In "Raising the Bar," author of Bionic Bites Tia Kim will check out the grub at a different New York watering hole each week.
Generic hamburgers can get a little boring—especially in the summer, when every weekend someone else has a generic burger cookout. The pre-formed frozen discs are the worst. (Freezer-burned unseasoned meat, anyone?) So this past Saturday, I headed over to Cobble Hill for something different: a burger of the lamb variety at Clover Club.
Named after an exclusive group of journalists in Philadelphia who convened at the Bellevue Hotel between 1882 and the 1920’s, Clover Club is styled in that period. The pressed-tin ceiling, the soft jazz lilting from the speakers, and the lit candles—when it's still bright out—all add to the feeling of a ghostly bygone era. The food, however, is anything but dated. The few items listed on the bar food menu are all American classics with a modern twist.
Crisps ($6), house-made potato chips, are revamped with the addition of duck fat and served with truffle crème fraîche. The taste of duck fat wasn't too obvious, but the fragrant truffle crème fraîche was rich and creamy. Paired with the crunchy potato chips, the flavors reminded me of Belgian fries with mayonnaise. Clover Club's crisps would be perfect with a cold Belgian beer, like the St. Bernardis Witbier currently on tap.
I, however, decided to bypass a beer for a cocktail. Since I was there, it made sense that I should order the Clover Club ($11), a cocktail made with gin, vermouth, lemon, and raspberry syrup capped with an egg white foam. Sweet and light, it's a good drink for summer evenings. But don't be tricked by the sweetness; the bartenders don't skimp on the alcohol at Clover Club.
With peach season upon us, I ordered the Crostini ($8)—grilled country bread topped with house-made ricotta, grilled peaches, walnuts, and rosemary honey. I had expected a bit of sweetness because of the peaches, but the rosemary honey, in addition to the fact that the peaches were grilled, gave the crostini a warm woodsy smokiness that kept the dish from dessert territory. The bread, though well-grilled, was little too thick for my liking.
And lastly, the reason for my inter-borough travel, the Lamb Burger with Goat Cheese ($12): five ounces of American lamb cooked medium-rare and served on toasted brioche with chèvre and thinly sliced red onions. The lamb burger was cooked beautifully, warm and bloody on the inside and browned with nice grill marks. The meat was slightly gamy, in that wonderful lamb way, further accented by the sharp and salty goat cheese. As for the brioche, which can be sometimes too sweet on a regular hamburger—it worked well with the musky ground lamb. Along with the Veselka hamburger, I'd have to say Clover Club's lamb burger is now one of my all-time favorite burgers.
I went to Clover Club looking for something different, but I left with my faith in burgers restored.