For Todd’s birthday, I took him on an adventure around the city, beginning with coffee in Cobble Hill. Then we strolled through Brooklyn Bridge park, walked over the bridge and into Manhattan, meandered up through Chinatown (where we gobbled up some sesame chicken at a street fair, tasted a lychee, and drank coconut water from a coconut), enjoyed some sun in Hudson River Park, and ultimately ended up at a surprise location for dinner: David Burke Kitchen on Grand Street in SoHo.
We descended a flight of stairs, and the room’s design grabbed my attention at once. Polished wood and dark blue seats gave it an air of elegance, but the rustic wood ceiling and bright, high windows resulted in an airy and open feel. Although I was surprised that more patrons hadn’t chosen to dine in the restaurant, I appreciated the quiet and intimate setting for Todd’s birthday meal.
To start, our server brought us crispy bread, sweet grapes, and pickled carrots. I’m still not sure why they chose to combine those specific flavors, but at least it made for a colorful presentation. It took us a while to decide what we wanted from the dinner menu, which included small snacks, appetizers, main entrees, and sides. Eventually we settled on two snacks, one appetizer, an entree each, and one side. We knew it would be a lot of food, but we were ready to do some celebrating! Our first snack consisted of dates wrapped in bacon and a fried grape. The bacon had a nice smoky flavor, and the fried grape was delicious. The crispy outer batter really brought out the juicy sweetness of the grape inside.
I was a little hesitant to eat our second snack, which was called “ants on a log.” It included escargot fritters laid atop a bed of bone marrow, sprinkled with beef jerky and garlic. Although Todd assured me the bone marrow tasted delicious, sampling the escargot was as far as I dared. I’m glad that I did, though, because I ended up really enjoying it. (I think it helped that it was wrapped in a fritter and that I tried to mentally convince myself it wasn’t a snail the whole time.)
Our appetizer was a nightly special not on the menu: kale ravioli filled with ricotta and slathered with a sauce bursting with fresh mushrooms and tomatoes. Aside from my entree, I would probably say the ravioli was my favorite dish of the night. The cheese was smooth and not too strong and the ravioli seemed to melt in your mouth.
For his entree, Todd ordered the pork chop, which came with mango chutney, maple bacon, and cilantro turmeric onion rings. I don’t like pork chops, but he said the meat was tender and flavorful. The chutney was sweet and chunky, and I kept stealing some to eat with my short rib. I really enjoyed the slight kick of turmeric on the onion rings, but I didn’t taste the cilantro at all. (I was happy about that, because I don’t care for cilantro.) My entree, shown in the photo below, was a super soft short rib that came with handmade wild mushroom cavatelli (a type of dumpling made with ricotta) and trouffle mousse. I could probably eat this every day and not get tired of it, that’s how tasty it was.
We also ordered a side of Parmesan/jalapeno fries, but were disappointed to find that they lacked flavor and heat (both spiciness and literal warmth). I’ve gotten fries with more of a kick from chain restaurants like Yard House. The fries were the one disappointing part of our meal, but honestly we were getting so stuffed that we probably couldn’t have eaten them even if we had wanted to.
Of course we couldn’t pass up dessert. Todd ordered a cappuccino, which came out extra foamy. Since it was a special occasion (oh the excuses we tell ourselves), we decided to share two desserts. The first, a chocolate hazelnut crunch bar, came with raspberry ganache, vanilla bean ice cream, and raspberries on top. It had a rich texture and the raspberry ganache was perfectly tart. And I love vanilla bean ice cream! My one complaint with the dessert was that the berries on top were clearly frozen and not fresh.
Our second dessert was so delicious that I would buy a giant vat of it if I could. It consisted of a butterscotch panna cotta, curried cocoa gelee, and crispy meringue. The combination of sweet panna cotta, decadent chocolate, and slightly spicy curry hits your taste buds at three different levels, and it all comes together in an entirely delicious creaminess.
Although rather pricey, I would rate David Burke Kitchen high on my list of favorite restaurants, and I definitely want to take another trip there in the winter when the menu changes to reflect seasonal ingredients. It’s a high-quality, satisfying spot that I would recommend for any special occasion or celebration meal. Overall, Todd really enjoyed his surprise birthday meal–and for me, that was the most important thing of all.