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Castaway Burbank Debuts Chef’s Table Experience

Recently renovated and reopened Castaway Burbank has added a prix fixe Chef’s Table experience to upscale hilltop restaurant.

For $125 per person, Executive Chef Perry Pollaci will create and help serve a six-course meal for two to 10 people seated just outside the kitchen, off the main dining room area. Diners can add on a wine pairing for $50.

Upon arrival, Chef’s Table diners are ushered to Castaway Burbank’s exclusive The Green Room, for an complimentary drink. Our cocktail of the evening was absinthe, which is a bit of an odd choice. The absinthe tasted fine, but we would have been much happier with champagne or a simple cocktail.

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View of Burbank from the hidden cocktail lounge at Castaway. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

The bartender, Phil, did make some specialty drinks for us, that we unfortunately weren’t able to finish before being escorted to dinner. The sips of the Belle, Short Round and Steampunk Innovation we tasted warrant a future visit to The Green Room.

After walking by the dry room for curing meat, made with bricks of pink Himalayan salt, and the glass-walled wine closet, we were then seated at the Chef’s Table banquette and served a glass of house pinot noir.

Our meal began with an amuse-bouche trio of small bites: a mini cone filled with steak tartare, creme fraiche and caviar, a lobster corn dog on a bed of black truffle shavings and pork belly topped with fish eggs. I particularly enjoyed the steak tartare with its excellent blend of textures and flavors.

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Amuse-bouche of steak tartare, lobster corn dog and pork belly. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Pollaci then brought us a wild salmon belly poached in olive oil under a heat lamp. It was exquisitely soft and tender. Accompanied by persimmon, smoked mushroom, a frothy ginger aromatic and forbidden rice, the dish was colorful and delicious, with a bit of a spicy kick.

The pumpkin veloute was one of the standouts of the evening. Served in a hollowed-out white miniature pumpkin, the veloute (a savory sauce) was a creamy pumpkin soup accented with chunks of lobster, Chinese 5 spice blend and fromage blanc. Absolutely stunning in taste and texture.

We were then served raw zabuton-cut wagyu steak, a searing hot pink Himalayan salt brick and a host of sauces and toppings, including truffle butter, egg yolk, ponzu, scallion, togarashi, shallot marmalade, bearnaise, miso butter, pickled ginger and various salts and peppers.

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Pumpkin veloute. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

After cooking the wagyu on the 800-degree pink brick, we had fun exploring the various toppings and dips. The steak was terrific, marbled and tender, with nice flavor from being seared. It was perfect on its own without a sauce, too.

To cleanse our palates after the richness, we followed Pollaci’s suggestion and each nibbled on a “buzz button.” The bright yellow Sichuan flower bud makes one’s lips and tongue tingle for a short time. It’s a rather enjoyable experience, but probably not for everyone.

Then Pollaci brought out plates of three different steaks – rare grass fed New York steak, A 5 deckle (premium wagyu rib eye) and a smoky sweet short rib. The deckle was tasty but a little overly fatty for my personal taste. The short rib was spot on. My favorite was the tender New York steak – it was the perfect bite for me that evening.

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A 5 deckle, short rib and rare New York steak.(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

The steaks were accompanied by grilled broccolini, pomme aligot (mashed potatoes), bordelaise and a chianti jus.

We were then served a small rectangle of grilled cheese made from poppy seed bread and truffle. It was super rich and overly truffled for my liking.

But then we were blown away by the aptly named Dessert Destroyer. The pastry chef, Stephanie, brought us a huge assortment of sweets, small cakes, ice creams, sorbets, bread pudding, lava cake, chocolates and more. A fruity, rum-infused tres leches cake and a champagne-topped raspberry sorbet were our favorites.

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Dessert Destroyer. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Castaway was already On The Marquee in our review of the main dining room a few months ago. With this most recent visit, there still was a bit of confusion happening at the front host area, and the hostess talked a bit brusquely to her coworkers in front of people waiting to be seated. Our escort from the bar to the table lost half the group on the way and it took several minutes to be reunited with our party.

But all in all, we were delighted with The Green Room and Chef’s Table.

With the exception of the absinthe and the grilled cheese missteps, we found Castaway Burbank’s Chef’s Table to be a special and top-notch experience and meal. We’re curious to see what Pollaci comes up with at a future Chef’s Table dinner.

