It seems ya gotta have a gimmick if you wanna get ahead in the East Village nowadays. David Chang and Brooks Headley face off in one corner, with their cheffy takes on greasy, fast food favorites. The refined Korean Oiji and haute-Hawaiian Noreetuh lord over another, similarly helmed by elite fine dining alums. There are even media perennials hugging the far fringes near formerly gritty Alphabet City, such as Harry & Ida’s, and its well-Instagrammed pastrami sandwiches. And if the newly opened David’s Café has anything to say about it, it will soon become the poster child for over-the-top poutine.
To be sure, its menu-prescribed “Hangover” cure — a mass of short rib and brisket burger-crowned french fries, conjoined with green peppercorn gravy and swathed in mozzarella and fried egg — makes a lot of sense for the student-occupied East Village; as equally blessed with bars as it is with blogger-baiting restaurants. A number of other items also angle for their own, iPhone photo op; such as Sardine Rillettes paved with purple curls of onion, jauntily plated in a fashionably retro tin can.
But despite the bells and whistles, it should be noted that the toque in charge is David Malbequi — a Daniel Boulud protégée, and Rotisserie Georgette‘s opening chef — meaning a large part of the menu is actually devoted to blessedly straightforward French classics. And while they may not be quite as pretty, they’re nevertheless very, very good — take Baked Salmon, Wild Mushroom Bisque, Roasted Chicken and a model Steak Frites, slathered in black garlic “maitre d’ butter,” and accompanied by a perfectly dressed green salad. Other creations, like the Pork ‘Old Fashioned,’ seem specifically titled to amass “likes,” but in the end, comprise a fistful of elements that simply play well together; namely a tender, thin-cut pork chop, bourbon brown butter, velvet mashed potatoes and a smattering of tart, pickled cherries.
So whilst an Instagram post might initially draw you to David’s for tin-can rillettes or elaborately-dressed poutine, consider abandoning your own phone, and settling in for a dun-colored and uncompromisingly delicious dinner, of expertly rendered salmon and consummate steak frites.