David Burke is a freak in the kitchen. His wild side and tongue-in-cheek creativity made him a celebrity chef, though he's fallen off the radar a bit lately. Burke is certainly not afraid to take risks, and he has always had a flair for the dramatic. We've never been huge fans of his cooking, but had heard good things about his new farm-to-table "urban farmhouse" in the James Hotel...so we decided to check it out.
Even before stepping foot inside David Burke Kitchen, I was already turned off. The people I dealt with on the phone, on three different occasions, were all horribly rude. Pleasantry obviously isn't something they value highly here. And this isn't me being all emo and venting for no good reason, Yelp style. These people were legitimately awful, and they got worse each time. When we arrived at the restaurant, we were greeted with a similarly cold, "I don't really give a sh*t about you" attitude. Things finally got a little better when we met our waitress, who was super-friendly - but also so wired that we were a little worried about what she was getting up to in the kitchen.
Much like the restaurant itself, which is comprised of a huge loft-like dining room, a massive patio, and "The Treehouse" bar overlooking 6th Ave, the menu at David Burke Kitchen is a bit overwhelming. It took us a solid twenty minutes to digest the whole thing and come up with a game plan. We managed to make our way to a few winning plates (the Pretzel Crab Cake and the Scallops & Pork Belly were both tremendous), but we weren't blown away overall. Most of the dishes had too many components and were way more style than substance. Also, our entire meal felt rushed. The staff was quick on the draw all night, trying to hijack unfinished plates and half-full drinks back to the kitchen prematurely. The bus boys hovered around our table so much they might as well have been sitting down with us. Thanks dude, but we're pretty sure there's a party in the kitchen that you're missing.
The bottom line? Go to Blue Hill or ABC Kitchen. David Burke Kitchen is not the place to have an incredible farm-to-table experience. You think the people here answering the phone care about where the chickens come from? No chance. They're too busy being assholes.
They are big on jars at Burke Kitchen. This one was a strange cold salad of shrimp and lobster that you were supposed to scoop out of the jar with endive leaves. Not exactly practical, and not exactly delicious.
Little rice balls with cheese prosciutto. You can't go wrong with these guys.
Burrata on top of peach slices on top of heirloom tomato slices on top of prosciutto slices on top of fat chunks of watermelon. This is a big time flavor explosion in every bite, but would be better if a couple of components were removed.
A staple on any Burke menu, this is the dish he's become known for, and is easily one of the best things on the menu. Crusty pretzel on the outside, crab cake on the inside. Amazing.
We found this to be an average tortellini, served with morel mushrooms and a pea and mint puree. Nothing to get excited about here.
White and green asparagus in a tomato hollandaise, with a prosciutto wrapped poached egg. This was good, but not as good as it should have been. We've had plenty of other asparagus and poached egg dishes that were better - without the flashy prosciutto wrapping job.
You've probably heard this before. You can tell a lot about a restaurant by how well they prepare their chicken dish. If that's the case, David Burke Kitchen didn't pass the test. Their "charred grape" BBQ'ed half chicken over mac n' cheese and pickled watermelon is not a chicken dish I would ever order again. Not only was the chicken dry and overcooked, but the mac n' cheese was soggy. Not exactly appetizing.
The best dish of our night, by a mile. This perfectly cooked pork belly had an insanely good, sugary sear on it. The scallops were equally excellent, and combined with charred baby cauliflower, this was one concept that delivered.
An interesting way to serve halibut. The fish was pounded flat and accompanied by artichokes, black olive gnocchi, fava and saffron. Overall, we enjoyed this, despite the fish being a little overcooked.
An imaginative special. This dish looked like a big egg roll. We enjoyed it, although it wasn't as good as it sounded like it was going to be.
If you come to David Burke Kitchen, you need to end your meal on a high note and get some monkey bread. It's kind of like an enormous Cinnabon, dressed with caramelized bananas, pecan, caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream. You disgust me.