Location: 226 West 79th Street (NYC)
Cuisine: Australian Bistro
Best Dish: Kangaroo was hands down the best thing we tasted. It was a unique and exciting dish we can now add and then check off of our foodie bucket list. For the less adventurous just about anything else on the menu will do, everything was tasty.
Overall: An upscale bistro with common sense. The food my look and taste gourmet, but the price are reasonable and the staff is friendly and welcoming. Though dinner is obviously the highlight, they also have an awesome cocktail scene. The dining room is great for a first date, the upstairs is perfect for drinks and a quick bite with good friends and the downstairs bar is a sophisticated watering hole for an easy going happy hour.
Our exposure to Australian culture came mostly from films and pop culture. Koalas, Kangaroos, and the infamous crocodile Dundee are the first things to come to mind at the thought of the continent. The cuisine was one of the biggest mysteries, but an evening of fine dining at Burke & Wills has shed some light on this once foreign subject. Burke & Wills is located on New York City’s upper west side and features some of the flavors and proteins found in Australia. The venue boasts a lovely bar setting in the front entrance which leads to an expansive dining area in the rear lit by soft lights and a gorgeous glass ceiling. The bistro also has a beautiful upper-level lounge reminiscent of a classic speakeasy. The atmosphere in the lounge is relaxed and easy but polished and sophisticated.
We went for dinner on a Tuesday evening and found the bistro buzzing with activity. We settled into a booth in the dining area and started our meal with complimentary bread and a round of cocktails. We highly recommend the “Before Too Long” a vodka-based cocktail with Lychee, Lime and ginger beer. It is a cool and refreshing beverage, perfect for this intense summer heat. For a more traditional drink try the Old Fashioned, a spirited mix of High West Double Rye, Agave, and bitters.
While enjoying our cocktails we nibbled on a couple of small plates. We created our own variation on surf and turf and ordered the roasted scallops and the roasted Kangaroo loin. The scallops were cooked perfectly and served with foie stuffed cherries and hazelnut puree. The cherries add a fruity burst of freshness and the foie provides a creamy savory element.
Kangaroo is not a protein we are familiar with, but it is a protein worth knowing, it is delicious. The flesh was juicy, tender and incredibly lean. As one would expect the meat is slightly gamey with a flavor similar to deer. The texture is beefy enough to confuse a less refined palate but the mild gaminess is what identifies it as beef like but certainly not cow meat.
Though the scallops were satisfying we wanted more so we added to our surf and turf by having the Jonah crab claws from the raw bar. The little claws are served chilled on a bed of ice the claws are buttery and sweet.
We started the next course with the filet. A tender cut of delicious beef served with marrow, black garlic and trumpet royale mushrooms. Marrow is typically served with bread and thankfully we were offered some toasted bread to spread the nutrient-rich marrow on.
For our last entree, we simply had to have the Australian lamb rack. We love lamb and Australian lamb is a rare and prized commodity. The rack is served medium with a piquillo gremolata, baby eggplant, and anchovies. If you’re not into anchovy don’t worry you can’t see them at all. In fact, we hardly tasted any.
After dinner, we retired to the upper lounge for a final cocktail and some dessert. For the last cocktail of the evening, we chose the smoked cinnamon Old Fashioned. This version features the same ingredients as the original with the addition of a smoked cinnamon tincture or smoked cinnamon extract. The cinnamon added a note of smoky sweetness and a little spice.
The doughnuts arrived warm sans holes and covered with powdered sugar. The dessert also features caramel and Nutella sauces for dipping.
Burke and Wills is a delicious gourmet introduction to Australian cuisine. The highlight of the evening was the chance to sample the rare and seldom offered kangaroo. We love trying new things and this bistro presented it in a familiar and easily accessible way. addition to the great food we were also introduced to a lovely young lady named Liz. She was our server for the evening and provided expert assistance with our choices. The entire staff at Burke and Wills was warm and hospitable , a rare combination in some establishments. Restaurant week begins July 25th and Burke and Wills is participating with a prix fixe lunch and dinner menu. The menu includes just a few selections from the regular menu. For one set price per person, guests can enjoy one small plate, one large plate, and one dessert. Unfortunately, the kangaroo loin is not part of the prix fixe. The roo burger is one of the options so you can satisfy your curiosity with a burger instead.