Brunch Bites: Yum Cha and Bar Pastoral

In this week's batch of brunch bites, Yum Cha adds another dim sum destination to Chicago's brunch-happy repertoire and Bar Pastoral begins brunch on Easter weekend.

Dim sum at Yum Cha
(Dim sum at Yum Cha. Photo: Yum Cha Dim Sum Parlor)

Dim sum is hot right now. The Chinese equivalent of brunch recently made its debut at Koi and Fat Rice, followed this week by Yum Cha. The new River East restaurant specializes in dim sum, served in conjunction with restaurant partner Phoenix, a dim sum staple in Chinatown. The traditional array of tea-friendly dumplings, savory morsels, and doughy delights is on hand at Yum Cha, helmed by "Food Buddha" Rodelio Aglibot. Available for lunch and dinner, the dim sum-focused restaurant hauls out dim sum cart service on weekends, offering everything from stuffed eggplant and fried taro puffs to pork and peanut steamed dumplings, braised beef tendon, and sesame balls with sweet bean paste. It's everything you crave in a traditional dim sum experience, with dirt-cheap prices to boot, but gussied up with a bit of downtown ambience.

With new chef Brooks Hart at the helm, Bar Pastoral joins the brunch fray on Easter weekend. Brunch classics in mind, Harts engaged his whimsical side, while of course keeping cheese at the forefront of her creations. Expect chicken and waffles with housemade bacon and Widmer cheddar waffles; grilled cheese and tomato soup; a seasonal frittata with English muffin croutons; French toast bread pudding with bacon streusel and Vermont Creamery creme fraiche; and a European breakfast board featuring an olio of artisan cheeses, cured meats, baguette, and housemade accompaniments. Don't forget the booze! Brunch beverages include a michelada, a Bloody Mary bedecked with pickled vegetables, cheddar, and salami, and a gin- and lemonade-based refresher called Easy Like a Sunday Morning.

- Matt Kirouac