.m.-3 p.m.) now being served at de-NOVO.

In the past, I’d have to characterize my experiences at de-NOVO as a mixed bag. Ergo, if my recent brunches are indicative of a general trend, it looks like the sometimes-wobbly operation has found some solid footing.

Tasteful music and a jazzy vibe help ease patrons into de-NOVO’s relaxing brunch. Further enhancing the cool Downtown mood are brash artworks of Columbus sites (like the LeVeque Tower and a sorta self-portrait of de-NOVO) plus extra-courteous, vest-clad servers dressed in black. Oh yeah, and rich, spicy and strong Bloody Marys that are right-priced ($5) and “dirty” with olive juice. Since I wasn’t driving, I treated myself to two. Oops!

Lots of regular lunch items are available, but for my purposes, I stuck with the brunch-only stuff listed under “Griddle Time” and punningly corralled by “Break Out of Your Shell (these are eggier options).” From that latter column, I sampled a couple omelets that were about as good as they are distinct.

The fluffy Bacon and Pimento Cheese three-egg assembly ($9) convincingly combined its tangy, red-pepper-flecked dairy filling with earthy pork belly, crispy bacon bits and a nifty “onion jam.” The Surf and Turf omelet ($12) oddly partnered plenty of lemony leavened crabmeat (some still fridge-chilly) and pleasurably snappy asparagus bits with crumbled bison burger chunks. This hefty creation was somewhat perplexing and lacked much of its promised hollandaise sauce, but I found it kinda stoner-iffically compelling. Both omelets came with toast and a ton of very good coin-shaped home fries whose careful use of salt and pepper (rarer than you might think) was characteristic of my brunches here.

Even though the menu-promised cheese was MIA, those same spuds were exponentially better in the steal-of-a-deal de-NOVO Fries ($6). That killer poutine-like pile featured smoky and peppery tasso ham gravy plus inspired flourishes of candied tomatoes and sliced jalapenos.

The recommended de-NOVO Eggs Benedict ($12) are also sparked by inspiration. Goosed up with that brazen tasso gravy (it’s popular here), two medium-cooked poachers were sprinkled with candied bacon and innovatively employed tempura-ish fried zucchini slabs (in place of English muffins) as foundations.

If all this sounds too rich, you can order a healthy dish without sacrificing good flavor. That simple but nice option would be the Vegetable Egg White Frittata ($8). Though rather floppy, it was colorfully packed and perked up with a slew of chopped bell peppers lending plenty of character.

Whether you saved caloric room with that healthy choice — or you’re just continuing a no-doubt-well-deserved splurge — the Creme Brulee French Toast ($9) is a must-order brunch dessert. Served with warm syrup and fresh berries, it’s thick and eggy griddled bread with a crispy “cinnamon crunch infused whipped cream” that’s incredibly fun to munch on. And will leave you with fond new impressions of de-NOVO.

Photos by Tim Johnson