Hold the waffles, pass the injera: On a quest for international brunch

Brunch items from Thaicoon & Sushi Bar include (from left) Kana Moo Krob (fried kale with crispy pork and rice), Pla Lui Suan (lightly battered fried catfish with spicy toppings) and Tom Yum Noodle Soup. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
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Brunch items from Thaicoon & Sushi Bar include (from left) Kana Moo Krob (fried kale with crispy pork and rice), Pla Lui Suan (lightly battered fried catfish with spicy toppings) and Tom Yum Noodle Soup. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS

Some years ago, I celebrated what then seemed like a monumental birthday. To mark the occasion, I let my friends take me out to dinner on Saturday. The next day, I had them around for drinks and cake at my house. But before the Sunday afternoon party, I wanted some brunch.

Not chicken and waffles. Not biscuits and gravy.

I was craving Thai brunch — beef jerky, green papaya salad, maybe some hoi tod, the hard-to-find mussel "omelet" that derives its crunchy snap from pieces of crispy fried pancake. The only place to go was Thaicoon & Sushi Bar. Hidden off to one side of Sage Hill Shopping Center on Briarcliff Road, the restaurant has inspired a cult following with its Sunday-only brunch of authentic Bangkok street-hawker food. Back in the day, the Sunday brunch service had the air of a secret menu — if you didn't know to ask for it, you'd be stuck with Thai staples or sushi. After a decade, I still remember that birthday meal: sipping Singhas with my best friend, then rushing home to cut the cake.

After a long hiatus, I returned to Thaicoon a couple of times recently, and I’m pleased to report that it remains in fine form — even as good as I remember, quite possibly better. As I marveled over the hoi tod, dipping those crunchy bits of broken pancake into the sweet-hot chile sauce, it occurred to me that I’m hardly unique in my craving for dim sum, noodle soups, even sushi for brunch. You can have the doughnuts, the croissants, the popovers. I’ll take the umami. For those in want of a diversion from everyday bacon and eggs, here’s my list of international brunch stars.

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Duck ramen is on offer for brunch at Brush Sushi Izakaya in Decatur every Sunday. CONTRIBUTED BY BRUSH SUSHI IZAKAYA

Duck ramen is on offer for brunch at Brush Sushi Izakaya in Decatur every Sunday. CONTRIBUTED BY BRUSH SUSHI IZAKAYA
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Duck ramen is on offer for brunch at Brush Sushi Izakaya in Decatur every Sunday. CONTRIBUTED BY BRUSH SUSHI IZAKAYA

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For comfort food with an Asian twist, go for the miso grits at Brush Sushi Izakaya in Decatur. CONTRIBUTED BY BRUSH SUSHI IZAKAYA

For comfort food with an Asian twist, go for the miso grits at Brush Sushi Izakaya in Decatur. CONTRIBUTED BY BRUSH SUSHI IZAKAYA
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For comfort food with an Asian twist, go for the miso grits at Brush Sushi Izakaya in Decatur. CONTRIBUTED BY BRUSH SUSHI IZAKAYA

Brush Sushi Izakaya. Chef Jason Liang's masterful omakase seatings are one good reason to go to this polished Japanese haunt. Another is the Sunday-only brunch, when the South Carolina-born, Taiwanese-raised sushi chef shows what else he can do. We recently spent a quietly indulgent interlude at Brush, spooning down comforting miso grits with sauteed maitakes and corn, and inhaling a steamy bowl of duck ramen in shoyu broth. A Mr. Miyagi cocktail — sesame-infused vodka, ginger, wasabi and lime — was boozy and intriguing. It must have reminded me that we were in a sushi restaurant. Time for some fish and sake. We requested an 8-ounce carafe of crisp Kiku-Masamune taru-style sake (dry, crisp, aged in cedar casks) and a soft-shell crab roll, and asked the chef-in-charge to send out the freshest nigiri he could muster. Minutes later, we were nibbling buttery rich chutoro (medium-fatty bluefin) and luscious slivers of briny-sweet iwashi (sardine). We left feeling reminted and ready to embrace the day. 316 Church St., Decatur. 678-949-9412, brushatl.com.

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One of the classic Eritrean brunch dishes at Feedel Bistro is “fu’ul” (ful medames), a stew of fava beans with tomatoes, onion and jalapeños. Scoop it up with French baguette. CONTRIBUTED BY FEEDEL BISTRO

One of the classic Eritrean brunch dishes at Feedel Bistro is “fu’ul” (ful medames), a stew of fava beans with tomatoes, onion and jalapeños. Scoop it up with French baguette. CONTRIBUTED BY FEEDEL BISTRO
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One of the classic Eritrean brunch dishes at Feedel Bistro is “fu’ul” (ful medames), a stew of fava beans with tomatoes, onion and jalapeños. Scoop it up with French baguette. CONTRIBUTED BY FEEDEL BISTRO

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At Feedel Bistro, brunch includes chechebsa (pieces of soft flat bread smothered with berbere sauce; below) and quanta firfir (a beef jerky-like dish with berbere sauce and pieces of injera; above). CONTRIBUTED BY FEEDEL BISTRO

At Feedel Bistro, brunch includes chechebsa (pieces of soft flat bread smothered with berbere sauce; below) and quanta firfir (a beef jerky-like dish with berbere sauce and pieces of injera; above). CONTRIBUTED BY FEEDEL BISTRO
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At Feedel Bistro, brunch includes chechebsa (pieces of soft flat bread smothered with berbere sauce; below) and quanta firfir (a beef jerky-like dish with berbere sauce and pieces of injera; above). CONTRIBUTED BY FEEDEL BISTRO

