Ken Leighton 2 p.m., Feb. 22
Breakfast at the Gathering
After 26 years in business, the Gathering is a Mission Hills landmark to be sure. It's normally hard to stay relevant for that long in a tough industry, but the Gathering has managed to keep at it with only the briefest of pauses brought on by a fire in 2006. Because of that fire, a remodeling gave the dining room a chance to look much freshers than its years might otherwise indicate, i.e. it's not stuck in the Eighties!
Since the Gathering has WiFi and opens every day at 8 for breakfast, it's a pretty ideal spot for someone who's attached to the internet whenever possible. Breakfast guests start their meals with a basket of complimentary pastries, but a bottomless cup of coffee to go along with them costs $2.75. Muffin baskets were out of fashion for a while, much like the white linens that the Gathering's tables are spread with, but bread baskets are starting to show up again at restaurants so bring on the muffins!
A "Mission Hills omelet" ($10.95) promised a lot: filled with snow crab and covered in dill hollandaise sauce, it had the trappings of elegance about it. The dish seemed excessive in reality, as the overly generous ladling of sauce pushed the already-large omelet exceed the limits of reason to some extent. It wasn't that there was too much of it there, the whole thing was "just too much." What started out as a challenge became a chore. The potatoes Lyonnaise, essentially herbed has browns, were nicely browned.
A different dish, "salmon over eggs," ($11.95) told a different story. The eggs had been scrambled with artichokes and onions and the salmon steak was cooked simply and laid over the top at the end. Substituting fresh fruit for the potatoes, an option graciously advertised on the menu, further lightened the dish. It was still a massive breakfast, but much less salty, greasy, and filling than the omelet.
Other options on the menu indicated that the portioning might tend towards overkill. Meatloaf and gravy, with eggs, for breakfast might send the unwary diner into a food coma from which there is no return. Similarly, a plate of steak and eggs ($16.95) comes with a full-sized, 12-ounce NY steak. Sticking to the lighter options, perhaps even sharing a main dish and a few sides, seems to be the best way to curb the somewhat overzealous menu. Once that's accomplished, however, friendly service, a neighborly vibe, and the undeniably classy touches of hand-written checks and white tablecloths give the Gathering a bit of clout in the breakfast market.