February 14, 2011 | BITE: My Journal

David Burke at Bowlmor Lanes

No nachos. We settle for Caesar, pigs in blankets, dumpling duo and calamari. Photo: Steven Richter       

 No nachos. We settle for Caesar, pigs in blankets, dumpling duo and calamari. Photo: Steven Richter

        It’s a chef or restaurateur’s dream: a mouthy blond scarfing your nachos with unabashed joy on the front page of the Wednesday Times Dining - an ode to David Burke’s obscenely opulent nachos.  You don’t have to be a nachos fan to crave nachos glorified by Burke. I craved those nachos. After the big brass toot, I expected to fight my way into The Stadium Grill at Bowlmor Lanes that night to tuck into some of the consulting star’s finer-than-junk-food comfort. The lanes themselves in a far-off zone were roped off for a private party. But tables in the tiered sports bar and grill awaited.

 Bowlmor’s Stadium Grill has more screens than watchers tonight. Photo: Steven Richter

         What? No nachos. No. And no crowd either. Actually, there are more plasma screens of  hunky men bumping and jostling and blowing whistles at each other than people watching them. “Perfect HD for this ADD generation,” my friend Diane observes. Obviously Stadium Grill will not be giving the nearby Lambs Club much of a bruise. Not even with a menu designed by Burke, the exuberantly creative punster. On the other hand, some pluses. It is bright enough to read the menu.  Noisy, yes, the Knicks game’s soundtrack roars full blast, but our lively fivesome can talk…and hear. The eager Charmaine (“I’ll be your server tonight”) is at our call if not always at our beck. And wines by the glass are gently priced.

 Brie croquettes – don’t tell anyone – there are only three on the Caesar. Photo: Steven Richter

         I’m filled with high hope discovering the small, warmed pretzel roll, one for each of us, though I’m not as keen on the mustard-butter as are my tablemates. And the eccentricity of a few fried brie croquettes thrown in cannot spoil a smackingly well-dressed Caesar with enough big crunchy romaine heart leaves for all. The spicy shrimp and pork dumpling duo in their covered steamer are not especially Chinese but I love the chile oomph. And for a few minutes while the beer-battered Kung Pow! Crispy Calamari is still hot, I am putting away more than my share.

 Karen from Nashville helps herself to Kung Pow! Calamari. Photo: Steven Richter

         The Millionaire’s Meatloaf looks an ungodly mess. Personally I would prefer the Mildly Affluent Guy’s version because the chopped meat is tender and savory, snuggled in mashed potatoes, while the luxury of salty prawns crouched on top add nothing.  My neighbor Gary commends the decadence
: “I like the surf and turf thing.”

Best of all is a generous small plate starter of cornmeal-crusted crab cake under wilted mizuna with spicy corn relish and chipotle aioli alongside. It could be a perfect low-cal supper for a flock of aggressive dames hoping to connect with some sports-addled guys between timeouts. If that’s the guy you want ladies, you get what you deserve.

 We’re all happy to see the pigs in blankets of our childhood. Photo: Steven Richter

         The Road Food Warrior is disgruntled to discover raw dough wrapping his favorite pigs in a blanket.  The anemic pizza tastes like cheap freezer fare. Grassy mango vegetable Vietnamese spring rolls did zip, and look messy alongside rare chunks of grilled yellowtail.  And for all the $19 high price airs, its shrimp and sausage add-ins and garlic knots on top, the macaroni and cheese is sadly wan. (Diane reports it was just as lackluster re-warmed for breakfast.)

 The mac’n’cheese needs something, maybe not both shrimp and sausage. Photo: Steven Richter

        We complain to Charmaine that she forgot to deliver the wedge salad. “I only ordered it to taste the fried grapes,” says Karen, our pal from Nashville.  “I just discovered fried pickles and I love them,” she confides.  I actually just discovered them too.

 The tuna is perfectly cooked. I stuff a chunk in the mango summer roll. Photo: Steven Richter

         Fried grapes – Charmaine brings them with blue cheese on top of cole slaw - are not so wonderful, though I confess I nervously ate five of them rolled in a sweet tomato-and-sour-cream dip. I think that was after the Knicks lost.

        “I guess this is the end of ‘peel me a grape,’” says Diane. She points to a glass wall separating one table from another. “Do you think that’s the penalty box where you go if you don’t finish your fried grapes?”

If your sports fan insists on the Stadium Grill, go for the fine crab cake. Photo: Steven Richter

          Blue-faced fans are screaming at a college basketball game. Hockey on yet another screen reminds me of my high school crush on the Detroit Red Wings.

         “All this stuff blaring. I’m exhausted,” Karen confesses, but agrees to linger for dessert.

 Strawberry ice cream hot fudge brownie sundae, a good way to end it all. Photo: Steven Richter

        I refuse to spend $16 for Burke’s ballyhooed cheesecake lollipop tree. I especially hate the bubblegum flavor. But the hot fudge sundae with brownie bites and strawberry ice cream is just enough for a sweet happy ending.  No chance to work it off bowling tonight.
By the way, watch out for "automatic gratuity" on any bill over $50. Don't tip twice.


 222 West 44th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues. 212 680 0012. Monday through Thursday open 4 to 11 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight and Sunday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.


Cafe Fiorello