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July 28, 2023

Dining Review: Double Barrel Steak by David Burke

Dining Review: Double Barrel Steak by David Burke Discover Dining Review: Double Barrel Steak by David Burke. A culinary gem in Richmond, Rhode Island, where prime steaks await. Check out […]
Dining Review - Double Barrel Steak by David Burke

Dining Review: Double Barrel Steak by David Burke

Discover Dining Review: Double Barrel Steak by David Burke. A culinary gem in Richmond, Rhode Island, where prime steaks await. Check out the review in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.

Rustic luxury retreats are a paradox: they’re part homage to Mother Nature, on the one hand, and an ode to everything money can buy on the other. If the Preserve Sporting Club & Residences, with its sprawling grounds, clay-shooting and aesthetics-based spa, fits into the mold, so too does its restaurant, Double Barrel Steak by David Burke.

The steakhouse, owned by celebrity chef and restaurateur David Burke, is straddling different worlds, though. In some sense Burke is a traditionalist: He’s big on big steaks, Americana and old-fashioned desserts. But he’s as committed to the spectacle of food as he ever was, offering a menu that’s costly but reliably theatrical.

In this case, the dining room revolves around horses — which perch in the center of the room like a Ralph Lauren carousel and in large portraits on the walls. The room is mahogany-hued with accents of olive and forest green. The restaurant looks out onto an expanse of lawn, with a wall of mirrors that separates the member’s area from the public dining room. There are always couples in the dining room, but men make up the bulk of the larger groups, some in jackets but, more often, clad in golf attire and looking for a drink.

Burke knows how to play to the crowd, though. Even if the conversation begins with tees and clays, it’s readily forfeited when food approaches the table in pageantic form. Burke likes to make a scene, which is evident even in the bread service. Softball-sized popovers stuffed with Gruyere and jalapeno cornbread ($8 for two) arrive like performance art, standing upright on skewers and full of well-earned confidence.

This is just the prologue though, as everything is designed to dazzle the newcomers or create anticipatory glee in regular diners. It’s a dynamic that plays out in the waitstaff as well, each of whom will light up when you happen to order their preferred dish. “I can’t not eat it,” says one server, caught up in a steak swoon. “It’s outrageous in exactly the right way.”

The signature appetizer is clothesline bacon, which is not a metaphor: Thick slabs of glazed bacon are pinned to a diminutive clothesline, waving their smoky scent in the air-conditioned breeze ($24). Scissors lie languidly alongside so that diners can snip small slices of pork in a charade of self-restraint.

But even lighter dishes hit the table like the first hour of the Met Gala. Tuna and salmon tartare ($19) are piled high with gaufrette shards and carrot tuiles while Caesar salad sits under a roof of fried cheese crisps ($18). The “pastrami-spiced” smoked salmon ($16) may sound like a New York deli plate, but it eats like a fantasy out of Lord of the Rings — sheer slices of salty fish nestled into a collection of dainty vegetables and mustard seed that look like a verdant corner of the Shire. (Perhaps this is the synchronous link between Burke and the Preserve: the latter boasts a trio of Hobbit Houses that serve bourbon-themed dinners in a setting that marries Comic Con to a Jeff Bezos budget.)

If at all possible, steak at Double Barrel is actually its most restrained dish. It is true that some cuts are daunting (check out the forty-ounce Tomahawk for $135) and that Burke’s salted dry-aging process has its own trademark. But the steak itself is American to the core (assuming national character resides in an elite tax bracket). The restaurant’s steak sauce sits alongside, a vinegar-rich homage to A.1. for a new millennium.

The restaurant isn’t all red meat — there’s a market-priced plate of grilled lobster tails and a variety of other seafood dishes — but it’s what the kitchen does best, manifested by its ability to take center stage in an overtly simple manner. It doesn’t hurt that the backup singers are less self-effacing and overt in their hedonism. Green vegetables abound (creamed spinach, charred Brussels, a stir-fry assortment) but even adrift vegetarians will lose interest once the potatoes show up. Fries come loaded with bacon and shishito peppers which hold some appeal, but the messiah is a cast iron pot of “onion soup” mashed potato gratin with molten cheese. Sides can be ordered in threes ($25), but the winner is so obvious as to make a mockery of the culinary contest.

And maybe this is enough. Loaded up on meat and potatoes and, perhaps exhausted from a day of sport, this could be the end of a histrionic meal. For those familiar with Burke, however, the final hurrah hasn’t made its entrance yet. He’s got a formidable sweet tooth that makes its mark in every venture he’s made and, if main courses feel like Broadway theater, dessert is Cirque du Soleil.

So taken by the many forms of sugar, Burke bought himself an old school bakery in New Jersey last year, and though his restaurant empire predates that acquisition, nostalgia is embedded in everything he does. He offered pastel cake pops to diners before they became part of the household lexicon and they remain on all of his menus ($24), paired with bubblegum whipped cream. Double Barrel also offers cinnamon sugar doughnuts and macarons as well as chocolate mousse cake with candied almonds — anything that tastes like childhood but can be plated like a Vegas show.

Not surprisingly, half the desserts are designed for a group as everything here — as well as at the Preserve — is meant for public revelry. That being said, the most noteworthy dessert is Burke’s Key lime pie ($13). It’s a colossal slice served with gold-dusted berries and it’s aware, as its name makes clear, that it’s “not so humble.” But regardless of its identity crisis — part minimalism, part extravaganza — there may not be a better version of Key lime pie. Anywhere.

As to whether Burke is focused on heightening the unpretentious or simplifying the grandiose remains up for debate — or perhaps the answer differs based on the diner. But the fact remains that he manages to do it with an aptitude that eludes other restaurateurs. True, a dinner at David Burke’s is expensive on any scale, but for all its lavishness, each bite is easy to enjoy. And that, after all, may be the ultimate American meal: one that pulls out all the stops without ever feeling like you had to leave home.

Double Barrel Steak by David Burke

The Preserve Sporting Club & Residences, 53 Kingstown Rd., Richmond, 833-327-8325, doublebarrelsteakbydb.com.
Open seven days a week, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Wheelchair accessible. Lot parking.
CUISINE: American steakhouse with a showgirl attitude.
VIBE: Equestrian country club.

SOURCERhode Island Monthly

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In the kitchen today, we welcome Chef David Burke. His new restaurant, Double Barrel Steak by David Burke is now open at The Preserve Sporting Club. Today, he will be making burgers with us.