Fork and Spoon learned a very valuable lesson during this adventure – NEVER judge a restaurant by the first 10 minutes of being there – or in this particular case the first HOUR of being there. An hour? They must be exaggerating, you say…who would sit and wait an hour for an appetizer? Well, two pieces of cutlery aching for a cheesecake lollipop tree would!
Fork and Spoon had been itching to go to David Burke’s Townhouse after seeing the whimsical cheesecake lollipop tree served as their signature dessert. That coupled with Absinthe Spoon’s incredible dining experience there, and the prix fixe lunch, Townhouse was on our short list.
Townhouse is nestled in a – well, townhouse, on East 61st Street, just off Lexington Avenue. Very unassuming front, except for the small cement dog leashed to the front. That dog lets you know you will be facing whimsy when you walk through the doors. The decor is light and airy with the smallest touches of silliness here and there. The ceiling full of blown glass balloons in the small hallway form the front to back are so wonderful. Fork was trying to figure out a way to steal one!
We sat in a lovely corner banquette. Ordered iced tea. Looked through the menu. Ordered our starters and entrees, and waited. And waited. And two young ladies sat at the table next to us. We waited. And three women sat behind us. We waited and waited.
Fortunately, while we waited, we were served the most wonderful, airy popovers. Crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside and still warm! At the top is a bit of cheese baked on the top. At the side of this wonderful popover is fresh butter served on top of a chunk of pink salt. Oh, by the way, in the fire place in dining room are large chunks of the same pink sea salt, lit from underneath to resemble a fire. Atop the mantel are ostrich eggs in egg holders painted with playing card suits.
And we are back to waiting, waiting, waiting. LOOK! Food! For the two young ladies next to us who ordered 20 minutes after we did. And we waited. And a table with two men got up, disgusted and hungry, and left. Their waiter – our waiter – turned, watched them leave, said nothing, and shrugged his shoulders. LOOK! More food! For the table of three women behind us who arrived 20 minutes after us and ordered 10 minutes after that! It has been an hour and NO SIGN OF FOOD! Please! We want the manager!
Along comes the nicest fellow, Andy, the manager. Fork did not want to like him. Fork was very unhappy with people being served all around us and nothing for us! The 3 ladies had the salad we ordered! The two next to us had a HOT dish and ours was no where to be seen! How can this be? What is going on here? Andy talked Fork and Spoon off the ledge. Fork wanted to leave and Spoon replied, ‘NOT WITHOUT THE LOLLIPOP TREE! We will never come back here, we are staying until the tree!’ Andy assured us that he would take care of everything, that food would arrive soon, that they are so sorry, first day back form vacation, etc. And all Fork heard Charlie Brown’s teacher … wah wah wah wah wah.
But, within minutes of this conversation, our starters arrived. Fork had an endive and beet salad with frisee, baby mache, blue cheese, marcona almonds, apples, and a blackberry reduction. The presentation on the plate was lovely. No, No, Fork is too angry to enjoy it. I refuse. Really…..oh, yum, hmmmm, okay, so I am not so angry any longer. Wonderful dressing, just splashed on the salad, the reduction was nice and tangy, and the salad was just wonderful.
Spoon had the gazpacho with a dollop of creme fraiche and a robiola cheese stick. The robiola cheese stick was totally amazing. Really crisp, cigar like, with salty, melty cheese inside. It was the best part of this dish. The gazpacho was a little dull. It needed zip, heat, depth, something. It was totally flat. Now Absinthe Spoon had this dish and had the opposite experience. We are hoping this was just because it was the first day back from vacation. Certainly something to be ordered just for the cheese stick!
And during this time, Andy kept coming back to make sure we were happy, to joke about the chef, to be very accommodating, kind, friendly and trying to defuse the situation – and he did. He was so charming!
And very quickly after our starters were cleared away came our entrees. Spoon ordered a burger. While you never think you can say anything about a burger that hasn’t already been said, this was a great burger. The beef was so tasty, perfectly seasoned. Cooked just the way we asked – which is unusual. The burger was just a little too small for the delicious, lightly toasted bun. Lettuce? Too much and the rib really was annoying. Speared through the top was an olive, cherry tomato and cornichon. Served along with the burger were fries – truffle fries! Wonderfully crisp fries, salted and sprinkled with bits of truffles. Can you say more, more, more!? Everyone seems to be serving fries in the most wonderful and unique containers lately, Townhouse is no exception and no expense spared. They were served in small, white, classic lion’s head tureens by the French company Pillivuyt.
Fork ordered Curried Chicken Salad served on brioche. Fork didn’t have much hope for this dish, but there wasn’t much else on the menu that piqued Fork’s interest. But what came to the table was a beautifully presented dish. The look of it alone changed Fork’s mind about this dish. Sliced chicken breast, avocado, bacon (which we think was pancetta), underneath a slice of toasted brioche, on top a curry sauce and an avocado cream. All of these components separately might not seem very exciting (well, except the pancetta!) But all together, it was magical. The only thing about this dish that I found difficult was eating it! It is piled very high and a little clunky to cut, but if you stick with it and get a little of everything on your fork, it is well worth it!
By the way, since we have thus far failed to mention iced tea. It is bottomless and freshly brewed and very good.
Ah, dessert! We are finally at dessert! We ordered the cheesecake lollipop tree. How can we possibly be at David Burke’s Townhouse and NOT have the lollipop tree!! We were very nervous watching tree after tree after tree leave the kitchen. Wouldn’t it be funny if they came and told us they ran out of lollipop trees? NOT! Or perhaps they stop serving it after 3:00? NOT!
And now walking to our table was a tree! A tree full of cheesecake lollipops! Oh, please let that be for us! It was! David Burke had these little trees made specially for the cheesecake lollipops. Long stems with little tubes at the end for the lollipop stems to slip into to. The cheesecake lollipops are aggie marble sized. Some were dipped in dark chocolate with crunchies. Some were dipped in white chocolate and strawberry with some chopped nuts on top. Some were dipped half in milk chocolate and half in dark chocolate, chopped nuts. These were so good. The cheesecake was very good. They were soft and creamy and perfectly tangy and nice and cold.
The other dessert we ordered was the Crisp Apple Tart with Cider Caramel and a scoop if vanilla ice cream. The tart was amazing. The puff pastry crust was so crisp and flakey. Normally when you order something like this the crust doesn’t always stay crisp and flakey – the tart is made in advance and sits and the crust doesn’t like to sit. This was made to order and wonderful. The cider caramel was salty and buttery and was the perfect foil to the sweet tartness of the apples.
While we were enjoying our dessert, we saw David Burke walk into the dining room, as he worked the room, and walked around the room, we were hoping he would stop by our table. Not only did he stop by our table, he sat down at our table, laughed and joked for a few minutes or so. He asked how our lunch was. We were honest. The food was fantastic, the service was not so good. He took a pen out of his pocket, drew a rectangle on the white linen tablecloth, labeled it table 37, and instructed us to write in our grievances and bring him the tablecloth. We had a great conversation, laughed so hard we could hardly breathe, and the difficulties during lunch seemed to dissolve.
We asked for the check, and Andy kept to his word and took care of all the difficulties during lunch through a reflection in the check. We saw David Burke again on the way out, ‘please come back to see me again’, big hugs, more laughs, and off we went!
Our lunch took a little over 2 1/2 hours. Good company. Good food. Good people. How bad could it be? David, if you read this, Andy is a gem! He does his job very well, and you can tell that he loves what he does.