23 Grand Street
New York, NY 10013
Just north of Tribeca is the James Hotel, a boutique hotel that offers, in addition to the standard hotel room experience you might get at a Hilton or a Marriott, whole apartments for a few hundred bucks a night. This is irrelevant. The important thing is that right next to it (technically part of the hotel, but with a different door) is David Burke Kitchen and Myna suggested that we meet up after work and go there. It was Restaurant Week, they hadn't watered down the menu to a three choice flyer you'd expect to see at your cousin's wedding, and we happen to be a couple that enjoys a good deal when we see one.
We arrived early enough that the hostess asked us if we were interested in dining in the outdoor area that they call the Garden. Well, air conditioning is swell and all, but we aren't about to turn down a rooftop seat at a nice restaurant unless we have no choice. Like if it's about to rain. Also, I'll just be honest, it's far easier to take photos. So upstairs we went.
The crowd is distinctively an upscale one made from a healthfully age-diverse crowd of young professional types, retirees, and the people in the middle. As with most upscale casual restaurants in this price point, the dress code is less "dress to impress" than "don't be a bum". The people here were of the generally attractive Soho set, so, you know, wear deodorant and don't ask for a can of Gennesee. If you must drink, and if you're anything like me, you probably must, bring along a greater expectation of cost. Cocktails are $16 each and I didn't particularly like either of the ones that we had. So get wine.
On the whole, the meal was very good. Not everything shone, in my mind, but I'm pickier than Myna is. Or maybe my tongue has numbed with old age. Either way, we started off with a small pre-appetizer plate of Peanut Maple Butter Bacon Dates, which sounds like a blast of calories not seen since a Laura Deen plantation party. And, despite the deep-fried grape that they place alongside it, by no means was this dish healthy. Nor was it particularly good. Myna disagrees with me, but I could easily have skipped this and not looked back. I feel like I could have liked the whole bacon-with-peanut-butter thing, but he date was virtually tasteless and I have learned that grapes are best served unfried. For her appetizer, Myna chose the Tomato and Watermelon Gazpacho. The cold soup was poured gently around a crab cake. While it wasn't really my taste, she liked it and I can understand how most people would on a hot summer day. It was sweet without being too much so, and thick without being a stew. It certainly won't be like any other gazpacho you've ever had. Despite of normally not being much of a salad guy, my time with Myna has shown me that I love kale salads, something I honestly never saw coming. I got the Kale Salad tossed with yogurt, peaches, currants, cashews, and Parmesan cheese. It was fantastic. This was definitely the right choice.
For her entree, Myna ordered the Heritage Pork, a loin served with a barbecue gravy, green beans, and a cornbread cake/sandwich thing that had pulled pork in the middle and a pickled watermelon relish on top. We agreed that the pork was delicious and that the cornbread cake thing was okay. It looked nice on the plate, but that's where most of it stayed. I opted for the Short Rib served on a bed of cavatelli and wild mushrooms with a little topping of truffle mousse to add a creamy note to it all. Perfection. The pasta was fantastic, the meat was so tender that it could have been literally eaten with a spoon, and although it looks like a relatively small portion, it's so heavy that by the time you're done, you feel like you ate a house.
Given the weight of my entree, I wanted something light and guiltless for dessert and I chose the Summer Fruit and Sorbet. The fruit was mostly melon, though there were a couple of berries and two pieces of raspberry meringue tossed in for color. The sorbet was blueberry lime. Myna loved the sorbet. I was indifferent over all but I got what I asked for: a guiltless dessert. Myna, on the other hand ordered dessert the proper way and chose something decadent. She had the Frozen Arnold Palmer, an almost impossible to describe creamy indulgence of sweet tea and lemon. It has to have been one of the most delicious desserts I can remember having.
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