By JIM WILLIS
Among eaters with champagne tastes but beer-bottle pockets, lunch has always been the secret to experiencing good restaurants without blowing the budget. The lunch menu at a top-notch restaurant is generally similar to the dinner menu, only with lower prices.
That’s certainly the case at Rumson’s David Burke Fromagerie. And the time to give it a try is right, too, since the iconic restaurant only offers a prix fixe lunch seating during the holiday season. From now through January 3, Fromagerie has a three-course, fixed-price menu for $29, Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Owner David Burke – now appearing in People magazine offering tips on “how to cook a turkey in a dishwasher” – hails from Hazlet, but his name and cooking have spread well beyond Monmouth County, especially with his recent appearance on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters. That kind of reputation finds more than a few in-the-know area eaters waiting with anticipation for Burke’s “lunch season” to begin.
Piehole checked in with Fromagerie manager Alexander Loehing to get the details and his suggestions.
“We’ve been getting phone calls starting in October, asking us when we’re going to start lunch again,” he says. “We usually start it in December, but we decided this year to start it to coincide with restaurant week” beginning November 7.
The lunch includes an appetizer, entrée and dessert. Appetizer choices include oysters, tuna tartare tacos or shortrib ravioli, as well as several soup-and-salad options.
Among the entree choices: Fromagerie’s staple, the DB Burger. Or there’s the bistro-menu standby, Tuna Nicoise. For an additional $35, the dry-aged 22-oz cowboy steak is available. Dessert options include a flourless chocolate cake and a cheesecake lollipop tree. Customers can also order off an a la carte menu. View the full fixed price lunch menu here.
Don’t expect to squeak out for under $40 though, unless you come prepared to tie yourself to the mast in order to sail past the siren song of the Fromagerie’s wine list. Fortunately for your afternoon meeting schedule — and your wallet — many choices are available by the glass.
“The average glass is about $13/glass,” says Loehing, “and we have a lot of premium wines by the glass that you would generally only see by the bottle.”
His picks from the menu? Loehing says he’d start with the lobster soup.
“It’s nothing like a bisque,” he says. “It’s more of an intense, fortified lobster stock, poured table side. The bowl is presented with a cauliflower and an apple puree with lobster dumplings, and we pour the soup over that.”
After that, he’d go for the Chicken Milanese and, “since I’m a vanilla freak, I’d finish with the creme brulee.”
Though walk-ins are fine, Loehing suggests reservations, available online through the restaurant’s Open Table website.