The Sunburnt Cow - 137 Avenue C, New York NY 10009
6 Train to Astor Place or L Train to 1st Avenue
Back in the summer of '08 I tried an Australian restaurant on the Lower East Side called Bondi Road. It was so wonderful and the food was so different from what I'm used to that I jumped at the chance to have dinner at its sister restaurant, The Sunburnt Cow. My brother Peter joined me on a Monday night and together we indulged in good Australian bar food.
Located in the East Village waaaay East actually on Avenue C, The Sunburnt Cow is very much away from the hubbub and chaos of Manhattan. The block it rests on (between 8th and 9th street) is especially quiet and once you walk in, you feel yourself unwind even more.
Not to say that the Surnburnt Cow is quiet - it's not but it isn't overly loud or obnoxious either. The front of the house is all bar and the back has a few small tables suitable for intimate parties of 2 or 4 at the most. It's perfect for after work drinks and a casual dinner. The overall vibe is very cool, with young Aussie bartenders catering to your every wish - nothing wrong with that.
I was expecting the food to be more or less like at Bondi Road but there were considerable differences. While the feel was similar, the menu offered creative dishes from Mutton Stew to Pesto Shark.
Appetizers - We started with two things, the Aussie lamb balls in tomato sauce and the Calamari Oz Style. Out of those the calamari was a clear winner, as it presented a new spin on a classic appetizer. Unlike any fried calamari I've had, this one was topped with a jalapeno kiwi salsa. I love mixing savory with sweet and the slight hint of sweetness from the kiwi and the punch from the jalapeno brought the dish up a notch. It didn't even need a spritz of lemon but we went for it anyway.
The lamb balls were on the ordinary side - while the flavors were good, they weren't anything spectacular and I'd skip them next time.
Entrees - Peter and I both ordered hefty entrees and tried to go for something we haven't yet experienced. I splurged and got the Wild Boar Spare Ribs while Peter went with an all seafood dish, the Kakadu Fish Stew. Both were excellent and left you feeling full - not overstuffed but definitely satiated.
The Wild Boar ribs were tender and juicy, falling off the bone beautifully and dressed with a spicy pineapple salsa. I liked that the spice wasn't too intense but it left a nice tingle in your mouth. A bed of polenta with crispy edges was the starch in this dish - it was gentle on your palate but gave you a little break from all that protein.
Peter's fish stew was delicious, and it was so huge that I brought the leftovers home and ate it for dinner the next day. It had so much seafood goodness - chunks of fresh fish, shrimp, scallops and mussels - swimming in a rich tomato broth. This dish was a perfect way to enjoy dinner on a cold, snowy evening. They serve it with a side of toasty bread that's nice to dip into all that richness. If you love seafood, I wouldn't miss this.
Dessert - Although we were quite full, a small taste of something sweet was just gnawing at us and we decided to split the butterscotch/date molten cake. I liked that it was different from your everyday, boooring flourless chocolate cake. Every bite was a like an explosion of caramel with a hint of saltiness at the end. That coupled with a big spoonful of fresh whipped cream, and your Australian bar experience was 100% complete.
Drinks - The Sunburnt Cow has a plethora of specialty cocktails that are creative and fit the "down under" theme. Many are fruit based and in addition to beer, we ordered two fruity cocktails, one being The Island and the other one called The Illusion. Both were very tropical with mango, coconut and guava notes, spiked with rum and vodka respectively. Peter and I ended up swapping drinks - I was glad that the swap worked to our favor and we were both happy customers.
Service and Cost:
As I mentioned, the service is super friendly and the staff is right from Australia. I loved our waiter's accent and his overall casual "no worries mate" mentality - it was a nice change from what I'm used to. One suggestion about the service would be to get more waiters - our guy was great but he seemed a bit overwhelmed. He needs a break!
Costs are very reasonable, especially on Monday nights when you can take advantage of an all you can eat and drink 2 hour special for $20. Their brunch isn't too shabby either, $18 getting you a full meal and all you can drink morning cocktails.