Insane in the membrane.

Insane in the membrane.

Versus: Over-Easy Does It at Smith

The Place: Smith, 332 15th Ave. E., 709-1900, CAPITOL HILL.

The brunch menu at Smith is pretty consistent. You’ll always find brioche French toast and baked eggs with prosciutto, as well as rotating blackboard specials. Smith is really the place to go for creative breakfast concoctions consisting of seasonal ingredients, fine cheeses, herbs, and an overall feeling that you got a hearty meal for your buck.

You usually don’t leave Smith with an empty stomach or wallet. But when we ordered two of their most popular dishes recently, we left with a rather different story to tell.

The Rivals: Hash vs. Brisket.

The Brisket & Fried-Egg Sandwich ($12) comes with a smear of hot mustard, two fried green tomatoes, and Gruyère, with a side of fries. We loved the textures of this sandwich. The fried tomatoes contributed a nice crispness and tang, while the savory brisket and runny egg created an unctuous mouth-feel. But neither the mustard nor the cheese could compete, and got lost in the ambitiously loaded sandwich. There’s so much going on with this thing—and so much brisket—that it’s hard to get an even mouthful of each ingredient. But from a value standpoint, it’s great. The sandwich was also easy to cut and wasn’t nearly as messy as we had anticipated. That bun deserves a medal.

What the menu description fails to mention is that the Spicy Corn & Sweet Onion Hash ($11) comes with a poached egg on top. It also doesn’t do the spicy quotient of this dish justice. Thank goodness for the side of ketchup, because your mouth will catch fire eating this without some sort of heat extinguisher. The hash comes in a bowl with buttery, crisp sweet-corn kernels, roasted oyster mushrooms, and baby spinach. The spice used is a mixture of cayenne and Aleppo peppers, which are a deep red in color but not very spicy—a good substitute for crushed red pepper. Everything was cooked to perfection except the egg, which was almost completely raw in the middle. Instead of a bright-orange yolk, it was runny membrane. We also would have enjoyed the hash more if it had come with some carbs—like toast, potatoes, or a hearty grain.

The Champ: The brisket and fried-egg sandwich. While the hash would have stood more of a chance had our egg been cooked correctly, it still wouldn’t have won. The spice was just a little too strong and overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the corn. Of course, spice level is a personal preference, but for our first meal of the day, it was too much of a wake-up call. Our $28 bill for two dishes and two cups of coffee seemed a bit steep considering a portion of our hash was inedible, but we were too stuffed from our sandwich to summon the energy to complain.

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