The past Saturday Ariel and I went out to brunch at DavidBurke & Donatella. Why in the world would I go to the Upper East Side for brunch? Well, he’s been bugging me about eating there ever since the Momofuku dinner back several weeks ago. I know if his food lovin’ heart is set on something, I have no choice but to tag along and be his dining companion. But then I found out the day before our brunch, he got a cold. And he still wanted to go there! Now, that’s dedication.
Ariel and I met around 1:30 and entered the doors of this posh Upper East Side restaurant. The color schemes of the dining room is mainly red and white with a large chandelier in the center of the room with Dale Chihuly-like blown glass fixtures on the side. The latter adds a touch of Chef Burke’s fun and whimsical touch to an elegant room.
As we perused the menu for five minutes, discussing what tastes good and what he craves since he’s sick, he wanted soupy, mushy food. For obvious reasons, he legitimately should crave such things but the problem is, the bisque in the brunch menu is for the slightly inexpensive menu but the entrées he want to eat is the pricier menu. What he ended up going for is expensive route (as in $35), as well as I.
After thinking our orders out loud and waiting for our waiter to take our order, the bread and butter had arrived. Strangely, the bread is served in a miniature copper pan with the bread’s top puffed out with a twig of rosemary stabbed right through, and the butter is set on a large pink salt slab and the butter’s sculpted with a sprinkling of red sea salt. The bread tastes like a cross between a Parker House roll (its lightness and fluffy texture) and the buttery and eggy flavor of a brioche with the rosemary permeating throughout the roll. It’s the most unique roll I’ve ever eaten but I’m not completely taken by the bread unlike the bread basket I had at Del Posto.
Our first course has arrived. Ariel had the pretzel-crusted crabcake and I had the parfait of tuna and salmon tartares.
Ariel’s crabcake sounded delicious and interesting: pretzel and crab cake? I would never have thought of that combination. But in reality, it tasted fine. It’s basically long, thin strands of soft pretzel lining the so-called crab cake. The crab cake’s texture reminds me of a tuna salad – basically crab meat mixed with mayonnaise, herbs, and some vegetables – no crunchy crust like what I would normally presume as a crab cake. It’s executed well but I’m not really swooned.
But my parfait of salmon and tuna tartares was a show stopper. I’m served with this huge slab of orange-yellow salt with the cylinder of tartares and crème fraîche, three shallow pools of sauces: a mustard, miso vinaigrette and a mild chili oil. What made it had an extra flair was the long, thin strand of chive. It’s really gorgeous and it does taste as good as it looks. The soft, silky fish tartares meld with the crème fraîche well to give it some tartness and the sauces did go well with them. My personal favorite was the miso vinaigrette.
Ariel’s entrée was the Lobster scramble with salmon mousse looked like a well, scrambled eggs with chunks of lobster meat, chives and other herbs with a bunch of chives stabbed off-center to the dish. When I tasted his eggs, it wasn’t noteworthy to me. But it appeals to him since, as I mentioned before, he has a cold.
My “Reuben” Benedict was basically a pair of muffins topped with pastrami-flavored salmon and Gruyère cheese with a mountain of skinny fries. It tasted good. The eggs were poached correctly that the yolk was still yolk-y and the pastrami salmon had a nice flavor of peppercorns and red pepper but it was a bit too salty. The fries were fine but I’m getting stuffed from the copious amount of potatoes on my plate that I gave Ariel a larger share.
Then came our dessert course. My “crunchy” ice cream consisted of three different scoops of ice cream: clove, cardamom, and milk chocolate. I was thinking the crunchy element would be within the ice cream but it turned out to be crushed bits of toasted hazelnuts surrounding the ice cream. It’s fine for what it is but I was expecting something else. Something more complex.
Throughout our entire meal, Ariel and I kept seeing the cheesecake lollipop tree going around the dining room. For obvious reasons, it is popular since people in the past might have seen it on the Food Network. When it finally graced our table, we were in awe by its presentation. How can anyone not look at this whimsical dessert? Heck, Ariel became a really happy guy when it appeared before him as you see in the photo above.
This lollipop “tree” has three different flavors: cherry with pistachio, toffee, and dark chocolate with hazelnuts. All have the same plain cheesecake base and it’s served with a bubblegum flavored whipped cream on the side.
When I had a few of these cheesecake pops, they tasted fine. Nothing particularly extraordinary. It’s basically creamy, slightly dense ball of sweetened cream cheese dipped in the flavors that was served. The whipped cream does tastes like Bazooka bubble gum but more dairy-ness from the cream. It brings the inner child out of the diner but it’s evasive on my part. It’s fine for what it is but it doesn’t bring a foodgasm to me, unlike Ariel.
After being stuffed from our brunch, we’ve paid the check and we were craving some cappuccino. Remembering a while back, Sicaffe‘s nearby and I thought Ariel hasn’t been there yet since he usually wanders along Madison Ave. instead of Lexington. Anyways, once we stepped in, it turned out he has been there before. Somehow he thought this particular café would be he would find in his vacation to Vienna, which he never found.
Despite the fact that this café is not Viennese (that would be Café Sabarsky, where I’ve been to a while ago), they do have great cappuccino, so both of us had the Triestino doppio. Unfortunately, the photo below of the drink is off focus since the milk foam is indistinguishable from the cup, even using manually choosing the AF point. Anyways, it still tasted great as I still remembered it: bold espresso with a nice crema and a thick milk foam. We took the coffee to go since Ariel’s going to meet up a friend of his in the Upper West Side soon and there’s no seats left in there.
We walked through the south border of Central Park across Manhattan. As we were going around the lake, we saw a large group of ducks floating on the water and I suddenly remembered one of Ariel’s vacation photos of a swan on a lake. Strangely, Ariel said to me to take a photo so I did. Eventually, he felt the urge to take a photo of the ducks who were swimming through. I know it’s not food related but heck, I liked the photo (of possibly ten) he took that you see below.
Once we reached the Time Warner Building, I left for the subways since I had to go home to study for my brutal Monday of four finals in a row and he went uptown to meet his friend.
DavidBurke & Donatella
133 E 61st Street
New York, NY 10065