It’s my birthday and I always grapple with what I should do; I reflected on this question and thought I really want to have my favourite dish on my actual birthday to mark the occasion. This will come as a surprise to most of you that my favourite dish is a simple cheeseburger. As much as I am an aficionado for fine dining, the simple burger is my indulgence. To make matters a little complicated, my favourite burger is actually from a restaurant in New York, some 15,979 km away from Sydney. So, I book a trip to jet across to New York to enjoy this special burger on my birthday.
I am still jetlagged from my flight, but I leisurely place on my freshly pressed blue shirt on and adjust a beautiful purple tie to match. My dark blue suit exudes charm more than it does formality. I make my way from the Plaza Athenee Hotel through midtown traffic and towards the 21 Club.
You might ask why I’m bothering to wear a suit on my holiday, and to be honest my laidback West Australian upbringing would normally cause me to shun a suit; but unfortunately, at 21 it’s jacket and tie for the gents and no exceptions are made… even for The Travel Czar.
The restaurant has a little eclectic charm which strikes me every time I visit; today I am particularly enamoured with the bright coloured jockey statues along the balcony – I normally walk past ignoring them, but today I stop to notice.
The maître d greets me and wishes me a Happy Birthday and leads me to my table – No.11. I had requested Table 11 when I made the reservation – it’s the best spot in the house and also happens to be the favourite table of the current US President, Donald J Trump. It’s on the side at the entrance of the restaurant – It allows you to almost preside over the entire lunch; no one enters or leaves without you seeing them.
The seating is reasonably well-spaced out with all tables donning red checked table cloths with a white linen covering. There is a mix of beautiful dark brown chairs with red leather cushioning and red leather banquettes which weave around the interior of the restaurant. There is a huge wood bar, wood floors and mahogany walls which exude refinement.
Here are some snaps from my last visit as I avoided taking too many snaps to respect the privacy of other guests.
Behind me on the wall are framed US dollar bills personally signed by, the secretaries of the US treasury – whose job it is to sign the bills. Hanging overhead are a range of memorabilia including beer steins, trains, planes and cars donated by captains of industry, political leaders and sporting celebrities over the years.
Here are a couple from the previous U.S. Secretary of Treasury and U.S. Secretary of State.
I promptly order a bottle of wine to ease the days proceedings.
Mocali, Brunello di Montalcino, 2012
I opt for a bottle of wine to accompany me through the afternoon. It’s a beautiful wine from Tuscany. On the nose it’s got beautiful cherry, light eucalyptus and a touch of earthiness. On the palate, there are just gorgeous fruit of cherries, light strawberries with a touch of juniper – as the afternoon lingers lovely light mocha and earthy notes show themselves. There’s a good edge of acidity and some lovely ripe tannins balances the fruit. It’s a great full-bodied wine to pair with some the dishes.
The Duck Pâté en Croute with tarragon mustard and petite greens
This is more traditional; the rich gamey duck and the buttery crumble pastry with the tangy hit of the mustard. It’s rich and the beautiful Montalcino does a fine job with its decent tannins and good fruit. The greens lull me into a false sense of being healthy.
The 21 Club Burger
Finally, the moment I flew all the way from Australia for has arrived; there’s a pause and awed hush in my soul as the burger arrives.
The succulent juicy beef with the cheese melted on top, the indescribable drizzled pickle relish and the fluffy artisan bun are the key players in this show. It’s pure craftsmanship. The patty is a mix of chuck, sirloin and short rib beef with salt and pepper. The effect of cheese being essentially cooked into the patty is oh so special and the drizzled pickle relish has an indescribable taste. The red onion adds a delightful crunch while the fluffy artisan bun does soak up the juices and provides some extra weight to the dish. It’s pure craftsmanship – I love it.
The chips are too good, they have the potato skins on the still which gives it a tad more crunch and little sense of rusticness (if that is a word). I work through the bottle of the Bruno di Montalcino as I continue my watchful gaze at the afternoon’s proceedings as patron’s shuffle in and out of the restaurant.
The Chocolate Soufflé
Then it’s time for dessert and I opt for the Chocolate soufflé. The rich fluffy soufflé with its intense chocolate hit is what the doctor ordered. The sugar rush gives me a little extra energy to offset the afternoon’s flow of wine. I switch to a Dalwhinnie 18 Year Whisky which pairs delightfully and exudes the sense of age demanded from the afternoon.
As a special birthday surprise, I am brought a little birthday dessert treat with a candle – I blow out the candle and make a wish. I’d tell you what I wished for but it might not come true then!
A gorgeous girl in front of me is celebrating her birthday too and is provided with a similar dessert. Seated next to me is a gentleman who is on the Board member of one of New York’s beloved institutions – I won’t say which one it is. He asks me what I’m doing in New York, I tell him I flew all this way (primarily) to have a burger for my birthday. He is intrigued and somewhat impressed at the same time. The afternoon chatter continues, the service is excellent and the ambiance indescribable.
Here is a little video of this magical experience:
The tune is Warm in the Winter by Glass Candy. I do not own the rights to this song.
It’s definitely my kinda birthday – fine wine, beautiful burger, a leisurely lunch scene, a little bit decadence and a long plane trip to go with it.