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$24 or $37 prix-fixe lunch at David Burke Townhouse

Prior to re-joining the workforce, I’d embarked on an epic week of face stuffing which began with a whimsical three course lunch at David Burke Townhouse. It surprised and delighted me at every turn. From the glass balloons in the hallway to the speckled egg hatchling logo, I found myself smiling with each detail and discovery.

You can choose from two different three course lunch menus: one for $24 and the other for $37. Click to see the lunch menu here. The dishes marked with the speckled egg are those eligible for the $24 menu vs. your choice of any three courses (speckled egg or not) for $37 at lunch. Since I was in a decadent kind of mood AND because I desperately wanted the scallops and head-on prawns, I went with the $37 prix-fixe.

If the decor alone wasn’t enough indication of the fun that was to come, the bread and butter clinched the deal. We were served a fluffy onion/garlic popover with a carefully constructed butter swirl sticking up off a slab of what looked like pink quartz.

This is what the parfait of tuna and salmon tartar looks like in real life.

And this is a sketch of how it is constructed, potato tuile, creme fraiche, and all.

I really enjoyed the pretzel-crusted crab cake, though I wouldn’t say it was particularly pretzel-y at all. The pretzel bit of the crab cake was actually a little on the breadier side, and in the picture below, you’ll see the pretzel breadsticks surround the crab cake making it visually attractive, but functionally, the pretzels and the sesame seed crust provided texture and a nice little crunch. I liked the yellow mustard-based sauce although I didn’t care much for the sweet orange sauce, but it worked out just fine because I ate around it.

The prawns and scallops were phenomenal. This dish alone was worth every single penny of lunch. The three perfectly seared scallops and two grilled head-on (mmm… brains…) prawns were quite filling. The sauce was so rich and buttery that I forgot I was eating what was essentially a vegetable slaw.

The beef pot pie was probably the dish that delighted me the most. I keep using the word “delighted” because I can’t think of any other word more fitting. Chunks of succulent roast beef, tomatoes, asparagus, garlic cloves, and onion were nestled in a creamy ring of mashed potatoes and topped with a flaky pastry crust round freckled with miniature flecks of chive (meant to represent peas, I think) and carrot. This dish warmed the cockles of my heart.

Dessert was just okay. I think we should’ve gone with the cheesecake lollipop tree since both the strawberry shortcake and butterscotch pudding were overly sweet. I didn’t care a whit, though. I was already in a near-catatonic state of ecstasy post-app and -main.

There was so much pot pie left over that they packaged it for us to go. Overall, an excellent meal, and my favorite lunch so far in the city. Strongly recommended.

DB Townhouse also does a $35 Sunday Supper prix-fixe. Do it.

Also, they just opened David Burke Kitchen at the James Hotel in SoHo a few weeks ago. The website doesn’t tell you much just yet, but the hostess tells us it’s supposed to be a young, trendy spot for beautiful downtowners to meet for drinks and dinner. You know. Le hot stuff.

Eat: David Burke Townhouse (UES) 133 East 61st Street at Lexington Ave.; New York, NY 10065. (212) 813-2121. Lunch prix-fixe available weekdays only. Prix-fixe brunch menu available on weekends for $39. Sunday dinner prix-fixe $35.



A lady who lunches
March 2, 2011, 10:31 am
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , , ,

This is my final week of blissful unemployment, and so I have been enjoying it by indulging in fancypants lunches. Many of the city’s best restaurants have weekday-only lunch specials, and the food is just as good  and the prices are way better than dinner. Monday, I went to David Burke Townhouse for the $37 lunch prix-fixe (they offer a $24 3-course menu as well). Tuesday, I partook in Bouley’s 5 course $45 lunch tasting menu. Wednesday, I am giving my system a break because I already have plans for a 3-course dinner at Yerba Buena with friends. Thursday, I have reservations at Jean-Georges for their $32 2-course lunch prix-fixe. And Friday, I am still deciding… I’ve already done EMP for lunch. Any other suggestions? I don’t think I can handle any more than 3 courses by Friday.



Great value at Gaia Italian Cafe
March 1, 2011, 4:06 pm
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ve been out of town for a month, so I can’t be held responsible for being a little late to the Gaia party. A friend of mine who is a small business owner in the neighborhood was raving about Gaia, saying she had started going there 4 or 5 times a week because of it’s good food, and it’s super cheap. This little walk-down Italian cafe opened up on Houston Street between Norfolk and Suffolk to little fanfare about a month ago, and it should be much more popular than it is given the great value.

