TravelNoise: Burke & Wills, New York City
When you hear the term “Australian cuisine,” what are you imagining? Unfortunately for the U.S., Aussie cuisine is rarer and more underrated than, say, Thai or Peruvian. Burke and Wills is one restaurant that, whether they’re attempting it or not, is changing our outlook on what Aussie cuisine really is. More importantly, they’re showing us what we’ve been missing out on all our lives.
Nestled on a quiet side street on the Upper West Side, Burke and Wills stands a bit incognito, but when you enter the inconspicuous restaurant, you’ll see that it’s anything but boring. The first room, which serves as a dimly lit and narrow bar, is complete with interesting decor like rustic netting. When my guest and I were led into the dining room, we were honestly in awe. The place probably couldn’t seat more than 30 people, and the intimate room was complete with skylights, grey leather seating and photos of the Australian outback. Though the restaurant is certainly sophisticated, we felt comfortable enough to snuggle into the rounded booth at the back and perused our menus.
The cocktail menu is extremely interesting, offering a number of specialty options as well as wine and beer. Our waitress gave us a few suggestions before we settled on the Red Right Hand ($14) and the New Sensation ($14). The Red Right Hand, which is made with Four Roses Bourbon, peach bitters, fresh lemon, agave and Shiraz float, was strong but incredibly smooth while the New Sensation, which featured Arette Reposado, Del Maguey Mezcal, Cocchi Americano, Dolin Blanc and grapefruit bitters, was bright and deliciously complicated.
The dinner menu is just as interesting with items like the signature kangaroo burger and the Australian lamb rack. We decided to put our fate into our waitress’ hands for starters and mains, and she recommended the duck breast ($19) and scallops ($19) to start as well as the roasted chicken ($28) and lamb rack ($39) for mains. We were happy enough, and in no time she was back with our starters.
The duck breast, which was served with foie gras-stuffed cherries and candied hazelnut, was an absolute treat and juicy to boot. The scallops, which were accompanied by squid ink sofrito, cucumber and heart of palm, were melt-in-your-mouth good with a nice crunch from the cucumber.
We were already in heaven when our mains arrived. The roasted chicken, which was still steaming off the plate, was served with baby patty pan squash and caper brown butter and was so tender, I barely needed my knife to cut through. The lamb rack, on the other hand, was a totally different experience (in a good way). Served with fairytale eggplant and piquillo pepper gremolata, was written in my notebook as “HOLY SHI*T GOOD.” The lamb was perfectly cooked and wonderfully paired with the gremolata and eggplant. Man, we were speechless after consuming that whole thing.
Of course, the journey wasn’t over. For dessert, we chose the chocolate cake ($10) and the passion fruit brûlée ($12). The cake, which was plated with dusted powdered sugar and candied walnuts, was delightfully moist and dense while the brûlée was tart and light — a perfect counterpart to the cake.
When we think of Australian cuisine, we think of good Australian cuisine, particularly at Burke & Wills. We’re so eager to go back, we know what we’re ordering next — the kangaroo burger is at the top of our list.
Address: 226 W 79th St, New York, NY 10024
Telephone Number: (646) 823-9251