The Garden City Hotel’s reputation for pure luxury has been going strong for an impressive 145 years. And this past spring, the venerable hotel recruited a world-renowned innovative chef to elevate its dining experience to new, dynamically flavorful heights.
Chef David Burke, who has helmed some of New York City’s top restaurants over the span of his 35-year career, which also includes appearances on Top Chef Masters and an induction into the James Beard Foundation’s Who’s Who of Food and Beverage in America, opened two new restaurants at the hotel, King Bar and Red Salt Room—with King Bar featuring new American cuisine in an upscale lounge setting and Red Salt Room showcasing the chef’s whimsical approach to regional and seasonal dishes.
Besides being open for guests of the hotel, the restaurants also welcome walk-ins in an effort to spread the culinary message of Burke, a message that encompasses all that is pure and joyful in dining.
“The passion for creativity fuels my craftsmanship and desire to continue to create and build dishes, restaurants and innovate,” said Burke, whose innovations include a patented dry-aging process for steak using Himalayan pink salt. “My main goal [at the hotel] is to offer a quality product utilizing as much as we could from the local bounty of Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut.”
Burke also jumped at the chance to give the local clientele a couple of different dining options—a great higher-end dining experience at Red Salt Room; a more casual setting with the same quality of food and smaller plates at King Bar without having to make reservations; as well as outdoor dining at Patio Bar. He was also delighted to see a familiar face in the kitchen—the hotel’s longtime executive chef who stayed to join Burke’s team.
“The fact that executive chef Ari Nieminen and I worked together at the River Café gave it more synergy to seal the deal,” he said. “I have always been attracted to the Garden City Hotel because of its history and great reputation for quality. After visiting and realizing how strong the infrastructure and the quality of the employees were, I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring the David Burke philosophy to the hotel.”
Burke’s seasonal—and flavorful—culinary style is evident across his menus at the Garden City Hotel. At Red Salt Room, there’s a raw and chilled seafood menu, an appetizer menu with, among other dishes, Burke’s signature Pastrami Smoked Salmon Carpaccio and Candied Bacon on a Clothesline, while the main courses offer inventive dishes overflowing with a high-end, yet approachable, succulence that displays Burke’s kitchen creativity. The chef’s salt brick cuts of beef top the list, with porterhouse, bone-in ribeye, sirloin and filet mignon.
But the seasoned eater should not overlook Burke’s slow roasted chicken, as the chef’s butchering expertise positions the dark meat on top of the white, giving the bird a chance to baste itself—assuring the white meat stays satisfyingly juicy. It’s served on a bed of local corn and sweet pea risotto. Diving into the fish menu, there’s sea scallops, branzino, tuna and salmon dishes, but the star is undoubtedly Burke’s lobster treatments—a simple butter poached option and the enthralling “angry style,” which sees the lobster doused in garlic, lemon, chiles and basil.
“My favorite meal to cook for others is family style foods, like whole roasted fish and/or birds,” said Burke. “Big platters of food. But generally speaking, Thanksgiving is one of the best holiday meals I enjoy cooking.”
Meanwhile, King Bar’s menu is packed with small and large plates perfect for cocktails and casual conversation. The small plates include chilled broccoli branches, crispy shishito peppers, Wagyu beef sashimi on a salt brick and octopus and chorizo kebabs. As for large plates, the chef offers a top-shelf dry aged burger, a decadent French dip sandwich and steak frites.
In the kitchen, chef is gregarious and patient with his staff—a truly great teacher, he imparts his food wisdom on others with youthful enthusiasm, but he will also turn up the heat when the situation calls for it.
“Normally I am upbeat and have a mentoring personality with a dose of prankster for good measure, but it is typically all business. I can be very intense with my game face on. I refer to how a coach teaches a professional sports team. At times things can be high intensity,” he said, while also preaching patience. “[I’m] patient during the training process to make sure they understand the vision and why we put certain ingredients together in harmony to create a dish. Every ingredient has a purpose. The presentation of a dish is also a very important aspect in training.”
All of the chef’s dishes coalesce to form a truly signature dining experience at one of the Island’s most historic sites.
“My inspiration is to create a dining experience that is unlike any other on Long Island, balancing high quality, creative and seasonal foods,” he said.
Restaurateur, author, innovator
Before joining the Garden City Hotel’s new restaurant projects, Chef David Burke was already a well-known kitchen mainstay for decades. Currently, Burke helms Tavern 62 in New York, BLT Prime in Washington, D.C., Drifthouse in Sea Bright, NJ, and Woodpecker in New York. Along with garnering numerous awards, Burke is also an innovator, holding U.S. Patents on a specialized meat-aging process using Himalayan pink salt, as well as his own serving tray. Burke is also the author of two cookbooks, Cooking with David Burke and David Burke’s New American Classics.