Tuesday, August 12, 2014

NYC Restaurant Week 2014: David Burke Kitchen

You can tell a lot about a restaurant by what they offer you to eat while you wait.   Some give you a variety of buns, while others give you a warm basket of rye. At David Burke’s, a small metal bucket was placed on our table. In it: a bunch of crisp grapes, pickled artisanal carrots, and eloquent cracker sticks. This reminded me of an interesting idea he mentioned in one of his cookbooks, about not using matching dishes to present his food. Instead, he mixes textures and colours to create an architectural structure that plays up the nature of the dish being served.

We started with lobster dumplings and fried octopus.  The dumplings, surprisingly, tasted like lobster. I’m used to crab cakes tasting sort of like white fish, and seafood ravioli tasting like mashed flour.  What I found interesting about this particular dish was that the lobster made its mark on the palette. The divide between lobster and dumpling dough was well-defined, and the dumplings had a very homemade texture – soft and just structured enough to hold the lobster in place. 
The octopus legs were crunchy, which I found took away that awkward ‘monster of the sea’ after-taste to have the food break apart so quickly with each chew. The crunchy texture made them seem almost candied, in the most perfect brulĂ©e way.  The octopus was on a bed of pickled vegetables, and though I’ve never been a huge fan of beets, of course the pickled pieces of onion and beet completely won me over.

Next came the pork.  Thin medallions, cooked until just surpassing ‘rare’ status.  I don’t often find pork so tender when not of the pulled variety, so I was surprised at both its texture and flavour. To the left of the ribs was a layer of pulled pork sandwiched between two biscuits. I found the biscuit a bit heavy and overpowering the ratio.  I could do without the top piece of biscuit.  Of course, the pulled pork inside was perfectly seasoned, had a soft texture as it should have, and left a beautiful oily mark on the bottom biscuit which was great for soaking up the remaining sauce.

The heritage pork was my favorite part of the meal.  A soft piece of pork, tenderly falling apart with each swipe of the fork.  The hearty piece sat on a bed of gnocchi-like pasta in a creamy mushroom sauce, and was adorned gently with a few slices of truffle. A comforting, all-around delicious meal, and while not incredibly inventive, it was simply done right and made us feel happy.

For dessert, we had the coconut trifle and chocolate hazelnut crunch bar.  The coconut trifle was, in my opinion, a bit of a miss.  Layers of heavy whipping cream separated thick biscuit-like coconut sponge, which lacked the inventiveness and intricacy of the rest of the dishes.

Luckily, the second dessert made up for it completely. The chocolate hazelnut crunch bar was of a texture somewhere between mousse and ganache.  Rich, loud in cocoa flavour, and with a pleasant nutty crunch, I can’t imagine anyone not loving this.

The berry coulis that danced around it on the little plate was a great sour counterpart, and ending the creative journey was a yellow raspberry- a perfect reminder of what sets David Burke apart from other chefs:  it’s never as simple as it sounds.

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