Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Celebrity Chef David Burke Opens Kitchen and Treehouse Garden Restaurant in SoHo, NYC

Stepping off the street, through the doors of the James Hotel, down the stairs to discover David Burke’s newest restaurant, Kitchen, is not unlike going through the Looking Glass.

Patrons would be forgiven for spotting more than a few rabbits too.
And not just because the ubiquitous, mad hatter about town Easter Bunny was on display in every storefront last week.
Water-Toting Menu Rabbits at Kitchen
No, the hares that adorn the Kitchen, peeking out from the plank-backed menus to indicate its inclusion in the prix fixe meal and Drinks Menu are drawn as hard-working dairyman or farmers -- more akin to the fashionable and endearing Beatrix Potter kind.

It is an apt icon or theme for the farm to table ambition celebrity chef David is aiming for here in the sleek, barn-inspired dining room, complete with denim seats and gingham napkins.  
The decor, along with his signature whimsical and creative menu offerings makes the Kitchen a restaurant that is an exciting, fun, food adventure.  Like Peter Pa who won’t grow up, David is renowned for his Toy Story-like collection of curiosities that often take center stage with regard to the food and décor. (At the Rumson, NJ, Garden State Fromagerie restaurant, there is a Toys in the Attic room filled David’s treasures.)

David Burke’s fans – and there is an assembly of toy-loving, food followers and luminaries who enjoy the food and dining fantasy at his more than seven restaurants located across the US. 
Kitchen is his fourth in New York City, joining the award-winning Townhouse, Fishtail, and David Burke at Bloomingdales. http://www.davidburke.com/restaurant_townhouse.html

Executive Manager Teddy Suris, who is on loan from chef David’s uptown eateries, says they are thrilled to see so many of their loyal customers who’ve make the trip downtown to the loft-like Kitchen to enjoy “David ‘Unplugged’” he notes with a smile.

The most popular selection on the Kitchen’s Lunch menu is the 3-Course Prix Fixe $24.07, according to the server.  It’s easy to see why. 
There are eight Starters to choose from, no less than 13 Mains and half that bakers dozen for dessert. 
A la carte prices range from $8 to $16 for starters; $14 to $25 for Mains and $8 to $16 for dessert.   

What’s not easy is choosing what to order. 

Chef Jedd Adair finishing tuna
Chef David and Executive Chef, Jedd Adair, formerly, Tocqueville, must’ve had a blast coming up with a menu that offers the most curious mash-ups.  
Diners can’t help but read aloud and share such head-shaking items like Pretzel Crab Cake with tomato orange and green peppercorn, Lobster Soup dumplings with coconut fennel crème and red watercress or the Asparagus & Burrata prosciutto with honeydew and basil. 

Mains feature offerings that include Crispy Softshell Open Face salted mango with cucumber and carrot, Crispy Tuna with citrus salad, grilled leek and sour carrot sauce and Duck Meatball Lasagna with herb striped pasta and farm fresh egg.

Kitchen’s Pastry Chef, Daniela Arini, former pastry chef at Per Se, channels chef David’s signature Lollipop Tree dessert with passion fruit whipped cream (also good with bubble gum whipped cream!) along with her spot-on Applet Tart with crème fraiche ice cream, apple cider caramel and fennel chip or the Chocolate Caramel Fudge Cake with salted caramel and goat’s milk cajeta ice cream, that chef David recommended.

Salmon Pastrami/Pretzel/Mustard Snack
Perhaps the best-tasting composition was the Salmon Pastrami/Pretzel/Mustard.  The thinly sliced salmon is wrapped around Japanese Pokey-like sticks. Chef David says he uses these “pretzels” because they can be deep-fried and not absorb the oils.  How clever is that?  The salmon-wrapped pretzel sticks are delivered in a well of mustard oil that is a burst of salty, sweet flavors.  It’s a finger food to savor.  

All the dishes come to the table plated like a work of art – by a Salvador Dali-infused artist!  

The food is stacked to towering skyscraper heights, asparagus spears act like log bridges, and the fennel chip adorning the apple crisp looks not unlike a Dr. Seuss hat with plume.  The sour carrot sauce and black olive are dollops of a painter’s palette setting off the perfectly prepared medium-rare tuna slices.
And all the embellishments are edible art flashes – no blah, weak parsley or watercress along just for the ride.
Softshell Crab Sandwich with Crisp Lotus

Crispy Tuna with Leeks

Pretzel Crab Cake with Yolk Mayo

Chocolate Caramel Fudge Cake and Goat's Milk Cajeta Ice Cream

Apple Tart, Creme Fraiche Ice Cream, Apple Cider Caramel, Fennel Chip

Chef David’s signature Jars are a feature here too: Tomato with eggplant and ricotta, Ocean Cocktail with horseradish and White Bean chorizo.

Hanging from the dining room’s plank farm walls are almost life-sized portraits of David’s real-life farmer and dairy food partners – showing off their edible work in living color -- in case anyone missed the point.  There’s the chicken toting farmer and the cheese artisan, for example, amplifying the fresh from the farm mission.  If the fresh food ingredients from his purveyors don’t measure up?  “They go into the penalty box” according to David.  

