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Aug 16, 2013 10:24 AM

Burke & Wills, 79th & Broadway, UWS

Anybody else been to this Aussie-inspired place yet? I stopped by last weekend and was pleasantly surprised. Normally wouldn't post this, but given that so much buzz surrounds any remotely promising restaurant opening on the UWS, figured it was worth an exception, since I've heard barely any chatter about the spot.

Here's my Yelp review (five stars, food pics at link):

(Absurdly long review alert) ... This Aussie spot opened a couple weeks ago with very little fanfare, but definitely deserves some love. The main dining room has a great feel - small and tucked away in the back, featuring lots of charcoal gray and vintage black/white framed art, with a huge old-school arched skylight overhead.

Drink/food list is small for now but apparently will be expanded once any new-restaurant wrinkles are ironed out.

Speaking of drinks, they're nicely balanced and actually pretty of-the-moment in terms of going back to the classics (think gimlet, Tom Collins, whiskey sour, etc.). Wine selections hail largely from New Zealand and are solid representatives of well-known Kiwi labels (Brancott, Fernridge, etc.).

As for food, what few flaws exist are more than acceptable at this price point, not to mention at a newly opened spot. We only tried small plates, including ...

*Bass ceviche with coconut milk, chiles and either kaffir or mint (can't recall) - strong fish flavor subdued by cool/spicy/herbal dressing. Really interesting.

*Beef tartare - excellent anchovy flavor, perfectly sized shards of bovine. More egg and garnish on side would be nice, and toast points would be better than baguette, but those are very minor issues.

*Merguez sliders - cooked medium-rare, the rich lamb countered by cool cucumber and soft potato buns with natural sweetness. Brilliant.

*Chilled corn soup with crab - not sure I would change anything here. Lovely corn flavor, reasonable amount of shellfish.

*Oysters with cucumber mignonette - fresh, clean, what else can you say?

*Kale Caesar - finely shredded, studded with fava beans and pumpkin seeds, properly dressed, with fat rectangles of pecorino on top. Win.

*Prawns with chimichurri - huge, legitimate prawns in a vibrant sauce. The full-body presentation might be putting form over function, as it's hard to grill shrimp without overcooking while also getting rid of the nastiness between head and body (when deep-frying, that gunk is obliterated and you can happily eat the whole crustacean). That said, the shrimp were cooked very nicely, akin to a steak done medium.

Staff was on-point, and oh yeah, they play golden oldies, which deserves a sixth star. Good times.

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  1. Thanks for the review. I like the sound of the dishes you mentioned.

    1. Having wanted to try this for months, I went for dinner two days ago. I was extremely disappointed. While the dishes were mostly good to excellent, with one so-so lamb crepette, I am sick and tired of expensive prices with tiny portions. It's not that we left hungry, but it's an absurd trend that I don't wish to support. We won't be back.

      2 Replies
      1. re: mckenna4

        Were the "small plates" smaller than normal appetizer size? Or the large plates smaller than normal main courses? What dishes were tiny? The prices on the menu appear reasonable if the food is, as you say, good to excellent.

        1. re: rrems

          The soup definitely was much smaller than normal. The oysters were excellent. The lamb crepinette (not crepette) was not, but wasn't that good. The tuna crudo was a little small, but excellent. The barramundi, very good, was on the small side. The bomboloni, which was ok, had an adequate amount of cinnamon sugar bites but too little ice cream and dulce de leche. Obviously all reviews are subjective, but there was something about the experience that made me not happy with the place.

      2. Anyone who would choose this name for their restaurant is aiming for failure. It's utterly insane.

        3 Replies
        1. re: pikawicca

          Why do you say that? The "insane" name to me is "The Cannibal," for a restaurant that serves steak tartare, yet I believe it's still in business years after opening.

          1. re: Pan

            I say that because Burke and Wills were the two most colossal
            fuck-ups in Australian history. Not an auspicious name for any undertaking, IMO.

            1. re: pikawicca

              We Americans don't know anything about that, but I guess it's an attempt at self-deprecating humor.