David Burke Fabrick

Archer Hotel 47 W 38th St. New York, NY 10018 (212) 302-3838 • davidburkefabrick.com

Chocolate-hazelnut Burke-n' Bag at the David Burke fabrick restaurant in New York, June 11, 2014. (Samira Bouaou/Epoch Times)

While there’s definitely some truth in the old saying “the clothes make the man,” sadly it doesn’t work that way for restaurants. If it did, I believe I would be giving Fabrick much higher marks for their trendy, conceptual twist playing off of its Garment District locale with desserts like their chocolate purse thingy (pictured) all the way down to the smallest details such as a fabric swatch cocktail menu.

Speaking of which, I highly recommend the Honey Badger. No, not the badass scavenger on YouTube that doesn’t give a shit. The spring 44 honey infused vodka cocktail that goes down so easy you’ll down two or three without giving a shit either. Made all the tastier with lemon, cinnamon agave and black pepper.

But sadly I only had one, so I did actually care about the food and it saddens me to say that the inventiveness of the preparations doesn’t come through on the palate, for example the burrata small plate with fig, prosciutto, mache and concord grape vinegar all disappears in a sea of blah aboard a plank of country toast.

Equally disappointing in light of its promise was the crab cake BLT, served on challah with candied bacon and a chipotle aioli. It was slightly more flavorful than the burrata, but nothing to get yourself all worked up over. However, if you’re staying in the Archer Hotel and just want to grab a drink and/or a quick bite, I’d say go for it. But if you were planning on making this a destination unto itself, I’d set a course for a different destiny.

2 teeth

The John Dory Oyster Bar

1196 Broadway New York, NY 10001(212) 792-9000 •  thejohndory.com

image

After having read that they offer the best whole fish in the city, I have to say I was a bit miffed when I got there and there was no such option to be found anywhere on the menu. Which is especially effed up when you have a name like John Dory and you don’t even serve the damn fish! But as deflated as I was by the “bait and switch,” I quickly perked back up when the oysters hit the table. Six East Coast, six west coast and all twelve were awesome. Fresh, not too briny. Shucked by pros, so not a shell fragment to be seen and served up with a genius jalapeno mignonette. Horseradish was also in the house, but no cocktail sauce or vinegar. And I gotta say, neither were missed, because both options really let the mollusks shine, without overpowering them.

Having nearly forgotten all about whole fish-maggeddon, the distractions continued with the Spanish mackerel crudo served in a cup of squid crackling and spiced chili. It was quite fabulous. So much so that I started to question the 3 star yelp consensus (not that it’s the first time, of course).

And that’s when the entrees arrived and things started to make more sense. The octopus, while good, didn’t quite reach great, and even at its best, was only made so with yummy additions like Bottarga, olives and the potatoes, which were surprisingly key for this dish. On the other hand, there was no saving the Beer, Lamb & Clam. Great name, but that’s about the nicest thing I can say for it. It’s basically a bowl of steamed clams with a crushed tomato sauce that vaguely resembles notes of beer.

For dessert, the sticky toffee pudding is quite good, reminding me a bit of the one you’ll find one block over at L&W Oyster Co. Granted it’s bigger, just not better. And therein lies the rub, with L&W so close by, I’m not sure I’d pick the John Dory over it 9 times out of 10. But if you’re craving a change of pace, it’s pouring rain or freezing cold and every block matters, or you simply can’t get a table at L&W, then I say jump in with both feet. You could do a helluva lot worse.

3 teeth

Black Barn

19 E 26th St. New York, NY 10010(212) 265-5959 blackbarnrestaurant.com

black-barn

A unequivocal upgrade from SD26 (RIP), Black Barn slaps you in the face with energy the moment you enter, with its lively bar up front, adorned with sleek décor elements done in such a way that honors both the country and city, making the Osmonds proud. Especially in the main dining room in the back, where they really embrace the mix of design elements, complete with a framed out “barn” looming overhead. The only thing taking away from the vibe in a pretty big way is the tablet-style cocktail and wine list. It just cheapens the experience right as you sit down, making you feel like you’re in one of those iPad airport restaurants.

In terms of service, it was a bit spotty, proving to be noticeably lethargic on the bookends with both the cocktails and desserts taking an eternity. Then there’s the matter of our waiter forgetting all about delivering us a bread basket, probably because he was too busy delivering his table-side theatrically, obnoxious Shakespearean presentation of “The Menu.” This guy was so over the top we felt like we were being waited on by Charlton Heston in the Ten Commandments.

Fortunately for Charlton the cocktails were very good. The winner of the two I tried was The Bad Seed, made with Buttered Corn American Whiskey and cayenne pepper dust. It was spicy and buttery in all the right places. Yes, it’s good to be bad. The other cocktail was the refreshing Cider House Cup, served in a copper mug, which seems to be all the rage as of late. Made with Apple Jack, fruit and lime juice. It’s a nice yin to the yang of The Bad Seed.

For starters the Beau Soleil oysters were oysters. Fresh, but nothing spectacular. Served with all the usual suspects from lemon to vinegar to cocktail sauce. The seared foie gras with green apples was also just okay, missing the broad side of a, well, barn, with a dish that should’ve easily been a layup had they just given it that hit of sweetness that is normally so germane to the dish. But weakest of all was probably the pumpkin salad, which was so unimpressionable that it might as well have never even been served to us and I doubt anyone would’ve ever noticed.

