Hit the sauce in the morning — the splendid hollandaise sauce, that is — at The Detour

By Richard Foss (Richard@RichardFoss.com)

Clockwise, from top left: French toast, salmon Benedict with hollandaise sauce, mushroom frittata and the Detour scramble

Clockwise, from top left: French toast, salmon Benedict with hollandaise sauce, mushroom frittata and the Detour scramble

When I first heard that there was a restaurant called The Detour, I wondered why anyone would name a place after something that most people try to avoid. For travelers a detour is a nuisance, an involuntary waste of time on the way to someplace you’d rather be.

Having visited the restaurant for brunch, I am even more confused about the business strategy. About half of the seating is on a patio facing a section of Washington Boulevard with a lot of traffic noise, and the odd triangular interior is dominated by the bar and sparsely furnished with angular modern chairs and tables. This would be perfectly appropriate in a place that is primarily a bar, but is odd in this case because the menu shows considerable ambition. We suspected that other people also haven’t figured out that this is a restaurant, because when we stopped in for Sunday brunch only two other customers were inside.

Cocktails are offered at brunch. If you like breakfast to include a mojito, honey old fashioned or a lethal-sounding mix of vodka, rum, peach schnapps and orange and cranberry juices they will be happy to oblige. I was actually attracted by the idea of a cocktail of bourbon, vermouth and Benedictine, were it not for the fact that I’d probably want to go to sleep in the car afterward and I was the driver. Instead we settled for coffees and kir royales, two of my favorite ways to start the day. The coffees here are Americanos, diluted espresso, and are agreeably strong and tasty.

The menu at brunch is short but varied, offering a dozen items including omelets, a standard or salmon benedict, French toast and crepes, plus a Cuban sandwich and a salad with pecans, gorgonzola and cranberries. Our server Gabriel was friendly and didn’t complain when we dithered, and we took his advice on a few items.  A friend who had visited before told me to order anything with the house-made hollandaise, and we settled on a salmon benedict, along with French toast, a mushroom frittata and a “detour scramble” of everything in the refrigerator with eggs.

The advice about the hollandaise was very sound; it had a wonderful balance of lemon and pepper with egg, and the person who had it in front of him got downright protective of it. Gabriel mentioned that the chef is French, and he has this classic down. The frittata was very good, too: eggs baked with mushrooms, herbs and parmesan cheese with a dash of truffle oil lending a rich funkiness.

The other egg dish — the “detour scramble” of eggs with bell pepper, bacon, spinach, potatoes and cheese — was slightly less interesting. I tried a dash of the Tapatio hot sauce that was on the table, and though that made an improvement I wished for even more hollandaise sauce to anoint it. Then again, I’d have eaten that sauce on anything. Except for the French toast, of course. That’s a dish I rarely order because it’s something I can do at home and rarely interesting. This French toast, however, was among the best I’ve had, the exterior of the thick-cut bread caramelized and crisp. Real maple syrup was served with it, but I didn’t want any because it was fine as it was.

The only thing about our meals that I thought could have used some improvement was the breakfast potatoes, which had a nice subtle spice and herb seasoning but were soft rather than crisp. When I mentioned this to Gabriel he said that the chef has been tinkering with them, and if we like a particular style to let him know when we order.

We had planned on finishing our meal by sharing some sweet crepes, but the amply sized portions had finished off our appetites. We resolved to visit at night to try some of the items from the regular menu and specials board, which looked intriguing.

As we departed we discussed what might be done to improve the place. We all liked the food, but the somewhat stark interior could use some softening, and the street noise had been noticeable even inside. The Detour has very good service and food, and if they can come up with décor that gives the place a bit more curb appeal they have a winner on their

The Detour opens at 3:30 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. on weekends. Street parking only, some vegetarian items, full bar, no website.

The Detour Bistro Bar, 12473 W. Washington Blvd., Culver City (424) 216-1398