The atmosphere is fairly generic, but I literally did a double take when I saw the prices on the menu. $5 for paninis on housemade flatbread? $7 salads? $7 risotto and gnocchi? $2.50 for freshly pressed pear or orange or apple juice? Good coffee for $1.75? And everything is made to order, not sitting around and reheated. In the neighborhood, most of the coffeeshops and cafes serving paninis are charging $7 and up.

One of the most expensive menu items was the burrata cheese served with mushrooms sauteed with parsley in a white wine sauce, and that was just $11. And it was good. I would slap a baby for some good burrata, and this was it.

Gaia offers a fantastic $12 Italian Brunch deal on the weekends that includes any panini or lasagna of your choice, a fresh fruit juice, a Nutella-stuffed pastry, and a coffee. I strongly recommend the pear juice – it’s delicious!

The speck panini with pickled vegetables and cheese was phenomenal, and the prosciutto brie and chicken pesto paninis were also very tasty. There is no reason these sandwiches should be $5. I think owner Gaia Bagnasacco is undercharging for everything on her menu by at least a couple dollars. I don’t know how long these very low prices will last, so you should definitely check it out now.

Eat: Gaia Italian Cafe (LES) 251 Houston Street at Norfolk. (646) 350-3977.



Kimbap from E-Mo tastes like Korea
February 28, 2011, 8:20 am
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

When I think of kimbap, I think of my childhood. My mom used to make what can perhaps best be described as Korean sushi sans raw fish (basically, rice, pickles, veggies, and some sort of meat stuffed and rolled up in dried seaweed) for all of our road trips and picnics. It is the quintessential to-go Korean food item. When I lived in Seoul, we’d pick up some kimbap before heading off to the mountains to hike, and they would be just as tasty four hours later as right when they were made.

E-Mo is a takeout kimbap joint in Koreatown, and it’s just about as authentic a kimbap experience as I’ve ever seen in the States. Like its Korean cousins, the ingredients are true to Korea (they even use shisho leaves, American cheese, and canned tuna among other things – just like Korea), there is just a little counter at which to stand and eat, it’s cash only, and the kimbap is inexpensive – $5.50 or $6 a roll, plus 50 cents if you want brown rice instead of white rice – and served with a side of odeng broth.

This is the spicy tuna kimbap – I got mine with brown rice, and it came stuffed with tuna spiced with either sriracha or gochujang, pickled sweet daikon, sesame oil dressed spinach, julienned carrots, and this other pickled veggie that I don’t know the name of in English. It was  good ratio of rice to veggies to meat, though a tad dry, but that’s what the soup is for. If you’re looking for a quick bite or something to go in the Koreatown area, I recommend you give it a shot. This place will likely become a lunch staple for me once I start my new gig in March.

Eat: E-Mo (Koreatown/Midtown West) 2 W. 32nd Street between 5th Ave. and Broadway, New York, NY 10001. (212) 594-1466. Open Monday – Friday 8:30am-8:30pm, open Saturday 8:30am-7:30pm. See menu here – note that they are now also offering odeng ggotchi (fish cake skewers) for $2.50 apiece.



Tim Raue Berlin: almost too beautiful to eat
November 15, 2010, 7:45 am
Filed under: Drink, Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

But too delicious not to eat.

Just around the corner from Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin, there is a phenomenal restaurant where you can have a painfully beautiful, truly stellar three-plus-course lunch for 38 euros. While I don’t often have the opportunity to drop mucho dinero on a single meal, we were on vacation and thought we’d treat ourselves to something nice. So instead of shopping, we decided to eat at Tim Raue. The menu changes seasonally, so you can check the latest offerings here.

The entrance to Tim Raue is via a courtyard, and once you walk into the restaurant you find yourself wondering whether you are in the right place or not because it actually looks and feels a lot like an art gallery. The reception is at a desk rather than at a stand, and I think that was the most confusing. Nevertheless, we were seated promptly, walking past the open kitchen, a grand magenta wall, and underneath a gigantic painting of trash bags and empty cardboard boxes along a tree-lined street. Artsy (not fartsy), right?

While we looked over the wine list, the wait staff brought over a few complimentary small plates to start: chili-, paprika-, and cayenne- spiced cashew nuts (maybe some allspice or nutmeg, too), butter lettuce in a white wine vinaigrette with radish, sliced radishes with sweet coriander sauce, and pickled daikon radish.


We weren’t familiar with many of the German wines on the wine list, but as we were in Germany, we wanted to try something local. We asked for a dry white with strong fruit and minerality and bright acidity. Also, not too expensive. The sommelier thought for a moment, and said he had just the bottle for us. He went to retrieve the bottle, and out came yet another complimentary dish, this time a lovely lobster consomme with sweet Chinese sausage, grape tomatoes, onion, cabbage, and star anise. I don’t care much for anise or anything with a licorice-y taste, but somehow it worked well in this soup and I found myself savoring each precious sip.

