Monday, September 5, 2011

Dinner | David Burke Kitchen

Since our dinner at Takashi back in June, Lisa and I were finally schedule some best friend face time over dinner at David Burke Kitchen a couple weeks ago.

Chef David Burke and The James Hotel partnered once again (first venture being at the hotel's Chicago location with Chef Burke's steakhouse) to open David Burke Kitchen at SoHo's The James New York earlier this year. David Burke Kitchen focuses on "wholesome hearty modern American food" that is locally sourced and "presented in the creative and whimsical style that is Chef Burke's trademark" -- what the restaurant refers to, on its website, as "an urban farmhouse." The restaurant's space was designed by James Beard Award-winner Thomas Schlesser (Best Restaurant Design in 2009 for Chicago's Publican), whose inspiration was drawn from the surrounding SoHo neighborhood -- "blending the cool, industrial simplicity of an airy loft with the rustic warmth of a country barn."

There are three different spaces within the restaurant. When you first enter, a staircase leads up to the glass-enclosed Treehouse Bar, where guests can enjoy artisanal cocktail, homemade sweet-and-savory snacks, as well as an array of other appetizers. The Bar offers banquettes and counter seating that look over Sixth Avenue, offering a "bird's eye view of the city street below."

As you walk further in, down the stairs, the loft-like main dining room (seen above) features "exposed beams and views through glass walls into the kitchen and wine cave." There is also an outdoor space with in the Urban Garden one level up from the restaurant's main dining room.

To perpetuate the farmhouse theme, the cloth napkins had the classic blue gingham pattern, echoing the ones we can imagine farmers wearing during a hard day's work. I thought that was a great subtle touch.

Even the drinks menu has an organic feel to it, as you can almost feel the natural grain lines of the wood just by eying it. Love the weather vane logo, too -- very rustic!

Another thing to note that as David Burke Kitchen aims to be a farm-to-table, locally sourced restaurant, its menu boasts the week's dates atop to emphasize this commitment to this mission.

Fresh butter was served on a weathered glass slab.

Olive bread is always a good start to a wonderful meal.

To start, I opted for the duck meatball lasagna with herbed striped pasta, ricotta, and quail egg. Oh man, this was incredibly good. The pasta was delicately soft -- fresh in taste, thin in texture -- making for an awesome complement to the heartiness and juiciness from the duck meatballs that were wrapped in the lasagna's interior, as the ricotta held these ingredients together very well. If it's one thing that Chef Burke does well, it's meat-pasta-cream dishes. Please do not leave David Burke Kitchen without having this. It is undoubtedly a must-order!

Lisa went with the tomato gazpacho with shrimp, watermelon, and yellow pepper crème fraîche. It was shocking to me that the inherent chilliness from this particular gazpacho (i.e., what usually draws me away from ordering/having chilled soups of all sorts) is what actually gave the soup its robust depth and flavor. What a refreshing surprise it was -- the chunks of shrimp mixed in with the thick gazpacho, the hint of watermelon, and the creamy (and zingy) crème fraîche certainly made for a winning combination to savor the last few weeks of summer we had ahead of us since the dinner.

Along with our starters, Lisa wanted us to order from the jar section of the menu -- particularly the chicken liver / pistachio one. Each miniature jar contains a paté combination inside it, ready to be spread on fresh crostini.

A closer look at the chicken liver / pistachio jar. While Lisa totally fell in love with this jar, I felt it was just okay, mostly because I found it to be a little gamy and also because I have never really warmed up to the taste of chicken liver. The nuttiness from the pistachio almost made of for it, but I could only have a bite or two of it before having to call it in. So if you're a lover of chicken liver patés, the one Chef Burke dreamed up here will do wonders for your taste buds! Otherwise, beware of gaminess coming your way.

For my main course, I went with the short rib and cavatelli with wild mushrooms and truffle cream. The truffle cream was generously dolloped on top of the short rib meat right after our server brought it out to me from the kitchen, which was a nice detail that rounded out the perfect main course. Warm, tender, and flavorful short rib meat over a well-seasoned bed of al dente cavatelli and earthy mushrooms -- what more can you expect from Chef Burke in a wonderfully crafted main course of short rib? The truffle cream had a nice hint of that delicious goodness that all foodies dream of hitting their taste buds, with the added awesome creamy texture that melts right into the cavatelli, the short rib, and the sauce in which it was all braised. Only problem here was that I wish I had more room in my stomach to be able to eat it all. Definitely dying to go back to David Burke Kitchen for this!

Lisa had the pressed head-on prawns over spicy spaghetti, zucchini, and basil. The spaghetti sauce here was really zesty and punchy in flavor while the pasta itself was perfectly al dente. Very good seafood pasta dish, as the prawns were cooked to the ideal temperature. What I liked most is that the pasta was not drowning in sauce -- always key.

Lisa and I left so full (of amazingly delicious food), so we opted not to order dessert this time. However, as a little parting gift, the restaurant gave us little box bags of chocolate brittle.

Findings: I was very pleasantly surprised by the culinary venture Chef Burke has collaborated on over at The James New York -- David Burke Kitchen really has some strong menu items to show-off the restaurant's well-rounded farm-to-table creations that Chef Burke has so brilliantly put together given the current season's harvest. The duck meatball lasagna and the short rib and cavatelli was to die for -- I'm still having haunting dreams about how badly my stomach is wishing for it to make another appearance in an upcoming meal. What Chef Burke has done here is crafted modern dishes using rustically sourced ingredients in a very urban setting. This dichotomy (i.e., city and country) is balanced well at David Burke Kitchen, and I highly recommend casual dinners there. As with Chef Burke's other restaurants, the menu at David Burke Kitchen is playful in its descriptions and categories (e.g., snacks, jars, etc.). Portions are generous for an establishment o of haute cuisine, so I recommend going hungry, with the intention of having at least two courses.

Price point: $13-16 for each starter, $7 for each jar, $29-32 for each main.

--August 17, 2011

David Burke Kitchen
The James New York Hotel
23 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013

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