India Pale Ale and Stout have no place at the dinner table, according to Michelin-starred chef Daniel Burns, who will pair his innovative cuisine to beers from Melbourne’s Stomping Ground at two upcoming dinners.
Formerly of Momofuku and Noma, Burns founded Luksus at Tørst in Brooklyn, New York City in 2013 with Evil Twin Brewing’s Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø.
It became the only restaurant in the world to receive a Michelin star without offering wine, instead featuring a drinks list comprised only of Evil Twin beers and cider.
The restaurant closed late last year, with both Burns and Jarnit-Bjergsø keen to pursue different paths.
“I’m very happy with what we accomplished. For three-and-a-half years we did something out of the box and it was successful,” Burns told Brews News in an interview in Brooklyn earlier this month.
While the restaurant received some of the highest accolades, it was snubbed by one of NYC’s culinary elite. New York Times restaurant critic Pete Wells visited twice, but not the requisite third time that usually occasioned a review.
Wells later admitted to being somewhat baffled by the offer at Luksus, which was perhaps unsurprising, according to Burns.
“Certainly I think we did things differently, the approach with beer but also from a food standpoint, it was a much more European approach to the style of food,” said Burns.
He said that Luksus had deliberately set out to be provocative by going to the extreme of excluding wine entirely.
“How do you do something unique in NYC? If we did one white wine and one red wine, it would sort of diminish our whole thesis about wanting to bring beer into the conversation of fine dining.
“To do a card with only beer and cider was the way to do it. We wanted to commit to it and we had to go fully in, if we were going to be taken seriously, especially in a city like this.”
Starting his beer journey
Burns does not profess to be a beer expert, with his journey to opening Luksus beginning when he moved to NYC to take up the role at Momofuku in 2010.
“It’s the same as with wine – I don’t know a lot about the regions and the growing but from a palate standpoint I know what I like, and I take it from there,” he said.
“Just through being around the good beers is how I’ve learned it.”
Having taken up residence in Green Point, Brooklyn, Burns became a regular patron of renowned beer bar Brouerij Lane. He went on to meet Evil Twin’s Jarnit-Bjergsø at another local beer venue, Beer Street (also this writer’s favourite beer bar in NYC).
“Lorcan [Lorcan Precious – Beer Street owner] was super excited to have Jeppe moving to New York. The first few weeks he was in town they did an Evil Twin tasting at Beer Street and I did a few small snacks for it,” said Burns.
“We became buddies, and the rest is history.”
At Luksus, Burns took a strictly seasonal approach to the menu, which was constantly evolving.
“Around here, the seasons are not more than a month or six weeks, if you want to hit the vegetable at the height of it. Asparagus may be available for three months but it’s very shitty the first month and even worse the last month,” he said.
“So we would do ten unique menus a year, which for a tasting menu is quite a lot. At all times one dish is evolving.”
Wild ferments best with food
Burns said he favoured the wild fermented beers from Evil Twin in choosing suitable pairings for his food.
“We basically would never use an IPA. Beers high in hop flavour just kill the food, in my opinion,” he said.
The same goes for stout, particularly high octane examples such as Evil Twin’s Even More Jesus.
“You only taste the chocolate and the coffee in the stout and then you taste the food after… maybe,” he said.
“With desserts, we would tend towards, where there’s sweetness in the dish, sour in the beer.
“Even More Jesus or something like this, it’s just beer you drink on its own. Enjoy it for the crazy flavour it has and that’s it. I don’t think it works well with food,” said Burns.
At this stage he is still a partner in the bar adjoining Luksus, Tørst, but his next venture will be a traditional Italian gelateria, with emphasis on local and seasonal ingredients.
Daniel Burns will be in Australia during May, preparing unique dinners matched with four Stomping Ground beers and one from Evil Twin.
There are still tickets available for the Sydney event at Three Blue Ducks Rosebery on Wednesday May 17. Find out more and buy them here.