While no one would call the brunch service at James in Prospect Heights a steal, I genuinely appreciate that it's less expensive than other restaurants of its caliber. Unlike at many Brooklyn spots, a meal here feels like a proper dining experience—cloth napkins, gracious service, a full bar; you walk out feeling like you've been to a restaurant, rather than an eatery. That's not to say there isn't a place for more casual spots in the world, but it is nice to find a place where brunch entrées range primarily from $9-12, and are composed, thoughtful dishes, rather than just slapped-together Eggs Benedict.
It's a little unclear from the menu how the Blackberry stuffed brioche French toast ($9) is structured, but it's a stunner once it arrives. Two triangles of brioche sport a blackberry cream in between—a fluffy, tart blend of fresh blackberries as well as blackberry jam, cream cheese, creme fraiche, and cinnamon. I liked the lightness of each element: the airy brioche French toast and the whipped filing kept it from being the heavy, gut-busting dish many French toasts can be. While the flavors weren't quite as vivid as the color, the whole package made for a lovely interpretiation of a fruit French toast.
The lightness of the French toast was a virtue, but there's nothing wrong with a heavier brunch, like the smoked pulled pork ($12) over cheddar scones. (Points for being labeled as such; so many restaurants call the dense scone-like creations they serve brunch dishes on "biscuits," even when they're much more like the former than the latter.) While I could've used a little less barbecue sauce, that sauce itself was quite good—heavy on the vinegar and the pepper, its sweetness well-balanced. Slow-roasted pork, sauce, and cheddar scone make for a tasty bite. (For something even brunchier, get a poached egg on top for another $2.50. It might be a bit much on the pork, which is thoroughly coated enough as it is; but a poached egg punctured atop half the scone is a delicious thing indeed.)
That said, if I returned, I'd be sorely tempted to skip brunch-only options and just order a burger. More on that to come.
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