Photo: Slaven Vlasic / Getty Images
The chef behind David Burke Townhouse, Fishtail, and restaurants at the Venetian in Vegas, and Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut, has gone underground, literally, in this casual Thomas Schlesser-designed hot spot. We entered at street level of the James, and found ourselves in the cozy, glass-enclosed Treehouse Bar, and then kept going down another level to the subterranean main restaurant, where New York chefs like Geoffrey Zakarian (The National and The Lambs Club), Drew Nieporent (Nobu, Tribeca Grill), Alex Guaranschelli (Butter and The Darby) Marc Murphy (Landmarc), John DeLucie (The Lion) and Arianne Daguin (D'Artagnan), as well as celeb event planner and designer Colin Cowie, sipped cocktails and munched the addictive lotus chips served with truffled egg salad, tomato and ricotta salata, and olive oil and basil, all served alongside, in snack jars.
As the cherub-cheeked Burke worked the room, which has the vibe of a sort of urban-farmhouse art gallery we chatted with him about downtown life, and what's on for the underground restaurant. "It's my first restaurant downtown," he laughed, "although I once worked downtown for Drew Nieporent at Montrachet for a month." And what's Burke's fave dish on the new menu? "Definitely the Fennel Hay Chicken for Two, and Ants on a Log -- that's croutons, bone marrow butter, snail, parsley purée, mushroom chips, and fennel hay."
We also managed to down some eggplant ricotta push-pops, a lobster bisque shooter, an "angry shrimp dumpling," and some sweetbread and prosciutto tempura with Russian dressing. A carving station served up lamb chop lollipops and crispy duck tacos (with hoisin and foie gras mayo). No one could ever accuse David Burke of being bland.
Among the seven pastries, were an avocado pudding with honey-lemon reduction, and a gianduja mousse (that's hazelnut chocolate).
Where chefs gather to dish, of course there's bound to be some good overheard food talk. It seems that Chef Laurent Gras, after having said good-bye to Chicago, where he made restaurant L2O a smash hit, is, planning to launch a restaurant in downtown New York. This is good news for Gras fans, who have been waiting way too long for this ubertalented French chef (and mondo cyclist) to make Manhattan home.
Daniel Boulud's spring opening of his Boulud Sud was also hot on the chef-o-meter at Burke's, where we heard that the iconic Frenchman is targeting mid-April for his Upper West Side restaurant (more upscale than his Bar Boulud, down the street), to open its doors. On the Broadway side of the 64th Street location will be Epicerie Boulud, a more casual market-style place. Double the Daniel, double the fun. We can't wait.