TNT Diner

First bites: New Tacoma, Steilacoom brunch spots

Thick-cut charbroiled ham steak is the base for the outstanding eggs Benedict at G. Donnalson’s in Tacoma’s Proctor neighborhood.
Thick-cut charbroiled ham steak is the base for the outstanding eggs Benedict at G. Donnalson’s in Tacoma’s Proctor neighborhood. Staff writer

If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then brunch must be the most important meal of the weekend, right?

It’s not often we get a new brunch offering — only a few a year around here — but I recently found two that are new to the area. Here are my first-bite thoughts on weekend-only brunch at De La Terre in Steilacoom and G. Donnalson’s in Tacoma’s Proctor neighborhood.

DE LA TERRE

Info: 1606 Lafayette St., Steilacoom; 253-584-0258, facebook.com/restaurantdelaterre.

Brunch served: 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

Since De La Terre’s opening in June, I’ve grown a fan of the Steilacoom restaurant’s constantly changing menu and the attention paid to seasonal Northwest ingredients, which is apropos for a restaurant with a name that translates to “from the land.”

Blake Lord-Wittig, a Steilacoom native, opened the restaurant just before the U.S. Open with business-and-life partner Rajona Champatiray. The duo met while working at Seattle’s Tilikum Place Cafe. Lord-Wittig is a 2007 Steilacoom High School graduate who attended New York’s French Culinary Institute. He crossed the country — twice — landing cooking gigs at a wide range of restaurants, from Jean-Georges in New York City to Cafe Juanita in Kirkland.

Like De La Terre’s dinner, I found modestly portioned brunch items with an equally modest price tag for the quality of ingredients. Value-conscious diners might balk at the smaller portion sizes. I found them perfect.

The menu was succinct with eight items at brunch, and like the dinner and lunch menus, the menu fluctuates daily. The greatest hits of brunch dining were represented on my visit — something sweet from the griddle, a Benedict, an omelet and a few things that could masquerade as lunch. The menu here could be best described as New American meets refined Northwest bistro, with an impressive focus on seafood, meat and vegetables grown or raised in the Pacific Northwest.

A mushroom Benedict, ($13) built on double-stacked crunchy-toasted muffins, held a copious amount of lobster mushrooms with a little snap left in the texture and a lot of earthy flavor complementing an assertive hollandaise threaded with pickled mustard seeds. Eggs were just beyond the point of poached, but still spilled yolky rivers.

A smoked gouda omelet ($11) with broccoli was as perfect an omelet gets, with feathery textured eggs flipped over an intensely smoky gouda cheese and more smoke from diced bacon.

The Benedict and omelet were served with a sharp vinaigrette-dressed tangle of fresh greens. Even the side salads get attention here.

An airy textured Belgian waffle ($11) came with a delicate chew and a wallop of flavor in a thick vanilla rhubarb sauce. I tempered the sweet-sour sauce with swipes of sweetened whipped cream.

Service was attentive without being overzealous and the atmosphere at De La Terre reads pure Northwest modern, with concrete counter tops and light fixtures to match, a wash of grey on the muted walls and fresh flowers and linens dressing the tables.

French press coffee came from Lighthouse Roasters in Seattle. Tea and botanical sodas also are on the breakfast menu.

G. DONNALSON’S

Info: 3814 N. 26th St., Tacoma; 253-761-8015, gdonnalsons.com.

Brunch served: 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday

It’s been about nine months since first-time restaurant owner Stephen Smith bought Proctor’s Pour at Four and slowly began a restaurant transformation.

First was the concept change from a wine bar to something closer to a Northwest bistro with a great wine list. Next was a shift in the decor, with the addition of new bench seating (not nearly as comfortable as it looks) and metal tables in the warmly lit dining room.

Then came the name change. Pour at Four became G. Donnalson’s. The name is an amalgam of the names of Smith’s parents — George and Donna Lee Smith.

Menu tweaks have continued throughout Smith’s ownership. Weekend brunch was the latest addition in late spring.

The 30-item menu represented a wide slice of brunch items with several griddle items, eggs and Benedicts, and a la carte selections of seafood, sandwiches, salads and even fresh scones (they were out on my visit).

Eggs Benedict ($13) came piled with thick-cut charbroiled ham steak — smoky, sweet and supple — with a hollandaise that intersected a perfect pairing of butter and lemon, the poached eggs spilled a river of yolks over crispy English muffins. This was a memorable Benedict, one I’d order again. The thoughtful presentation wasn’t duplicated in the side dish, which was a bowl of anemic-tasting cubed melon. I was so disappointed, I ordered a side of potatoes ($3) and was disappointed yet again with potatoes that tasted steamed, and underdone to the point of being unpleasantly crunchy.

Shrimp and grits ($14, with $1 for a poached egg) were a whole lot of soupy texture and not a lot of flavor beyond the fishy-tasting creole sauce. The best part of that dish was the poached egg, which released its yolk with the gentlest of nudges. The worst part of that dish was the hair I found buried in the grits.

Service was mostly attentive, but our server disappeared frequently, which was unexpected considering the restaurant wasn’t very busy.

The breakfast beverage menu stayed traditional with coffee, but also offered a lengthy breakfast cocktail menu that included a bacon bloody Mary ($11) and a trio of wine cocktails ($8-$10).

Wine is still a priority at this restaurant with tastings every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. Find live music and a late-night menu Thursday through Saturday nights.

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