The Sunburnt Calf brings a bit of Australia to the Upper West Side
According to the back of its menu, The Sunburnt Calf got its name from owner Heathe St. Clair’s beloved heifer Bessie, who filled his childhood with laughter and wonder until the day she was accidentally left outside too long in the Australian heat. Cows can’t really recover from sunburns, so Bessie had to be put down. I have to admit, reading the tale of a euthanized cow wasn’t exactly how I wanted to start my Upper West Side dinner, but how can you argue with a restaurant that offers tableside keg service and shark meat?
Alas, the Calf—an uptown offshoot of Alphabet City Australian eatery the Sunburnt Cow—does not offer what I feel is a full Australian dining experience. By that I mean there is no koala on the menu. Also absent are wallaby, Vegemite, deep-fried Paul Hogan and Kangaroo Shepherd’s Pie. The only surface tipoff this cantina has any direct link with the country that gave us Silverchair are the accents of the friendly staff. I’d like to believe these people are truly from Down Under, but they could just be desperate NYU drama students.
OK, there is Shrimp on the Barbie, I’ll give them that. It’s served with a spicy avocado dipping sauce, and it’s good enough to make you hum any given Men At Work hit. Have I thrown enough generic Aussie references at you in this review yet? Just wait until we get to my Bindi Irwin joke.
Aesthetically, The Sunburnt Calf seems to have been airlifted from Park Slope and crammed into the UWS where it could fit—on West 79th Street near Broadway.
Generally, The Sunburnt Calf offers up much of the expected steakhouse fare, but with twists just quirky enough to be endearing. The Burger With The Lot ($10) comes topped with egg, bacon, beets, fried onion, pineapple, lettuce, cheese and tomato; it challenges you to keep everything under the bun on its way to your drooling maw. Spicing up the Pesto Rigatoni ($10) are hunks of fresh shark mixed with bacon. The hearty Aldo’s Steak Diane ($15) isn’t cooked at the table, but it’s a treat nonetheless that’s accompanied by “chips” and “greens” (fries and garlic parmesan broccoli, respectively).
The Sunburnt Calf also offers numerous combination deals, including an Australian Counter Meal ($22) that gets you an appetizer, entrée and a dessert. There’s also an Endless Brunch ($18) on the weekends that includes an entrée (such as the aforementioned burger or eggs prepared “Bush Benedict” style) and all-you-can-drink cocktails. That keg service is pretty handy, too, if you feel like getting drunk with a bunch of your rowdy friends without all the hassle of ordering another round. More non-assuming parties will probably prefer to just slap down 10 bucks for The Calf’s all-you-can-drink-for-two-hours deal, which is apparently in effect at all times.
Speaking of booze, The Calf carried over many of the beloved “Moo Juices” ($7) from The Sunburnt Cow, including The Dirty Mother (Kahlua, tequila and milk) and, my personal favorite, The Illusion (Mango-infused vodka, pineapple, Midori and juice). It should be mentioned that The Sunburnt Calf’s drinks often come in bottles and topped with nipples. You know, as if you’re sucking from a bovine teat.
As far as dessert goes, The Sunburnt Calf boasts a tasty Aussie tart concoction known as Lamingtons. These tiny snack cakes are the perfect way to top off your dining experience in The Calf’s faux-flophouse dining area behind the bar (there’s more seating on a second floor, which was not open during a recent visit).
By the time I was enjoying dessert, I had forgotten entirely about the fatally scorched farm animal honored in the eatery’s name. Instead, my mind was drifting to thoughts of escaping to Angus Young’s homeland, or at least the next possible time I could swing by this perfectly cozy and fulfilling grub spot.
The Sunburnt Calf
226 W. 79th St.
(betw. Broadway & Amsterdam Ave.)