Angry lobster dumplings. Foie gras with chocolate sauce. Strips of candied bacon hung by clothespins, served on a tiny clothesline. Chef David Burke’s concoctions aren’t just a feast—they’re a feast for the eyes. Call him The Architect of Plating, a mad genius of food whose whimsical presentations a critic once compared to something out of Willy Wonka’s factory. And now you can also call him “neighbor,” as Burke takes over culinary operations for Saratoga Springs’ Adelphi Hospitality Group, encompassing The Blue Hen and Morrissey’s at The Adelphi Hotel as well as Salt & Char next door. It’s quite a coup for the sexy, newly re-imagined Adelphi.
Burke has made a name for himself with numerous TV appearances (see: Iron Chef America: The Series), cookbooks, partnerships and award-winning cuisine for restaurants in New York City, Washington, DC and many other destinations. But the Adelphi is his first outpost upstate. The chef—who officially takes over this month—has already started tweaking the menus, with many more changes to come. He plans to use locally sourced food wherever possible, and says the group will be interested in participating in the annual Saratoga Wine & Food Festival.
“My career started at a restaurant called The River Café, under the Brooklyn Bridge, so basically my food was competing with one of the best views in the world. I also worked for some very well-known chefs—Daniel Boulud, Charlie Palmer—and always said to myself: ‘How can I compete with these guys when we all have the same ingredients, the same basic knowledge, the same stage?’ The idea was that you compete with presentation and uniqueness, so I’ve always built that into my repertoire. It’s called the Instagram factor now, but it was called the ‘wow factor’ way before that.”
“We’re going to bring back updated American classics: oysters Rockefeller, beef Wellington. We’ll probably do teatime—maybe a ‘naughty tea time,’ because there’ll be liquor in it. We’re eventually going to do a whole roasted fish, and things that get carved in the dining room. We may be putting snails and chicken cordon bleu together. We’ll be doing the bacon and some kind of angry lobster. There’ll be Baked Alaska burning at the table this summer, flambéed this and that, beef on salt blocks, probably crudos, raw fish. Our food will have a unique twist—it’s never going to be boring. It’ll be simple, but there will also be high-wire acts. We’re here to impress, and we’re also here to create a restaurant that’s affordable for the locals, as well as the people who come up in the summer season. We don’t want this to be only a special occasion kind of place.”
“To take a hotel in the middle of town and refurbish it like that is an admirable feat. I was there back when it was a dust bowl, with the ceilings torn down. The history, the richness—you can really feel the bones of the place when you walk in there. It’s luxurious, but also hip. I love visiting Saratoga—the people are wonderful. I’ve had the opportunity to sit on that second-floor balcony when it’s snowing, and I’ve got to tell you, I’ll never forget that view, with the street lamps along Broadway. It feels like you’re in a different time.”