The center service table boasts a curiosity that could belong to a mad scientist. Turns out, David repurposed what once was a gold duck press to suck the prawn heads off the crustaceans.  Take that for tableside service.  

(Spoiler alert: the service table is also where the surprise doggie bags are prepared for those who don’t finish everything on their plate.)

Likewise an old fashioned phone booth where Superman might’ve, ahem, changed into his flying tights, is now home to a bouquet of fresh flowers where cell phone users can chat it up in glamorous privacy. 
Cell Phone Booth

Call for that Reservation at Kitchen, please!

Open not more than three months; Kitchen is more ready than most new restaurants. Many of the professional wait and kitchen staff are borrowed from David’s uptown empire until the Kitchen and the Treehouse are full staffed and trained in the Burke Group’s ways of hospitality and courtesy.  According to Ted, a new restaurant is a lot like a new car – “You have to drive it ten to 20 times to get the feel of it.”
Kitchen is clearly on the road to driving its own NYC success!! (Couldn't resist.)

The partnership with the luxury boutique James Hotel is an extension of the Chicago venture where David owns and runs the farm to table, seasonal food franchise.

Scheduled to open the last week of April, beginning of May, The Treehouse restaurant is an elevator ride up to a glass-enclosed bar area that leads to a series of undulating bars, chef table, dining and garden rooms, tucked around here and upstairs there, all perched on the corner of the James hotel that sits on the corner of Sixth Avenue.  
But all eyes look up to the unencumbered sky.  Ahhh, a slice of light-filled heaven that will soon be filled with fabulous downtown fashion cohorts tinkling glasses; laughing at the stars – the kind in the night sky, that is. 

The Drinks Menu at Kitchen and Treehouse is a well-curated offering that features a delightful mix of moderate to aspirational wine and champagne, including Burkehouse signature vintage and crisp, tasty local North Fork wines from the Channing Daughters’ Long Island vineyard.
There is also a frothy selection of local beers – many on tap -- to cool a summer day spent in the Treehouse garden: NY’s South Hampton “Double White, Brooklyn’s Sis Points “Crisp Pils,” Fire Island’s “Red Wagon IPA,” or Long Island’s Green Harbor “Duck Porter.” 
The Cocktails are nothing short of garden-inspired libations winking a come-hither dare to try them all. It’s a party after all!  Brandishing monikers like “Good ‘N Plenty,” “Jackalope, 23 Grand Street, Rabbit Hunter and BTC, squeals of wonder will be heard up and down SoHo.

Chef David has some interesting plans for the Treehouse.  “We are looking into doing a small farmers market on Saturday morning until around 10 am,” he says.  Seeming to peer into his food-filled crystal ball, David day-dreamily orchestrates the scene: “We could put together a coffee, toast, brioche and jam breakfast basket to enjoy while picking up things from the market.” 

The Burke Group's Teddy Suric (L) and Connor Burke ready for Treehouse Guests
Overall, the Treehouse menu will be small, cool food items such as lobster rolls, seven to eight different non-alcohol iced teas flavored with garden fresh herbs, such as lavender.  The dream also previews Gotham-styled sunbathers sipping cool drinks on the garden terrace and under the private cabanas – perfect for canoodling.  David’s way-cool son, Connor, will be the onsite, able manager of the rooftop garden oasis.  

The Treehouse is destined to become THE watering hole of the season: it’s sophisticated, sexy urban garden design, located in the heart of the uber-cool, SoHo neighborhood offers a perfect meeting place for a special-someone rendezvous or daily cocktail time with friends.

Cabanas and sexy, lacy chairs
Glamorous Chef's Table at Treehouse rooftop Garden
Fashion-forward lamps to accessorize those sexy chairs

Both the Treehouse and restaurant are the answer to any event planner.      

The spaces are unique. The food is catered by David Burke Events and will be unforgettable and buzz-worthy.  
Recently, David described a party they did at the Armory, for example, where women dressed like sultry cigarette girls, walked the party like a cloud – serving up cones of fresh made pretty in pink cotton candy.  Other teams of waiters wore cheesehead hats filled with cheese popsicles.  “It was hilarious,” adds David. 
He puts the amuse in amuse-bouche!
Never one to take it all so seriously, chef David’s classic culinary training is the stepping-stone – taking a traditional dish and twisting it with an element of surprise.  

Kitchen’s menu will change every week with daily, seasonal items offered daily for the dinner menu. 
Not that a diner could ever get bored with a David Burke merry go round of food creations.

The restaurants are open for three meals a day, brunch and snacks. Located in SoHo, in the James Hotel at 23 Grand Street, NYC 10013.  Telephone: 212-201-9119.  www.davidburkekitchen.com

David's classic cookbook:

Master Chef David Burke at Kitchen Restaurant

Me/Reviewer and Fan, with culinary wizard, Chef David

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