Our wine arrived as we were working on our soup, and we were presented with a chilled Dreissigacker Brechtheimer Riesling, 2008 vintage. Jochen Dreissigacker is a German wine producer who has 21 hectares of land in his Rheinhessen vineyards. To learn more about the wine, the grapes, and how it was produced, click here. If you’re satisfied with me telling you this is a damn good white, just try and keep an eye out for any wines from Dreissigacker as his wines have been making wine people talk (all good things) as of late. I understand it is difficult, but not impossible, to find outside of Germany given the low yield. We were charged 30 euros for the bottle, and it was well worth it.

We finally began moving into the courses that we actually ordered. For our first course, Sara ordereda tuna tartar with wasabi and cucumber sauce, topped with frisee and wasabi flying fish roe. I think there may have been some jalapeno in there somewhere, but I’m not sure whether it was in the tartar or in the sauce.

I opted for a heavier first course with the duck liver “peking.” I had no idea what to expect, but I thought it might be something akin to pate, which wasn’t entirely correct. The duck liver was chopped finely and served as a base for a leek and ginger mousse (also mixed with some pureed duck liver, I believe) piped in the shape of little kisses. There were two small dots of barbecue sauce, which tasted plummier than most, and was served with a side of sweet cucumber and some dark green puree I couldn’t quite figure out. Each bite was sinfully rich, and though the portion wasn’t huge, I was completely sated and didn’t need any more bites.

Sara’s second course was the beef filet with a sweet pea puree and soy brew. The sauce was sweet and fruity, like a more delicate hoisin, and again topped with frisee. They did not ask how she wanted the meat cooked, and it came out a beautiful medium rare. Check out the marbling on the meat! Drool.


I ordered the suckling pig with sichuan sauce and pointed cabbage. You can’t go wrong with succulent pork, unctuous fat, and crispy skin. This was decidedly the most delicious suckling pig I’ve ever had, though I do wish that the sichuan sauce had been spicier. The waitress actually warned me that the little orange dots of sauce were very spicy, but apparently Germans have a lesser spice tolerance than kids raised on kimchee and red chilies. The cabbage roll was great, stuffed with more cabbage and veggies like mushrooms, and also containing some pork.


We were then brought a surprise (complimentary) dessert course of a tangerine ice cream popsicle dipped in tangerine flavored white chocolate and sprinkled with freeze-dried raspberries. This was our dessert course number one.

The came the dessert from the course menu: the salted caramel ice cream with cream of coconut, grilled pineapple, pineapple foam, and a round of coconut meringue. Salty, sweet, tart, charred, creamy, crunchy, YUM.

Finally, we were treated to yet another complimentary dessert, which would make this our dessert course number three: green tea mochi filled with green tea jelly and topped with vermilion foam, raspberries, a mint leaf, and dusted with matcha green tea powder.

After polishing off our three desserts, I wandered downstairs to check out the bar and the bathrooms. The bar was dark and lovely with its dark wood, the walls of climate-controlled wine, dim track lighting, and marble counter. Do stop by and have a drink here one evening, even if you don’t decide to eat. What a great place for a date.

Back upstairs, we had the pleasure of meeting two Michelin-starred Chef Tim Raue and his dog Molly (or maybe Mary? can’t remember exactly anymore). I got a little flustered and wasn’t able to say much more than “Thank you; it was beautiful and delicious!!” But I really just wanted to rave about how amazing the whole experience was, from the artwork to the lighting to the white-gloved staff to the interplay of color and texture and taste… This was better than my gourmand lunch at Eleven Madison Park, and less expensive, too. Keep up the good work, chef!

Outside, someone had scrawled out “That sunny dome / Those caves of ice” along a wall in the alley exiting the restaurant. It felt very poignant in the moment.

And as we looked back to bid adieu to Tim Raue once more, our fabulous waitresses waved us goodbye!

Eat: Restaurant Tim Raue (Berlin, Germany – near Checkpoint Charlie).Rudi-Dutschke-Str. 26, 10969 Berlin, Germany. +49 30 2 59 3 79 30. Lunch seatings from noon to 2 pm, dinner seatings from 7 to 10 pm, Tuesday through Saturday.



Lunching at La Farigoule in Cannes
September 30, 2010, 9:23 am
Filed under: Eat | Tags: , , , , ,

I just came across some pictures from La Farigoule in Cannes last April and realized I hadn’t posted them before in my The French Don’t Do Doggie Bags blog. These pics got me excited again for Cannes! Pardon the re-post, but I wanted to share these photos with you.

