F*ck Your Burrata
The skinny waiter looked at me with contempt. I was sitting alone in an Italian restaurant on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles, and my plate was empty: I had just inhaled a glob of dairy fat the size of a softball. I had done so with ravenous abandon.
“Normally,” the waiter told me, “the burrata is meant to feed three or four people.” Oops. Until that point, which would’ve been almost 20 years ago, I had never heard of burrata. (In those days, I usually wrote about musicians, not chefs.) I had ordered it because the waiter had described it in a way that made it sound like a soup dumpling fashioned out of mozzarella and filled with liquid cream. As soon as I tasted it, gravity dropped away and I was floating freely in a creamy Elysium. For days, I could not stop telling my friends about this milky Italian intoxicant called burrata.
Now the years have passed, and I hate burrata. I never order it. When I see it on restaurant menus, which is all the damn time, I am the one radiating waves of contempt. Burrata used to signify delight; now, in my mind, its appearance at the top of a menu is like a billboard announcing, “The chef at this place has never had an original idea in his life, and he only figured out what to cook after relying on a series of corporate focus groups to tell him what’s popular.”
Are there good versions of it? Of course. Ignacio Mattos, at Estela in New York City, has been offering the gold standard for years via his dish of burrata with salsa verde and charred bread, which counteracts the usual gush of cream with deliciously dissonant notes of smoke, acid, and herbs. For the most part, though, burrata is one of those lazy culinary reflexes—like beet salad with goat cheese, “molten” chocolate cake, and the 10,000 rip-offs of Momofuku’s steamed buns (which chef David Chang would admit to having ripped off from, like, China)—that can become as grating as a sitcom laugh track.
Let’s be frank: If a chef is serving burrata, he is probably just buying it at the cheese shop around the corner, plunking it in a bowl with a leaf of basil, and charging you three or four times more than what he paid. (Or he’s putting it on top of a pizza and letting it leak all over the crust like a popped zit.) Please don’t encourage this. I don’t blame poor burrata itself—I concede that the stuff is just as easy on the palate as it was the day I first tried it—but I cringe when I see chefs pandering to us in this way. It’s boring. If you want to pander, chefs, then pander with style and give us a baked potato crammed with sour cream and bacon.
8 Other Things We'd Like to See American Restaurants Banish:
- The empty gesture of an amuse-bouche. No amuse has ever amused anyone.
- Cocktails that taste like cough syrup.
- Extortionary wine-per-glass prices.
- Early-2010s alt hits (e.g., Vampire Weekend).
- Fluke crudo.
- Obligatory “large format” pork-belly entrées.
- “Chairs” that are flat pieces of wood.
- The use of the “waitstaff we” when addressing diners. “Have we decided?. . . Are we thinking about dessert?”
This story originally appeared on Esquire.com. Minor edits have been made by the Esquiremag.ph editors.