NYC Restaurant Week Coverage: David Burke Townhouse
To be honest, the overall meal was underwhelming. I hate to blame it on Restaurant Week, but I think the “discounted” prix fixe menu really didn’t make the busy servers too happy, nor did it motivate the kitchen to prepare dishes on par with the à la carte menu. It’s a shame because I’ve heard from Sylvia, Andrew, and numerous food blogs about how great the restaurant is. I don’t think participating restaurant week restaurants should half-ass their food and service, though I know it’s easy to say and hard to do. Even if the chef is going with less expensive ingredients (i.e. chicken, salad, etc.), it should still be done well. And even though tips might not add up as usual, service shouldn’t suffer too much. Restaurant week understandably makes servers and bussers go crazy with trying to turn tables and accommodate the packed reservations list.
Chris and I had a reservation at 9:30, at which point the restaurant was still swarming with trendy 20-30 somethings. I thought the entrance was a little claustrophobic and downplayed by the rest of the beautiful restaurant. David Burke told us himself that he designed the restaurant. I was impressed with the diverse color palette and mod design. There were definitely some classical design elements poking through here and there, which was very appropriate for an UES townhouse.
The dining room was separated into two areas, a sexy bar and lounge area with a few surroundings tables and a main dining room in the back. Chris and I were in the bar and lounge area, which definitely felt the bustling bar crowd and host stand. Don’t sit in that area if you’re looking for a meal on the more tranquil side.
Food baby time! We started off the meal with a complimentary amuse bouche of mini cheese quiches. Very mediocre, lukewarm (bleh), and not a good way to kick start my taste buds.
Chris ordered the Tuna and Salmon Tartare with a delectable créme fraîche topping. I enjoyed the presentation of the dish, which sat on a heavy black slab of rock and included carved out holes for various sauces. The pretty decorative potato chips were a nice design touch as well. The tuna was chopped into centimeter-sized chunks, which may have limited how much flavor got into the fish. Regardless, the tartare was delicious mostly due to the velvety layer of créme fraîche that sat on top and a thick aioli-type sauce on the side.
I had the Pretzel Crusted Crab Cake topped with a Sweet Chili prawn. Meh… The dish sounded great on paper, but the execution was way off. My crab cake was coated in a very thick and crunchy layer of what seemed more like rice cake than pretzels. The crab didn’t taste particularly fresh, but I’ll just assume the strange pretzel coating messed everything up. The “chili” prawn was completely unseasoned and bland besides its natural shrimpy taste. It was literally a piece of cocktail shrimp mislabeled as a prawn having some distinguishable flavor. Yeah, I’m sure the various sauces decorating the plate were meant to enhance the shrimp; but when I think chili prawn, I think of a big savory piece of heaven covered in reddish sauce with some added zest (similar to the one I saw in I Am Love).
After some very lackluster appetizers, our entrées arrived and attempted to save the day, but failed miserably in doing so. Chris’ Black Angus Dry Aged Prime Rib Eye was a terrible disappoint and even required a $16 supplement. He had ordered medium-rare. What came out of the kitchen wasn’t even rare, it was practically raw. Chris sacrificed the most cooked bits for me and attempted to consume the “manly” raw meat for himself. Nice guy. He wouldn’t send the steak back because he just doesn’t believe in doing that (weird?), but the steak definitely needed a minute or two more on the grill. Taste-wise, there was nothing interesting about this fancy schmancy hunk of meat. This whole steak situation was amusing after the meal while I was reading David Burke’s magazine on the subway ride home. There was an article about how much money, time, and effort his company and suppliers put in to serving only the best steak to its patrons. Ironic, huh.
My Spiced Salmon was infinitely better than Chris’ steak but didn’t quite meet my expectations based on our server’s rave review. Apparently, the cooks inject “verjus vinaigrette” between every filet on the fish in order to make it super juicy. Mission accomplished; but then again, being juicy doesn’t equate to having flavor. The texture was phenomenal. The most plump and tender piece of salmon I’ve ever had (but lacking in taste). Also, the tiny slice of scallop on top of the salmon gave the dish a nice contrast of seafood flavors. The hearts of palm salad with marinated artichokes, endives, and red grapes was a very summery idea and made sense with the succulent salmon, but I didn’t really enjoy them together.
If the savory stuff can’t get to me, then dessert will usually help salvage the meal. Once again, David Burke Townhouse presented beautiful mediocrity. The Caramelized Warm Apple Tart Chris ordered was actually pretty good. The dulce de leche ice cream went very well with the tart, but that’s only when you could cut the tart into bite-size pieces. It was probably the caramelized component of this tart that made it so hard to cut through. Dessert should be made easy to enjoy, but then again my sweet tooth is very biased.
I ordered the Drunken Donuts (haha, I get it now). They required an $8 supplement but didn’t provide my taste buds with $8 worth of pleasure. First of all, 8 donuts is way too much for a dessert portion. So why not cut it in half and not charge the supplement? I guess I was expecting my dessert to be along the lines of a warm beignet, but these were room temperature and very bready (as American donuts should be). You’re supposed to poke holes in the donuts and fill them with one of the following sauces: Chocolate Bailey’s, Raspberry sauce, or Cappuccino. Not my idea of an appropriate restaurant dessert, but who am I to decide what people should like? The best part of dessert was the chocolate covered strawberries. They dipped fresh plump strawberries into dark chocolate (HEAVEN).
Overall, the meal was disappointing, but I’m guessing Restaurant Week had a lot to do with my failed expectations. I’d definitely be open to trying David Burke Townhouse again, but I don’t think Chris will ever consider it. C’mon! They messed up steak. It’s hard to forgive and forget when it comes to steak, ya know?