We’re revisiting our Capital Chefs feature with a series by music reporter Mickey McCarter. A lot has been happening recently in kitchens in D.C. restaurants, and Mickey takes a look into them from his usual seat at the bar in this series, which runs weekly on Thursdays.
Amber Bursik of DC9
When you hang out with a crowd that goes to see a lot of concerts, as I do, you are occasionally going to find yourself eating in a concert hall.
You might do so in the moment, and you might not expect the food to be too good. So you may find it refreshing when the food at your favorite venue is really consistently great.
Things make sense once you look behind the curtain at DC9, however, and find Amber Bursik in the kitchen. After finishing culinary school, Bursik worked at Georgetown fish house Hook for several years and then popular Mediterranean restaurant Palena for several more before going to work at DC9 a few years ago.
“When I came in here, there was a menu in the place and I had to work within the parameters of the menu in place and the size and capabilities of the kitchen,” Bursik told me. “Because of that, I was told I had to have the burgers on the menu. I could change the burgers, but we had to have burgers.”
In her last five months at the now-shuttered Palena, Bursik was working the grill station, where she was responsible for cooking what many called the best burger in DC.
“It was fun and interesting but at the same time, you are working at this fine dining restaurant and you’re cooking burgers!” Bursik said. “So it was funny to come here and cook burgers again. But we have a great burger because of it.”
"Sax Restaurant & Lounge-9" by Spiggycat
The first thing I notice as I walk in to the opening party of SAX
, the new Metro Center area restaurant and lounge, is not the luxury-goth club decor or even the writhing bodies behind plate glass above the bar. All of that comes later. What hits me first is that the average age of the patrons hovers closer to that of my mother than myself. Not unusual for a posh DC spot, perhaps, but this one has been over the top in marketing of their “sexy cabaret” theme concept, so I feel a bit uncomfortable, expecting to bump in to a woman from my mom’s book club around every gold-leafed corner.
People will call this crowd “diverse,” but it is a very specific kind of diverse. Which is to say, there are equal parts black and white, male and female, and rather a lot of gay men for a place selling so much female flesh. Really, though, they all seem just alike. Every woman looks like a high-price real estate agent or divorce attorney – or at least like they have one of each in their Blackberry contacts. The men wear shiny cufflinks and smirky, goofy facial expressions, but not ties. These are not my people and this is not my kind of place, but I knew that going in and cannot really judge them for it. These people and their ilk will throw each other many “fun” and “crazy” fiftieth birthday parties here and will enjoy themselves immensely, thinking they are just so outrageous.