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Chef Daniel Burns On His New Greenpoint Beer Bar, Torst

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Daniel Burns_Headshot2.jpg

We've long ventured to Greenpoint's Manhattan Avenue for homey bowls of borscht, colorful dive bars and Peter Pan donuts. But the newest reason to ride the G train is the sleek marble-and-oak craft-beer den, Tørst. Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø of Denmark's acclaimed Evil Twin Brewing is behind the rare bottle collection and 21 temperature-controlled brews on tap, but the bar's also getting much buzz because of its owner, Daniel Burns. The superstar Canadian chef has worked in some of the world's most famed kitchens -- The Fat Duck, Noma, Momofuku --  and New Yorkers are eager for Luksus (that's Danish for luxury), his 26-seat restaurant debuting this May within Tørst. Here, the shaggy-haired, bearded Brooklynite discusses the downside of foraging, craft beer as an alternative to wine and overpriced Danish furniture.

So, while we all wait for Luksus to open, you've got snacks to keep us sated at Tørst.
Yeah, I just wanted to do cheese and meats [right now the ever-changing platters highlight Montgomery's English clothbound cheddar, 'Hooligan' from Vermont, Chiriboga Bavarian blue, Broadbent Country Ham, Saucisson sec Basque and Olympic Provisions' cacciatore] while the beer gets up and running. There are little olives and and I'm making pickles and dark Danish rye bread. It's not the rye we think of when having salami sandwiches.

The restaurant, when it opens, will offer a five-course tasting menu. Can you give us a preview of any of the dishes you will serve?
I'm still playing around with recipes, but it will be super seasonal and not meat-heavy, with a strong pastry component. I'm going to focus on some Scandinavian flavors, but I don't want to pigeonhole myself.

You ran the pastry department at Noma, the Copenhagen restaurant credited with kicking off New York's affinity for all things foraged. What is one thing you love about the Scandinavian culinary aesthetic?
The brightness and lightness of the food that is refreshing and super healthy. It's a large menu, but you don't leave feeling stuffed.

It's great to see how popular this style of cooking has become stateside, but are there any components you're not so smitten with?
Foraging is incredible, but not when it's something thrown on a plate that isn't an element of the dish.

No one is coming to Tørst to sip a Manhattan or a glass of Grüner Veltliner. So your tasting menus will be paired with beers that best complement your dishes?
Yeah, it's way too difficult to build a menu around beer.

Why do you think craft beer has taken off?
Beer is really gaining strength. Just like with coffee, people get into it. There are so many styles. You see more and more beers in wine pairing options now.

You studied mathematics and philosophy in school. When did you know you wanted to cook?
I realized the teaching thing wasn't going to happen, so I started working in a café. I wanted to wake up every morning and cook.

You're from Halifax, which is brimming with great seafood, and your mom was a home economics teacher. Do you have powerful food memories?
You just love lobster in Halifax. And mussels -- I would just boil and eat them.

You staged in England at Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons -- Raymond Blanc's restaurant near Oxford -- then St. John in London and the Fat Duck in Bray before working at the latter full-time. There must be so many memories. Any from the Fat Duck archive?
Yeah, it was quite the experience. The first time we did the bacon and egg ice cream inside the actually hollowed out egg, cracked into the frying pan and frozen tableside was for Ferran Adrià. Very cool.

And working at Noma must have been wild.
We had thirteen tables, and many times they would all be filled with people from thirteen different country codes.

Is there a memorable dish in particular?
A blueberry dessert that tasted like blueberry pie. It had blueberry sorbet, pine ice cream, meringue and brioche, so all these different textures. It made people feel like kids.

Then you went to New York and worked for David Chang at Momofuku. What happened there?
I was in charge of research and development for three and a half years. We did all kinds of testing on miso and fermentation and menu development. There was this shiitake crisp I made almost by mistake: I was making a broth and mushroom puree was left at the bottom of the strainer.

You live in Greenpoint, close to Tørst. What drew you there?
At first it was proximity to the East Village, when I was working at Momofuku. I also like being by the water. It's quiet, too, and has a real neighborhood feeling.

Where do you like to eat in Brooklyn?
Battersby. And Pok Pok. I also really want to check out the Pines.

The space is awesome. It truly feels like Scandinavia-meets-Brooklyn.
I'm super happy with the build-out. We have '50s, mid-century modern Danish furniture -- and we're about to get some Royal Copenhagen pieces -- but we actually shipped it from Denmark because it's cheaper. If you want to buy Danish furniture here, remember how marked up it is.

Tørst
615 Manhattan Ave., torstnyc.com

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