On the plus side, the mushroom toast with tallegio was good. Not what I would call it incredible, but amidst the losers it was served with, it was a beacon of hope. And speaking of hope, we finally held out long enough for that forgotten breadbasket I mentioned earlier. But once it arrived, it quickly became apparent as to why they had forgotten. Because it’s pretty forgettable. Although I will hand them the award for the most conflicted spread ever served with bread. A pat of butter topped with balsamic vinegar, sitting in a pool of olive oil, surrounded by roasted garlic cloves. Yes, all of that and yet it still failed to wow.

Sadly, the entrees didn’t fare much better. The scallops were just okay, only made mildly better by the potatoes they are served over. But compared to the amazing scallop dish at The Clocktower across the park, I wouldn’t wipe my ass with these. Not that you should ever wipe your ass with mollusks, that’s just gross, not even sure why you brought it up?

The rib eye with chimichurri was also just okay. The meat itself was nothing special at all, so it was in dire need of something to submerge it in, hence why they serve it with the chimichurri, I suppose. But even that wasn’t enough to mask the inadequacies of the dish. Nor was the cayenne popover, which was a nice touch, props for that one, but it’s obviously a borrowed concept from BLT and not quite at the same level, nor size. Still, I appreciated the effort.

And just when the barn was about to be set fire, the best entrée of the night came in to save the day, the sweet potato ravioli with bacon. Not only was it good, it was crazy good. Then, they followed that up with two killer desserts, the rum soaked bread pudding, which was my favorite, as you can imagine, and the other were the salted caramel ice cream sandwiches which were pretty dope as well, to use a horribly dated expression that I’m hoping to bring back into style. The weakest of the three desserts were the warm chocolate brownies. They’re not exactly bad per se, but when you can get a better brownie at Pret, it kinda makes it seem ridiculous to pay over 10 bucks for something inferior.

Such a shame. I had higher hopes for Black Barn. Sure, it had its spots of brilliance, but they were lost in a sea of too much darkness. Or should I say “blackness?” Yet I still stand by what I said at the beginning. It’s definitely an upgrade from the previous tenant, even if the misses outnumber the hits.

2 teeth

Mama Shelter Restaurant

 Hüseyin Ağa Mah., İstiklal Cad. No:50 D:54, Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey • +90 212 252 0200 • www.mamashelter.com/en/istanbul/restaurants/rooftop

rooftop

Right off the main drag a.k.a. Istiklal, there is a hotel by the name of Mama Shelter, created by the master himself, Philippe Starck. And while this isn’t what I would call his crowning achievement compared to the likes of the Delano, the Royalton and the Mondrian, it most certainly checks the cool box, drawing heavy influences from the same bag of tricks he used to design the Modrian in LA. The lobby is very white on white and the rooftop bar and dining area is complete with the same kind of sprawling city view, as well as beds and giant, over-sized planters. Granted he goes a great deal more colorful at Mama Shelter.

But sadly the cool décor goes straight to the heads of the wait staff who seem busier perfecting their aloof struts back and forth across the rooftop as opposed to taking care of customers. That said, should you manage to flag one down, brace yourself, because there’s more bad news, the menu is a bit hit and miss.

My first gripe being the iced tea. Not only is it not fresh brewed, it’s Lipton. Served in a can. Which I suppose should earn them a few marks for transparency. On the cloudier side of things, however, would be the preparation of the salmon cakes which are more like deep-fried fritters served with a slaw that is actually peanut based as opposed to vinegar or mustard, giving the dish a decidedly Thai net, net. And the net of that net was gross. Okay, that’s a bit of an overstatement even for me, because it wasn’t vomitous, but it really wasn’t good either.

And just when all hope was lost, Mama showed us her moxie with a delightful quinoa salad, made refreshing with chunks of watermelon and made complex and flavorful with bits of smoked circassian cheese. It was simple yet inventive and single handedly saved the life of our server who I was about to throw off the roof.

Perhaps Mama just needs to spend more time with her kids and get the house back in order?

2 teeth

Luke’s Lobster

93 E 7th St. New York, NY 10009(212) 387-8487lukeslobster.com

lunch-13

I’ve been hearing for a few years now that Luke’s is one of the best lobster rolls in the city, so I finally managed to drag my ferocious ass on over there and grab a roll. Well, that and a lobster grilled cheese, because why not?

Now I must concur that the force is definitely strong with Luke’s. I like the more understated seasoning. Light vinegar, touch of herbs- perhaps even infused into the vinegar itself. But its subtlety makes it hard to truly go bonkers over. I mean, yes, I applaud the restraint to not drown the poor thing in mayo or butter. And yes, the lobster shines through for certain, but I just crave that little, extra somethin’ somethin’. Like take Red Hook Lobster Pound’s Connecticut Roll, served warm with butter (no drowning) and paprika. Sorry Luke, it’s a game of inches and unfortunately you fall a couple short of Ultimate status.

The other thing holding Luke’s back is the grilled cheese. It’s just okay. Nothing that will rock your world, but definitely better than your average grill, because let’s be honest, there’s lobster in them there parts! But the decision to serve this up without any zazzle or spin only proves to me that while you most certainly have skillz, Luke, you’re not a Jedi yet.

3 teeth