The nice thing about brunch at The Smile is that despite its prime NoHo location, it's still relatively under the radar—you won't have to fight through the hordes just to grab a seat for half an hour before the next reservation comes in to boot you. It's tough to explain why, because the food is excellent. Perhaps it's the preponderance of skinny jeans, or maybe the restaurant is just a bit too far underground (in the literal sense)?
As with much of the menu, it's the simplest items that seem best here—Executive Chef Melia Marden (who recently scored a cookbook deal) has a great palate and a knack for balancing flavors. Smoked Salmon & Lemon Caper Cream Cheese ($13) is a few satiny, dill-sprinkled slices of the awesome Gaspé Nova from Russ & Daughters with a smear of mild caper and red onion flavored cream cheese on toasted multigrain bread. If you've never appreciated smoked salmon (it took me years to come around, despite being raised in New York), this is a great place to give it a go. The bread comes from Amy's, who also provides the sourdough for the Manouri Cheese and Fig sandwich.
The sandwiches do come with North Fork chips and homemade pickles on the side, but I'd add on the Sugar Snap Peas ($6), which are bright, sweet, cooked until just tender enough while maintaining a crisp bite, and tossed with chopped mint, excellent olive oil, and a sprinkling of salt.
Surprisingly, the least successful thing I've tried here is their Egg Sandwich ($8), made with scrambled egg, gruyére, ham, and caramelized onions; somehow it didn't all come together cohesively. I like my egg sandwiches rich and gooey, bordering on greasy, while this was a far more civilized affair.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, a sandwich that is all decadence and goo: the Chocolate & Brie ($8). It's made with sweet, milky Cadbury's chocolate and a few thick slices of brie sandwiched in a crusty baguette that's toasted until everything gets nice and melty. It's a surprisingly good combo, and despite the fact that it only appears on the dessert menu, is worth ordering for your main meal.
It's not easy to find a really great glass of lemonade outside of home, but the Smile's Basil Lemonade ($3.50) is good in all the right ways: freshly squeezed, not too sweet and not too tart, ice cold, with a bare hint of basil drifting through it.
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