Brunch in the 'Burbs: Crab Cake Benedict at Merche in Cypress

I pass Merche, which specializes in Spanish-Italian fusion and is located on the campus of the North Cypress Medical Center, every time I drive out to my parents' house in Fairfield, but had never stopped in until this past Sunday. I had heard Dana Tyson talk about it on Sunny 99.1 last December and sort of always wondered about it. (I'm one of those nerds that only listens to Sunny from November 24 to December 25, because I'm a bitch for Christmas carols.)

My parents had been for dinner before, so this was my mom's choice for her birthday brunch. I was a little skeptical. Hospitals make me a little nervous, so I don't know if this would have been my No. 1, but then it wasn't my birthday. I was reassured that we were not eating in the hospital and that the food was great, so hush. Fair enough.

My brother, boyfriend and I arrived a few minutes before my parents and were politely greeted at the door. The décor was nice, with plenty of red, gold and colorful tile mosaics, but we immediately noticed how quiet it was inside the restaurant. No music, no chatter, just...silence. Four older couples were sitting at tables, not speaking to each other. When I laughed, I got an evil eye from a patron in her sixties. This made me a little nervous because...my family...we could be considered sort of "loud" when we get together. Were we going to get stink-eyes throughout brunch? My brother, a med school student, half-jokingly remarked that we must be near the Oncology wing of the hospital. Yikes.

When my parents arrived, we ordered mimosas and bloody marys (each $6). We asked if we could get a mimosa pitcher, because we bring the class and were hurting a little from the previous night's Halloween festivities, but this isn't a mimosa pitcher kind of joint a-la Royal Oak. The attentive server brought a couple of baskets of warm, crispy, cinnamon bread-stick type things and placed a small fruit cup in front of each of us to enjoy while perusing the menu. I quickly decided on the crab cake Benedict with lemon hollandaise ($15), and my mom and I split the roasted cream of poblano soup ($7). The soup was great -- rich, with quite a spicy kick.

On to the main event. The plate was beautiful, great presentation, but I did kind of wonder about the portion size. I've had the eggs and crab meat Benedict for brunch at Mia Bella on Main so many times, I suppose I expected two crab cakes topped by two poached eggs and some breakfast potatoes on the side.

This is where I was surprised because it was more than enough food. Sure, it looks small on the plate, but my eyes are always bigger than my belly. The poached egg wasn't as runny as I typically like it, but the crab cake was excellent, lightly crispy on the outside and oh-so-moist on the inside. Another pleasant surprise was the lemon hollandaise, which superbly complemented the crab cake.

Everyone was full, but when I saw flourless chocolate espresso cake on the dessert menu, I went for it. The slice of cake was more like fudge, drizzled with a delicious raspberry glaze; it was decadent, gooey, and I sort of hoarded it. Sorry, family.

All in all, it was a very good brunch, the stink-eyes subsided, and I'd go back again to try the omelet with goat cheese and asparagus tips, or maybe the mushroom ravioli with poached egg, Canadian bacon and truffles. Brunch is served every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Parking is a breeze, and there's a pretty outdoor patio with a fireplace and water wall. Happy hour is 4 to 7, Monday through Friday, with $5 specialty drinks and wines by the glass, $3 domestic beer and $4 imports.

Merche is located at 21208 Northwest Freeway in Cypress. For more info, visit Merche's website or call 281-949-5999.

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