Heathe St. Claire, Aussie chef-owner of Avenue C's Sunburnt Cow, has long had his mind set on bringing a little of his home town to the East Village. Already known for their unlimited $15 brunches, their "moo juice," live showings of rugby games, and bangers and mash, St. Claire has recently added three-course, $16 nightly "counter meals," live music, an an extended happy hour to the restaurant's repertoire.
The Counter Meal, a waitress explained during a recent visit, is an Australian tradition made up of comforting food, a hefty drink, an informal atmosphere, and a darn good price. The menu offers an appetizer, either burger or entree, and a choice of traditional Australian desserts for this price ($16)--or even less, $10, on Sunday nights.
It almost seems too good to be true, but it's not. We prefer the outdoor seats in the cavernous faux-rock garden, especially on these Fall nights where we're still hanging around in t-shirts. Inside it is dark, lit with sparse candles and videos are projected on the wall behind the bar.
Both Gothamist and our dining companion started off with The Cow Salad, a sculpted, but generous mix of greens tossed with pecans, bacon, avocado, and mango, and dressed with a light mango mustard sauce. Decidedly fresh and flavorful, only crunchier pecans would have helped make it a better start to the meal. For our second course, we by-passed burgers, but spied towering buns and heard oohs and ahhs from across the dining room cheering for the "burger with the lot" (bacon, beets, egg, fried onion, pineapple, lettuce, and tomato), and had our eye on the lamb burger with onion chutney and cucumber yogurt sauce.
After flip-flopping back and forth between the half-roasted chicken with creme corn succotash and the Aussie stew, the honey-glazed carrots accompanying the latter made our minds for us--we just had to have those carrots. The dish was the true expression of "comfort food," meat falling off the bone, rich sweet onions and sugary melt-in-your mouth carrots serving as a rich compliment. Gothamist's dining companion opted for the steak "diane" which came with fire-roasted tomatoes and a slightly too cheesy polenta cake while the steak was cooked perfectly to order and seasoned just right.
Waiters were attentive throughout the night, refilling water glasses, wine glasses ($6 for Shiraz), and checking if we were ready for our next course. After pulling away our dinner plates, our server informed up that the dessert choices included the traditional Australian sweets, pavlova and sticky date pudding. Pavlova was light and tangy with the sourness of kiwi fruit; the sticky date pudding was like the concentration of an entire cooking into one caramel-colored bite, savory and decadently sweet.
We can hardly complain about a $16 three-course meal that was filling, flavorful, and relaxing to boot. We're pretty glad that St. Claire brought this little slice of Australia to the Sunburnt Cow.
The Sunburnt Cow is located at 137 Avenue C. (212) 529-0005.