Pollaci’s Chef’s Table menu changes frequently and is specific to each individual seating. The plates do sometimes draw from dishes available in The Green Room, but generally are not available on the main menu. The fabulous pumpkin veloute is only available at the Chef’s Table.

Chef’s Table and the hidden cocktail spot The Green Room are available on Friday and Saturday evenings and by advance reservation only. More information can be found on the Castaway website.

Restaurant/Bar Info: Castaway is located at 1250 E. Harvard Road, Burbank, CA 91501.
(818) 848-6691. Castaway is open for dining Monday through Thursday 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.  The bar is open one hour later than the kitchen, daily.


Castaway Reopens With Updated Menu And Style

After an extensive renovation, Castaway has reopened with an updated sense of style and menu. Those fantastic, expansive views remain the biggest draw, but the new Castaway works hard to draw diners and bar-goers.

Long maligned for their dated menu and lack of service in years past, the new Castaway aims much higher and does well.

The new menu is not huge, but offers a good selection of appetizers, sides and entrées. We’ve really enjoyed the King Salmon with black rice and Chinese broccoli in a ginger-miso emulsion, the heirloom tomato salad, the ceviche and Dungenness crab cake.

Each meal starts out with a complimentary board of warm sun-dried tomato bread and basil pesto butter. It’s delicious and different.


Whole roasted Branzino at Castaway. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

In the steak department, Castaway offers quite a selection of cuts. We found both the filet of Cape Grim Beef and the American Waygu hanger steak tasty and well-prepared. The sides of mashed potato and broccolini are solid.

While I’m not over the moon about their mushroom pappardelle pasta – it seemed a bit bland and heavy, others in our group enjoyed it.

The big hit for me was the whole roasted Branzino fish. Presented on a wooden plank with roasted tomatoes, the fish is actually filleted and cooked and then reassembled, and the interior stuffed with pomme fourchette (mashed potatoes.) Although the fish was a bit overdone, it was still delicious. The tomatoes and pomme fourchette were excellent complements.

We also really enjoyed the cocktails we’ve tried, in particular the Wilson! and The Huntington. Castaway also has a strong wine list and selection of beer.


Sun-dried tomato bread and basil pesto butter. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

We’ve been to Castaway a few times. The first time, the service and food were impeccable.

The next time was unfortunately chaotic, as the hosts dithered about whether to seat us, as requested on the patio, which had many open tables, or to put us inside. After much insistence on my part, and nearly 30 minutes after our arrival and reservation, we were seated on the patio.

I’m not sure why there was a problem with the patio. There were three 8-seat tables open, and several 4-tops, and we had a party of 6. In fact, those other two 8-seat table remained open, one the entire two hours we were there, and another was seated an hour after we were.


Castaway’s newly renovated patio. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Although we were brought water once seated, it then took over 30 minutes for our drinks to arrive, after a roaming host inquired if things were okay. Our waiter ignored us during that time. Luckily, I guess, it took about 45 minutes from placing our dinner order for it to be served, so the food didn’t arrive until after our first round of drinks did.

Once settled on the patio, we enjoyed our meal and the view quite a lot.

I’m going to give Castaway the benefit of the doubt… they are trying to do better and the confusion during our second visit there seems to be part of working out the kinks. Staff were incredibly nice and worked hard to make us happy, although it took some time to come up with solutions.

There were a few other missteps that same evening. The valet couldn’t find our car when it was time to leave and we waited for over 20 minutes for that to be sorted. Our windshield was cracked by an errant golf ball while driving up to the restaurant. One waiter accosted our waiter next to our table to tell him that we were supposed to be his table. It almost seemed a comedy of errors.


Castaway’s new patio is stylish and huge. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

When we visit restaurants such as Yamashiro, which deal with immense crowds of people and cars, everything runs so smoothly from valet to seating to service to quality of food and drink. Staff are pleasant and have immediate solutions, even if there is a wait or a problem. I have faith Castaway can get to that level of well-oiled machine with a little time and practice.

Castaway earns an On The Marquee for a delicious menu of food and drinks, stylish decor, good service and those amazing views.

Restaurant/Bar Info: Castaway is located at 1250 E. Harvard Road, Burbank, CA 91501.
(818) 848-6691. Castaway is open for dining Monday through Thursday 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and Sunday 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.  The bar is open one hour later than the kitchen, daily.

myBurbank Ratings:
Tops In Town (Outstanding)
On The Marquee (Really Good)
Could Use A Rewrite (Average or Slightly Below)
Don’t Quit Your Day Job (Poor)