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Brunch at the Rainbow Room

By Karen HudesMay 18 2016

Update: Until brunch dates resume at the Rainbow Room, see our guide to brunch at Rockefeller Center. Also look out for nighttime pop-up bars at the Rainbow Room Gallery, and keep in mind that Bar SixtyFive, on the same floor, opens on Sundays at 4pm for food and cocktails.

You may think you've seen it all when it comes to brunch in NYC, but even for a native New Yorker, there's nothing quite like Sunday brunch at the Rainbow Room. Elegant, indulgent and uplifting, it's just the experience to finish the weekend on a high.

First, the setting is a gem. On the 65th floor of 30 Rock, the famed space reveals a glorious daytime view, beginning with the Empire State Building just to the south and the rest of the city stretching out for miles. The room is filled with light from the tall windows, shimmering through crystal curtains, while above the sunken dance floor (which holds buffet stations during brunch) the chandelier-adorned ceiling gently glows with shifting colors. A jazz band performs from a stage above the entrance, heightening the swanky, celebratory mood.

And that's before you even begin the meal. The new brunch format combines table service with a few buffet specialties. There's a genius "bacon bar" for sampling different styles of the breakfast classic—such as a maple and bourbon-glazed cut that's carved to order, or a smoky salmon "bacon"—as well as a bar for freshly pressed fruit and veggie juices, a table for yogurt parfaits and a crêpe station as well.

The menu is full of sweet and savory delicacies too. Among the choices this spring, the lobster béarnaise Benedict stands out with its big, beautiful hunks of Montauk lobster and a dollop of caviar, while other variations tempt with duck three ways or lump crab cakes on top. There are delicate omelets—such as the Forrestier, with a lush combination of fontina cheese, morels and other local mushrooms and shaved black truffles—as well as entrees like shrimp and grits, a fried chicken sandwich and a full-on salmon platter with a Black Seed bagel.

Griddle items include both traditional buttermilk pancakes and carrot cake pancakes with white chocolate cream cheese, plus a bread and butter pudding—the kitchen's sumptuous take on French toast. There's also a simple salad that's wisely offered as a shareable plate (this isn't the day to have greens as your main). The prix fixe menu allows you to order as many dishes as you like, even though you may need to pace yourself at such a feast.

And don't miss the cocktails. Those who love Bloody Marys but are game for a twist can go for the Snapper Mary, made with gin and a white anchovy garnish. Sparklers such as the Paradise Lost (with champagne, passion fruit and lemon) and the Empire Sunrise (with prosecco, blood orange and an Aperol float) are another lovely way to go. More than 20 wines (largely French and domestic) are poured by the glass as well, including five different champagnes.

One more thing...there's also a dessert bar. Mini blueberry cheesecakes in an attractive shade of violet make a delightful ending, but the tables also abound with strawberry shortcake, green tea cupcakes, s'mores and many more sweets in decorative presentations. Gluten-free chocolate cake is a godsend for many, while mendiants (nut-topped chocolate discs on a lollipop stick) are a chic choice as well.

A word of warning: there's little in the way of vegan fare over the course of the meal, but parties of omnivores will definitely come away pleased.

Reservations for Sunday brunch at the Rainbow Room, available from 11am to 3:30pm, can be made here or by calling 212-632-5000. The entrance is on 49th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, under the NBC/Rainbow Room marquee at 30 Rockefeller Plaza. Take the escalator to the second floor, and the team at the elevators with usher you up to the top. Brunch is prix fixe, $125 per person (not including drinks, tax or tip), and dress is business casual. See the upcoming music lineup here.

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