Migas Saturday Brunch: Best Dining Experience of 2015

migas el asador saturday brunch beijing china.jpg

If a test run of the “el asador” Saturday brunch at Migas last weekend is any indication, this restaurant / bar / rooftop has another winner on its hands.

Migas excels at everything from being the city’s best rooftop party organizers to offering unparalleled business lunch creativity and value. The Saturday brunch that kicks of tomorrow is a superb fusion of those event and culinary skills.

The typical brunch experience of wandering around food stations to the rhythm of anesthetizing elevator music is tweaked here. Migas has food stations, and I’ll get to them shortly, but it ups the tempo by circulating food carts that allow table-side delivery of roast chicken, sausages links, lamb chops, gin tonics, and more.

On top of this, the music is upbeat, with plenty of funk and some old school rap. This all creates an excellent vibe: the rumble of conversations, the circulation of carts loaded with tasty victuals, the beats that had people moving in their seats. Well done. After all, this is not a Sunday brunch, when people are in the mode of recovery, but a Saturday one, when they are just starting on the long road to it.

Back to the food carts. This chicken ranks among the best in Beijing. It’s prepared in two steps, first in a conventional oven, then a Josper one, a grill-oven hybrid. Many of my Chinese friends eschew chicken breast because it is too dry, but the bird here is succulent, the meat tender against the crispy skin. Get the chicken.

There are two choices of sausage, cut off huge coils, and they are also good. The spicy one was a bit dry but will tickle your taste buds. The other one was moist, savory and had excellent texture. I’d say this is the best sausage I’ve had all year.

The pork, prawn and shallot roll is a hearty dish with crackly skin over a layer of fat bursting with flavor (think ultimate pork rinds). My dining partner gave the lamb chops top marks among the meat dishes while the beef, well, I could barely sit upright at that point — too much tortilla! (see below) — but had one bite and found the meat tender and with a pleasant wood smoke aroma.

Next, the food stations. Migas had the following:

  • Soup: Two varieties during the test run, pumpkin and potato.
  • Salad: Mixed greens with about two dozen toppings / sides, like dill pickles, cucumbers, blue cheese, seasoned chick peas, mixed nuts, and cherry tomatoes.
  • Bread: With a thick crust and a crumb packed with rich grain and seed aromas and flavors. (It reminds me of the hearty breads at farmers markets in Canada.)
  • Tortilla: A highlight of the brunch, with five options, including one with codfish and — chef Aitor Olebagoya said it was uniquely Basque — one with tuna and aged ham. It’d be easy to eat a slice of each and have no room for anything else.

There were a few desserts, although I didn’t make it to them. And small trays of salts and homemade mustard, including a delicious beetroot-apple one. And we washed it all down with Codorniu Mediterranea Cava, a perfectly fine bubbly.

That’s a superb meal. Yes, some might quibble with a few things. The meat was only available partway through brunch, after people had tackled the soups, salads, breads and tortillas, and some might want it earlier. The free-flow alcohol is limited to Cava — perhaps Estrella Damm beer would also be a nice option? And those who like hotel brunches because they can down plate after plate of cheese and sashimi will not find them here.

But that test run revealed a brunch that in both design and quality is a winner. And it was made even better with the Migas recipe for a tantalizing atmosphere: the funk music, the circulating carts, the murmur of humanity in those arty-industrial digs, and the team’s ability to be both laid-back in their casual denim outfits and enthusiastic, from the head chef — who taught diners how to squirt wine from a bota bag into their mouths — to the man at the soup station who, when I mentioned the freshness of everything, grinned and said that’s how they do things.

Saturday brunch at Migas (5208-6061) is from noon to 3 PM. Food is rmb210. Free-flow Cava is rmb138.

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