Feedel Bistro. Guided by their 82-year-old mother, the sister-and-brother team of Tamar Telahun and Simon Gebru serve the food of Eritrea (their homeland) and Ethiopia with considerable freshness and panache. When I heard Feedel was offering weekend brunch, I stopped by with a friend, and, as always, I was transported to a land of dreamy, aromatic stews and cooling injera — all vegetarian, though you may order from the regular menu and other brunch dishes are in the works (some with meat). Tomatoes, onion and jalapeños are the building blocks for many breakfast dishes here; most notable perhaps is the earthy fava bean stew called "fu'ul" (ful medames in Egypt, where it's a staple). We ordered ours with the addition of crumbled feta and scrambled egg. The best attack is to stir it all together, maybe add a sprinkle of salt, rip off a piece of the crusty baguette that comes on the side, and spoon it on. And do consider the chechebsa, an Eritrean/Ethiopian breakfast classic that's basically pieces of soft flat bread smothered with a gently spicy berbere gravy. The flavors really register when you swipe the chechebsa with a dab of the tangy yogurt accompaniment. Finally, Feedel's vegan sampler — a glorious spread of lentils, split peas, collards, cabbage and some cooling bites and condiments — is perfect anytime. Get one for the table and let everybody sop it up with injera. 3125 Briarcliff Road NE, Atlanta. 404-963-2905, feedelbistro.com.

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Some of the dishes you’ll find at La Mei Zi’s terrific weekend brunch: cold sweet-potato noodles, sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves and sesame balls filled with red bean paste. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

Some of the dishes you’ll find at La Mei Zi’s terrific weekend brunch: cold sweet-potato noodles, sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves and sesame balls filled with red bean paste. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
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Some of the dishes you’ll find at La Mei Zi’s terrific weekend brunch: cold sweet-potato noodles, sticky rice wrapped in lotus leaves and sesame balls filled with red bean paste. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

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Taiwanese-style salt and pepper fish (shown here with other items) was a standout dish at La Mei Zi’s brunch buffet in Doraville on a recent Saturday. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

Taiwanese-style salt and pepper fish (shown here with other items) was a standout dish at La Mei Zi’s brunch buffet in Doraville on a recent Saturday. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK
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Taiwanese-style salt and pepper fish (shown here with other items) was a standout dish at La Mei Zi’s brunch buffet in Doraville on a recent Saturday. CONTRIBUTED BY WENDELL BROCK

La Mei Zi. When my quest for dim sum at the palatial new Royal China in Duluth took a nosedive (hard pass, thank you), I took respite in the weekend spread at this Taiwanese mainstay on Buford Highway. I'd heard that La Mei Zi's weekend buffet was worth seeking out, and it did not disappoint. Go early, and for $13.95, you can have your fill of soups, noodles, stir-fries, vegetables, tofu, chicken wings (and feet!), cold fruit and tea snacks. On the day I was there, I was happy to discover sensational cold sweet-potato noodles, salt and pepper fish, celery with bean curd, braised Chinese cabbage, crispy spring rolls, congee with minced pork, a delectable minced pork soup that I like to spoon over the congee, and impeccably sweet, fresh papaya — just the thing to end the meal with a cup of tea. But my real weakness is the stellar version of fried sesame balls with red-bean paste. When I find an exceptional sesame ball, I can't stop, and La Mei Zi's are ethereal. (Picture Dolly Gallagher Levi popping potato puffs at Harmonia Gardens in "Hello, Dolly!" Yeah, that was me, sans frilly hat.) The buffet is constantly replenished. Fellow jostlers are mostly cordial. I can't wait to go back. 5150 Buford Highway NE, Doraville. 770-676-0225, lameiziga.com.

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One of Thaicoon & Sushi Bar’s brunch options is Kana Moo Krob, fried kale with crispy pork and rice. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS

One of Thaicoon & Sushi Bar’s brunch options is Kana Moo Krob, fried kale with crispy pork and rice. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
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One of Thaicoon & Sushi Bar’s brunch options is Kana Moo Krob, fried kale with crispy pork and rice. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS

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Thaicoon & Sushi Bar’s Pla Lui Suan is lightly battered fried catfish with spicy toppings. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS

Thaicoon & Sushi Bar’s Pla Lui Suan is lightly battered fried catfish with spicy toppings. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS
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Thaicoon & Sushi Bar’s Pla Lui Suan is lightly battered fried catfish with spicy toppings. CONTRIBUTED BY HENRI HOLLIS

Thaicoon & Sushi Bar. On a recent Sunday visit, I made the mistake of telling my guests we should order everything on chef Apirat Jaroendee's brunch menu, and they almost took me up on it. Barbecue chicken with sticky rice. Sweet-tangy tom yum noodle soup with fish balls, minced pork, pork rinds, sliced Thai sausage and peanuts. Crispy pork and kale stir-fry over gravied rice with a fried egg. Spicy fried catfish salad. My beloved hoi tod. All excellent. It was like old times once again, and we didn't even have any green papaya salad. Thaicoon has a sister restaurant in Marietta (same name, different chef), but it does not offer this glorious brunch. After 19 years, the Briarcliff location's Sunday setup remains one of Atlanta's best-kept Thai secrets. I hope to celebrate many more birthdays here. 1799 Briarcliff Road NE, Atlanta. 404-817-9805, thaicoonsushiatlanta.com.

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