When I saw that David Burke Kitchen (23 Grand St b/t Thompson St & Avenue Of The Americas, South Village) was one of the restaurants that had a special menu for New York Restaurant Week, I knew that I had to go and write about it.
Firstly, because I can’t afford his restaurants at any other time during the year. For a set menu, there was a fixed price of $25 for lunch. This does not include drinks or additional add-ons indicated in the menu. Secondly, at the time, I was taking a break from Chopped and binge-watching Top Chef Masters Season 5 where David Burke was one of the competing chefs.
David Burke Kitchen is located on the lower level of the James Hotel in Soho. The decor inside was rustic but swanky and surprisingly sunny for a restaurant located below ground! Also, there were some hilarious pictures up on the walls.
Anyway, enough about interior design and on to the food! David Burke’s style is contemporary American cuisine with high-quality ingredients. This category of food is extremely common among high-end restaurants in New York but his interpretation is what sets him apart.
The first dish put on the table was the complimentary fresh red grapes with pickled carrots. I found this bizarre at first but then I realized how the sweet juice from the grapes worked so well with the tartness of the pickled carrot. Who knew? I don’t even like carrots.
For my afternoon cocktail, I had a Kitchen Arnold Palmer. One word: deadly. From a single sip, I got all the flavors from the mint, honey vodka, lemon ice tea and whatever else was in that thing. The deadly aspect of the cocktail was that I couldn’t detect the alcohol no matter how hard I tried. As a result, I drank more Kitchen Arnold Palmers than I care to admit.
My appetizer was a parfait of salmon and tuna tartare with creme fraiche and rye bread. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted anything so complex and yet so simple in my life. The tuna was elegantly smooth and the salmon was seasoned with a seemingly effortless assortment of herbs. I was amazed by how much Burke held back on the acidity but turned up the volume on the brightness, merely by highlighting the quality of the ingredients. (PS: I totally pretended that David Burke was in the kitchen cooking for me and that’s why I keep saying “he cooked it like this.” Unfortunately, he didn’t.)
The little dots on the side are large drops of creme fraiche with a dap of honey in the middle. This didn’t overwhelm or even significantly change the taste of the parfait. Instead, it was placed there solely to accentuate the creamy texture of the dish. I was utterly gobsmacked by how he managed to use a sauce in that manner, especially when you have the sharp zest from the honey. And as always, with every dish, crunch is key. The rye bread didn’t only add a crunch element to the dish but also was the perfect vehicle to carry to delicate parfait.
The entire strips of chive didn’t bother me but reminded me of the billion times Chopped contestants were criticized for putting inedible garnishes on the plate. But that’s a tiny Presentation issue in light of the intensely creative dish.
My main course was the lobster roll and again, the spotlight shone brightly on the ingredients. There was great acidity from the specks of tomato with hints of bitterness from the lobster and parsley. Of course, the lobster was fresh, fresh, fresh. The bread was toasted to an impeccable golden-brown. Unfortunately, after the mind blowing appetizer, this dish was a little bit of a letdown. Only a little bit though!
It was clean, classic but not a wow. It didn’t have that oozy, buttery lusciousness I was looking for. I admit that maybe it wasn’t the best decision to go a restaurant like this and order a lobster roll. However, like I’ve said before, I think the best way to test a chef’s talent is by ordering the simplest dish on the menu. On the plus side, the fries were AWESOME! A little salt, pepper and chives and you’re good to go.
Side Note: my boyfriend ordered the short ribs and they were crazy good! I don’t like the texture of mushrooms so that’s why I didn’t polish off his plate. But if that’s your jam, the cavatelli pasta with the truffle mousse is to die for.
By the time dessert came around, we were stuffed like never before. Placed in front of us was this plastic tree with different types of cheesecake lollipops popping out. There is no doubt in my mind that takes the prize for the most Creative and trippy dish I’ve ever had. It looks like a tree from Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory that I wish I could take home and grow so I can get a lifelong supply of goofy, cheesy scrumptiousness. David Burke actually made this for Curtis Stone’s surprise party on Top Chef Masters and Curtis loved it. Obviously. You have to taste it to believe it.
The chocolate ones had a thin layer of richness with a pure core of cheesecake underneath. The strawberry cheesecake lollipop was my favorite because, well, it was a strawberry cheesecake on a stick! The nutty one was also yummy because it was in-your-face sweet. Yet, thankfully, it not as heavy as the others so it was easier to eat. On the plate, there were also raspberries that helped cut through the richness from the cheese and chocolate. On the other hand, the mini-jar of strawberry whipped cream was meh and didn’t really taste like anything.
Eating at David Burke Kitchen was a transformative experience but I felt like I needed a stretcher to carry me out of there. By the end of it, I just didn’t feel full in a pleasant way. The portions were way too big and when you have such rich food, you do not need humongous helpings.
That being said, I cannot adequately explain how delicious the food was. Totally recommend it. Especially that cheesecake-lollipop-growing-tree. Oh my god. It was crazy.