Sara and I went to lunch at La Farigoule, one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants in Cannes where Lillia (pronounced li-yah) will show you the heart-shaped freckle on her breast and then chastise you for looking at her decolletage and owner Patricia will offer you a complimentary shot of blood orange liqueur (or several) as an after-dinner cordial. We’re not talking fine dining, but rather home cooking, but always tasty. Their prices are fairly modest for Cannes (three course menu for 16 euros), especially during convention times when most restaurants double their menu prices to get the most out of the conventioneers. We had the spaghetti carbonara and the spaghetti aux moules (with mussels) for 10 euros each, and both were hearty and totally hit the spot after a long plane ride and the lugging of very heavy stand supplies.

The carbonara was chock full of fatty bits of ham in a rich cream sauce, served with an egg yolk on top to be mixed in for extra ooey goodness.

The mussels were fresh, plentiful in a very seafood-y saffron cream sauce.

Eat: La Farigoule (Cote D’Azur) 82 Rue Meynadier, 06400 Cannes, France. +33 04 93 38 94 95. Ambiance: cozy and familial, tiny space with red checked tablecloth, outrageously friendly staff, heartwarming food.



The French don’t do doggie bags
April 11, 2010, 6:03 pm
Filed under: Cook, Eat, Think | Tags: , , , , ,

I have always known that the French don’t do doggie bags for some reason or another. I always assumed they felt it undignified or otherwise lowly, for the peasants. Yesterday, I realized it was something different altogether. It’s just not a part of their culture of freshly prepared food in modest quantities; food is to be consumed as and when it has been prepared.

Sara and I went to lunch at La Farigoule, one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants in Cannes where Lillia will show you the heart-shaped freckle on her breast and then chastise you for looking at her decolletage and owner Patricia will offer you a complimentary shot of blood orange liqueur (or several) as an after-dinner cordial. We’re not talking fine dining, but rather home cooking, but always tasty. Their prices are fairly modest for Cannes (three course menu for 16 euros), especially during convention times when most restaurants double their menu prices to get the most out of the conventioneers. We had the spaghetti carbonara and the spaghetti aux moules (with mussels) for 10 euros each, and both were hearty and totally hit the spot after a long plane ride and the lugging of very heavy stand supplies.

The carbonara was chock full of fatty bits of ham in a rich cream sauce, served with an egg yolk on top to be mixed in for extra ooey goodness.

The mussels were fresh, plentiful in a very seafood-y saffron cream sauce.

However, the portions were very hefty (especially for France) and neither Sara nor I could finish. It seemed such a waste of perfectly good food, so I dusted off my high school French and asked sweetly, “Est-ce que nous pouvons les emporter, madame?” I think that translates into something like, “Is it that we can bring these?” – which was good enough for Patricia. She said, “Bien sur!” and took our dishes away. When she returned with our leftovers, she handed us a plastic bucket with my pasta on the bottom and Sara’s pasta on top, separated by a piece of aluminum foil. The bucket bore a Foie de Poulet label on top, which indicated that this was not actually intended to be a to-go container, but rather, it had been meant to house wholesale quantities of chicken livers.

We were greatly embarrassed for having asked for the to-go container because Patricia had clearly gone to a lot of trouble to (a) find us a suitable container and (b) clean it out for us and (c) had not been able to find a second container.

We won’t be asking for doggie bags any more, though we do strongly appreciate Patricia’s willingness to find us one.

Today, we went to the Carrefour supermarket to pick up some groceries for the work week so we can make ourselves dinner at home a couple times this week since the apartment we rented has a fabulous kitchen. I wanted to make some pasta salad and some gourmet salads for our group so we could eat during the day because the food at the Palais is absolute crap, and overpriced crap at that, and we never have time to leave the stand and go out to pick up lunch elsewhere. The ingredients here – the dairy and the cured meats and the fish – are SO good here!

We wanted to find some individual plastic tupperware, but there was none to be found. I thought they were out, but Sara said she wasn’t surprised that they didn’t have any since the French don’t make extra food in order to have easy-to-reheat leftovers for lunch at work the next day. They go to work, then break for a home-cooked lunch, then return to the office, and then go home (or out) for dinner. They don’t eat hurriedly, stooped over their desks, shoveling food in their mouths with one hand while typing with the other. Meals, even lunch, are to be eaten little by little at a leisurely pace, sprinkled generously with conversation, every moment savored.

Very often, I wish I were French.

Eat: La Farigoule (Cote D’Azur) 82 Rue Meynadier, 06400 Cannes, France. +33 04 93 38 94 95. Ambiance: cozy and familial, tiny space with red checked tablecloth, outrageously friendly staff, heartwarming food.