Wednesday, May 4, 2011

BIts & Morsels does David Burke

Herbed mac n' cheese with spicy sausage and prosciutto-wrapped egg at David Burke Kitchen in the James Hotel.

by Erin Frankel

I guess David Burke has too much time on his hands. He already operates three restaurants in New York City alone (davidburke townhouse, fishtail, and david burke at bloomingdales). Yet, he wasn't satisfied, and decided to open one more, even larger venture, David Burke Kitchen. It is the chef and entrepreneur’s first foray downtown and no less, in the new, modern luxury James Hotel, in SoHo.

This large, modern restaurant resembles a cruise ship ... setting sail high above the busy intersection of 6th Avenue and Grand Street. The restaurant is divided into several spaces. Upon entering the sleek, contemporary space, you are given the option of retreating downstairs to a large subterranean space, where the denim banquettes and barn roof lend a more rustic vibe. Or, you can walk up the steps that lead to the large lido deck (really a glass-enclosed Treehouse bar and 130-seat outdoor deck) for al fresco wining and dining in the warmer days and evenings of May. Thomas Schlesser (of DBGB and Bar Boulud) designed the entire space, which is surrounded by floor to ceiling glass windows, matching the airy, minimalist simplicity of SoHo’s surrounding lofts.
Outdoor garden at David Burke. Classic Bloody Mary.
David Burke's outdoor garden is a large modern, relaxing oasis where you will be served deliciously light and inventive cocktails and food for hours and hours. You can choose to sit at a table underneath a canopy or recline on one of the outdoor couches under the sun. No matter what you decide, I suggest coming during a nice spring evening or day for dinner or brunch. The entire staff is incredibly accommodating and attentive.

The cuisine here replicates David Burke’s signature classic seasonal Modern American menu. If there’s one thing David Burke does well, it's that he puts a tasteful, polished touch on playful and popular dishes. If there’s a particular food craze, you know David Burke is doing it with some flare, mingling classic techniques with impressively haute ingredients. This is most evident in his newest spring items on the menu like the asparagus & Burrata prosciutto with honeydew and basil, the lightly seared tuna tartare topped with a creamy avocado puree, the herbed mac n’ cheese with spicy sausage topped with prosciutto-wrapped egg, or a new brunch favorite, the pastrami salmon bagel topped with capers, red onion, and horseradish.
Asparagus and Burrata prosciutto with honeydew and basil.
Tuna Tartare Tacos with avocado puree.
The pastrami salmon bagel with capers, red onion, and horseradish.
Another favorite on the menu was Burke's unique take on the gazpacho soup, a new item on the menu, which is made with a refreshing, authentically Spanish tomato base topped with shrimp and a creamy, sweet shrimp puree. The spiciness of the sauce combined perfectly with the natural lightness of the shrimp and the cold tomato broth. A must-try for next time is the rather playful combination of Cheddar waffles with fried chicken.

Depending on your mood, Burke offers both alcoholic and non-alcoholic cocktails to pair with your food. For dinner, I decided to spike one of his all-natural lavender and ginger-infused sun-brewed iced-teas with some Bourbon. While, for brunch, my date went for the healthy alternative, Burke's "Eye Opener," a fresh carrot juice ("perfectly light with a nice kick").

But my Sunday morning called for the “classic” Bloody Mary, which was delicate yet perfectly spicy. Burke offers three different varieties, and even quite an inventive one called the Bacon Bloody Mary (made with Bourbon, organic tomatoes, and maple bacon).
Gazpacho soup topped with shrimp.
Short Ribs with Cavatelli Pasta.
Lobster and Shrimp Roll.
Eggs Benedict with Canadian bacon, garlic shrimp, and hollandaise sauce.
Pretzel crab cake with tomato orange, green peppercorn, and white beer.
Chicken club: grilled chicken, bacon, and chipotle mayo.
As for dessert, if you want something on the sweeter side, I’d go with David Burke’s signature cheesecake lollipop tree, which is the prettiest, most dainty presentation of a rich combination of sweet and savory melted chocolate and cheesecake flavors, all dipped in a passion fruit whipped cream.

However, if you are craving a cold, light finish to your meal, I recommend ordering a triage of sorbet. I typically like to keep it light and simple, going for one flavor at a time, but we decided to let the waiter choose three to his liking: a mango, a raspberry, and one surprise scoop which was highly pronounced in spice and simultaneously bold and sweet. After a long debate, we found out it was made from a unique pineapple with cracked cayenne pepper.
Cheesecake lollipop tree. Trio of sorbet.
David Burke Kitchen at the James Hotel
23 Grand Street

Where else I ate this week:

The Dutch. On this recent Monday evening, I had a small taste of Andrew Carmellini’s much anticipated new SoHo restaurant, The Dutch. Only having been open for one short week, I have heard countless friends rave about how “cool” it is. The vibe is dynamic and upbeat, the space is open and airy, the libations are fun and unique, and the food is, rightfully so, outstanding.

Clockwise from above: Hiramasa with daikon, soy, and myoga; Oyster sandwich; Local beets with smoked egg and dill.
But I wouldn’t expect anything less from Andrew Carmellini, who has made quite a name for himself at Café Boulud, A Voce, and most recently, at Locande Verde. We sat at the bar, which even on a Monday evening was packed with young, beautiful people. The bartender suggested we order the oyster sandwich, a small but popular special on the menu.

The Dutch’s oyster sandwich reminds us of why we love oysters so much. Carmellini is not shy, layering on thick pieces of perfectly breaded oysters on a crispy roll. A handful of fresh greens and a sweet, slightly spicy sauce tie the whole thing together.

On the first visit, we tried a couple of highly recommended appetizers at the bar — the local beets topped with smoked egg in a light, refreshing dill sauce and the Hiramasa topped with daikon and dressed in a light, tasty soy and myoga. Both dishes were incredibly fresh, delicate, and healthy.

The cuisine here is American, a first for Carmellini, but his version of American is seemingly a hodgepodge of French and Italian-inspired flavors with a contemporary, lighter approach, and a penchant for shellfish. There is even an eight-stool oyster bar in the front of the restaurant.

Carmellini has ultimately reinvented the now extinct uber-cool neighborhood restaurant; the nightly go-to spot for the young and the restless. I’ll be back soon for more.

The Dutch
131 Sullivan Street, Corner of Prince Street
A rendering of The Dutch.
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Photographs by Erin Frankel.
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