The first time I ever heard of David Burke (because I’m from Seattle and not a food person) was from my chiropractor who, along with his talent for sorting out my skeletal anomalies, is a discerning foodie, and recommended his restaurant Townhouse for a special birthday dinner in New York City. We followed his suggestion, and it was absolutely charming, luxurious, and the food was impeccably delicious. We returned to Townhouse six months later for my husband’s birthday and David Burke himself was not only in the house, but bought the eight of us a round of celebratory champagne. The appetizers, dinner, and desserts were, once again, absolutely first rate. David Burke’s Townhouse remains one of my top 5 favorite restaurants in NYC.
Imagine my excitement, then, when I saw a Living Social deal for David Burke’s restaurant at Bloomingdale’s on 5th Avenue. Burke Bar Café advertises itself as an “intimate supper spot” but is actually a diner-like, over-crowded corner of the store with disappointing food, given the name of the chef who one would think is supposed to be overseeing the restaurant that bears his name. The lobster mac and cheese, which should be a no-brainer bowl of delicious delight, was disappointingly bland. Honestly, I’m too far from that experience to review it in detail, but I do know I’ve had more satisfying meals at the New Jersey diner two blocks from my house. It was a huge disappointment that we felt wasn’t any better than our local Denny’s.
Apparently my husband and I are gluttons for punishment (or don’t learn easily) because when we saw a Living Social deal for David Burke’s Fishtail on the Upper East Side, we bit yet again. This one was for a high-end Burke location, and as much as we love Townhouse, we figured this well-reviewed iteration of Burke’s culinary genius would be a no-brainer.
Not so much.
The décor and atmosphere were very nice. We had an amazing window table on the second floor of a charming repurposed historic apartment building. The service was first-rate. The food, though, was an epic disappointment. I don’t know if it’s that Burke uses the Living Social deals to pull in new customers and serves substandard dishes on those prix fixe menus, but once again, the food was highly disappointing. We started with a sushi plate that was not even as good as the pre-made sushi sold by our local supermarket. Next was a tuna tartar that was so salty it actually burned our tongues. My husband paid the extra fee to have the “angry lobster” entrée, which was overcooked and lacking flavor. My skirt steak was tough. The desserts were the high point of the dinner, being absolutely delicious, but I’m not a big dessert girl, so I only ate a couple of bites anyway. I will never return to Fishtail, nor will I recommend it to anyone I know.
So, it seems that David Burke is very hit-or-miss. I can almost guarantee that if you go to Townhouse, you will enjoy a delicious, high-end experience with excellent service. However, the Living Social deals and/or the Bloomingdale’s location and Fishtail are not worth even considering. As far as celebrity chef enterprises go, I would have to label Burke a poorly-managed, disappointing failure. It’s an incredible waste knowing the brilliance of which Burke is capable.
Editor’s note: For another David Burke review, read Carol’s brunch experience at David Burke Kitchen located in The James Hotel.
Photos from David Burke’s Townhouse Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/davidburketownhouse