Rococo Penn and Northpark differing and excellent brunches

Belgian Hangover at Rococo (Garett Fisbeck)

Belgian Hangover at Rococo (Garett Fisbeck)

There will always be similarities between the menus at Rococo Penn and Rococo Northpark. Owner/chef/bon vivant Bruce Rinehart spent more than a decade learning the tastes of Oklahoma City, and he’s not one to let that kind of information go to waste.

But they are absolutely different restaurants. The original Rococo, 2824 N. Pennsylvania Ave., is still a bastion of mobster-style cool. The building has the air of a classic trattoria with a dose of laid-back charm.

Northpark

Rococo Northpark, 12252 N. May Ave., is its much bigger younger brother. It’s a wide-open restaurant with a big bar, room for meetings and enough space to host a 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday “cruise ship-style” brunch for $25 a head.

If you are ravenous, Northpark is the place to be. As the name suggests, the “cruise ship” brunch is an all-you-can-eat affair with enough tempting options that it’s actually hard to choose what to gorge on next.

My first stop is always the omelet bar. As one might expect from an upscale bottomless buffet, the chefs are incredibly generous with portions. Pick as many items as you’d like in your omelet. Bacon, crawfish, scallions and cream cheese? Wonderful. Or go classic with a Western omelet or a simple cheese omelet. All are cooked fresh before your eyes.

The big, fluffy, diner-style omelet is a joy to devour. But if you’d rather not wait around for eggs, the kitchen keeps the buffet well-stocked with cheesy scrambled eggs, piles of crisp bacon, sausage links, biscuits, gravy and the rest.

In the eternal battle between sweet breakfast enthusiasts and savory breakfast diehards, there is no winner. Happily, Rococo is neutral like the Swiss in this age-old conflict. Just around the corner from the omelet station is a sweets bar with freshly cooked Belgian-style waffles, French toast and warm syrup.

Both Rococo locations are well-loved for their seafood, and Sunday brunch is no different. The cold bar features a rotating cast of characters, including peel-and-eat shrimp, seafood dips, cheese and charcuterie. It changes a little every week, but it’s always one of my favorites.

The restaurant has a full bar, including a bloody mary made with vegetable-infused vodka that is one of the best in Oklahoma City and mimosas for $3. It’s a relaxing spot to kick back with a big group, have a few laughs and nosh to your heart’s content. The cost is worth it if you’ve got the time and the appetite to really enjoy a lot of food.

House-cured salmon Benedict at Rococo  (Garett Fisbeck)

House-cured salmon Benedict at Rococo (Garett Fisbeck)

The original

If you’re on a shorter schedule or you’re not interested in trying a bit of everything, head to the original Pennsylvania Avenue Rococo 11 a.m.-3 p.m. for Sunday brunch.

The Penn location is a bit quieter and cooler. The main room is my favorite for the fireplace, which the staff happily get started on chilly mornings. There are couches nearby so patrons can lounge with a drink or wait for a table.

There are two high-backed “gangster booths” that are perfect for having a little privacy in an otherwise-exposed dining room, but it’s a pretty cool place to be seen. Some brunch dishes — like Belgian Hangover ($14) — are less visually pleasing to eat than others, though.

I love pasta, but long noodles are extremely difficult to eat without looking like a doofus. That’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make for Rococo’s Belgian Hangover, a dish that has a few things in common with a carbonara. Each bowl of Hangover is full of tender linguine, diced capicola (a spicy Italian ham), toasted garlic, Gruyére cheese and chicken broth served with two sunny side up eggs on top. Cut up those eggs as soon as the dish arrives and let the yolk mix into the broth and coat the noodles. Ideally, this will create a sauce that will help the capicola stick to the linguine so you can taste it all in one bite.

The spice of the ham gives the dish a nice zing, but it doesn’t overtake the other flavors. Belgian Hangover is actually a pretty mild dish that’s easy on the stomach. The blend of protein, starch and warm broth is perfect for diners who might have overindulged on alcohol the night before.

Smoked salmon is a classic brunch dish. Rococo treats its fish to a cure of molasses, salt, pepper and basil before it is cold-smoked. In the classic East Coast-style smoked salmon bagel ($8), it comes simply with cream cheese, red onion, lettuce and tomato on a bagel.

I prefer the slightly more ostentatious presentation in the house-cured salmon Benedict ($10). The fish is as tender as a cowboy riding a horse without a saddle for the first time (but tastes much better).

The Benedict is a classic configuration with an English muffin on the bottom, followed by salmon, poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. The only real resistance comes from the muffin. Everything else cuts as smoothly as a hot knife through butter. The poached eggs are textbook examples of the form, and the hollandaise is rich and lightly sweet. The dish also comes with roasted potatoes, which I recommend dragging through the remains of the Benedict to capture as much flavor as possible.

Another great value pick is Bruce’s Big Breakfast ($9), which comes with two eggs any style, some Caribbean-style jerk pork, grits and a grilled tortilla. As much as I love a meal that stretches the stomach, this “big breakfast” was actually the perfect size to kick off Sunday without necessitating a nap.

Whichever location you choose, the food will be wonderful. You just have to decide how much you want to eat.

Bruce's Big Breakfast at Rococo (Garett Fisbeck)

Bruce’s Big Breakfast at Rococo (Garett Fisbeck)


Rococo Penn

2824 N. Pennsylvania Ave.

rococo-restaurant.com

405-528-2824

Rococo Northpark

12252 N. May Ave.

rococo-restaurant.com

405-212-4577

What works: House-cured salmon Benedict is top-to-bottom perfection.
What needs work: “Cruise ship-style” brunch is a great deal if you come hungry.
Tip: Vegetable-infused vodka makes Rococo bloody marys irresistible.


Print headline: Cruise in; Rococo Penn and Rococo Northpark offer diners two ways to eat brunch.

 

Greg is the Gazette's full-time food writer and reviewer. He goes to restaurants a lot. He orders three entrees and gets funny looks and then takes out his camera and people are like, "Ugh. This guy." Greg is writing this right now and it feels weird to keep referring to myself in the third person. On Twitter and Instagram: @Elwelleats

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