Sundays in the Steinman were synonymous with waffles. Like churchgoers, our brunch was a weekly tradition, except instead of God, we believed in the all-mighty power of Bisquick. Though our family was the size of a basketball squad, we ate enough for a football team, packing in carbs like we were prepping for the big game. Dad being practical, he'd insist we make a double batch for leftovers. The uneaten waffles would get piled on a plate to cool, yet they never made it past 3pm. Whenever anyone would pass through the kitchen, they'd tear off a quarter, snacking on them as if they were potato chips.
Rooted in ritual, family, and gluttony, waffles sealed their fate as an integral part of my world. They even extended beyond eating. For the craft component of my 7th grade Home Ec class, I crafted a Belgian waffle, complete with cotton-stuffed ice cream and fabric chocolate sauce. Yep, I sewed a waffle.
You can imagine my delight when chicken n' waffles became trendy, thereby bringing the griddled goodness to the dinner plate. Watching donuts get their heyday, replacing buns for burgers and even mating with a croissant for the cronut craze, I wondered when waffles would jump into new culinary territory. Enter Monsoon.
At this popular Asian-fusion eatery, their savory waffle comes piled with a pickled salmon salad: chunks of tender salmon, crunchy fennel, orange pearls of roe, and fresh dill & chives. The result is deliciously different, a tantalizing mix of acidic, sweet, and oceanic. This may strike you as a peculiar combination. Yet, considering caviar's classic pairing, the pancake-like blini, the waffle makes sense, even more so with its cubed crannies perfect for pools of sauce.
The flavor bomb waffle needs a cocktail of equal complexity. Enter A Bloody Alternative, the funk-tastic twist on the brunch classic. With a wink to the bull shot and Monsoon's Asian pedigree, pho broth makes for a meaty heft. Tomato & pineapple sangrita brings sweet and while Sirracha and five spice adds spice. Kummel -- a caraway liquor --brings out gin's herbal attributes. I imagine this is a divisive drink, its wacky ingredients eliciting "oohs" or "ughs". I'm on team "ooh", especially as a hangover-curing elixir.
While you're waffle's being made, I recommend a snack from the dim sum menu. Per our waitress' recommendation, we opt for crispy shrimp & chive wontons, which are wonderfully plump and fresh.
Monsoon offers the best of both worlds: brunch and dim sum. It is more exotic than my childhood breakfasts, but with friendly staff, seemingly endless eats, and those unforgettable waffles, Monsoon reminds me of my family's easy-like-Sunday mornings.