Diner’s Gone Wild at the Drake
by LINDEN GROSS, One Stop Writing Shop
“Do you and your friends want to order off the menu or should I just send out food?” asked Drake assistant general manager Chris Knight in anticipation of the restaurant review I’d be doing.
The answer was easy. Bring it on!
As excited as I was about the prospect of seriously sampling Drake’s food, I was also nervous. I really like Drake. I like the look of the new restaurant. I like the staff. And I like the concept. “We’re reinventing the diner, serving fresh sides from local farms,” explained Knight. “So you can get as creative as you want in terms of putting together a dinner.” But what if I didn’t like the food? I had been in right after Drake had started up at the end of April, and there had a couple of misses interspersed with dishes that were good but not necessarily memorable. So it was with anticipation and some nervousness that I joined three friends there for a summer evening dinner.
We started with a round of specialty cocktails so pretty they looked like they were dressed up and out for a night on the town. I’d been disappointed by the drinks on prior visits, but not this time. After trying all four cocktails, I have to say that I’d be hard pressed to choose between the Pink Chihuahua with Hornitos Resposado tequila, mint, lime, fresh grapefruit juice and a splash of soda or the Drake Margarita with fresh jalapeños and strawberries. So far so good.
I quit worrying the second our first dish appeared. The daily soup—a chilled gazpacho served with a crostini topped with a perfectly charred prawn—was lovely to look at and lovely to eat. The fresh, sweet, velvety tomato was accented by a slightly crunchy jalapeño bite followed by a hint of smoky vinegar. Little did I know that the dish was introducing us to Chef Ryley Eckersley’s flavor palate and sense of texture, which would be subtly echoed throughout the meal. By the end of dinner, I was certain that I could pick out this masterful chef’s dishes from a lineup in a blind taste test. But, as usual, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Chris brought out a risotto next. Truth be told, the risotto I had tried when the restaurant first opened was not good. But wow did this one make up for it, tweaking tradition in a positively unforgettable way. Imagine perfectly cooked Arborio rice with sweet corn, roasted red pepper (both still ever so slightly crunchy), white beans and marscapone (Italian cream cheese), topped with fantastically fresh grilled mahi-mahi and micro greens. The dish was even more divine than it sounds.
“I can’t stop eating this,” said my friend Leah.
“Why would you?” I answered.