Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Burger Bistro

Burger reviewed: The beef big smoke

Venue: Burger Bistro (Perth)

Date: 7/3/2014

The Burger Friday fellows begun their 2014 campaign by venturing to Shafto Lane in Perth's CBD to try out Burger Bistro - another one of Perth's pseudo burger chains. We promptly ordered the beef big smoke burger and hoped that the big smoke would be as flamboyant as the "big show" Glenn Maxwell, but without the annoying persona. The burger arrived in quicker than a Mitchell Johnson short ball and had the overall performance to match. But to explain the big smoke, we need to break it down into its parts. 

The patty was made from quality Western Australian ground beef and was cooked to a perfect medium. What was most pleasing was that the grill plate in the kitchen was clearly set at the appropriate temperature as the outside of the patty was charred to perfection which provided a nice bitter undertone to the burger. 

The bun was made of San Franciscan sourdough and was of high quality. Much like former San Francisco Giants Pitcher Brian Wilson, this bun had a somewhat hardened exterior but was softer on the inside. Structural integrity and burger management was a non-issue as this bun provided a structurally sound base while also adding the extra flare of that lightly sour flavour of a quality sourdough.  

The highlight of the toppings came from the perfectly crispy slice of pancetta. It provided a different texture and was a tad saltier than your traditional bacon rasher but not so much that it left you feeling thirsty. My only gripe was that there was only one slice of pancetta on the burger meaning that the gloriousness it provided was not in every bite. Some would liken the pancetta to that of Scott Gumbleton - you saw enough of it to know that it has talent but it just hasn't stayed on the park for long enough.

The big smoke used a perfectly melted slice of emmental cheese. The downfall of using emmental cheese (a variety of Swiss cheese) is that it is known as a fairly savoury cheese with very little sharpness. This meant that the subtle flavours of the cheese were overpowered by the stronger flavours of the other elements of the burger.   

The sauce of choice was a fairly run-of-the-mill BBQ sauce. Whilst this sauce did not detract from the burger, it lacked the typical smokiness of a BBQ sauce which really would have complimented the  other flavours. I recommend changing to some Masterfoods Smokey BBQ sauce - I love that stuff. I would genuinely spread it on my Weet Bix in the morning if it was socially acceptable.

The chips were crispy and plentiful for only a couple of bucks extra. However, a choice of condiments was lacking and we were forced to resort to using the chips to soak up the burger juices to add moisture. 

All in all, this was a solid burger made of the right stuff. As such, an appropriate comparison would be to former South African cricket captain Graeme Smith. A man who despite his technical deficiencies and lack of flare, will go down of one of the better cricketers in his countries history due to his consistency and fighting qualities. Much like Smith, there is elements of this burger that you would change (the sauce, Smith's slightly closed bat face whilst playing straight or his inability to open his mouth without sounding like a complete jouster), this burger is one you would want on your side before a hard days slog.

We recommend this burger if you are after a safe option. But we here at Burger Friday believe that burgers are like Pokemon - gotta eat 'em all! So maybe venture out for some obscurity.

Score - 39/50

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Burger reviewed: The "12" burger

Venue: Flottes - Rue Cambon, Paris

Date: 08/09/2103

Today's burger adventure saw the Fellows sample our first burger treat in the "City of Love". Our venue of choice, Flottes (do not ask me how to pronounce it), is a surprisingly large venue with a much larger English influence than many other restaurants about town (this was evidenced by the menu being written in English only). Located next to Pierre Herme's world famous macaron store, Flottes specialises in traditional French cuisine with a slightly modern twist.

The first thing to note is that the service was top notch. When we walked in we were immediately greeted by a waiter. Let that be a lesson to all restaurant staff - all you have to do is simply acknowledge me with a "I'll be with you in a moment" and I will happily wait for 10 minutes to be shown a table. Without acknowledgement I would be lucky to wait 3 minutes. To make things even better we were sat in a private room complete with nice paintings and French books on the walls. It was a truly lovely setting to enjoy our first ever Parisian burger. 

Upon glancing over the menu we noticed several burgers but the one that caught our eye was the "12" burger. Unfortunately, after I read the menu and ordered the burger I was expecting a 12 inch burger. Instead of a Man vs Food style giant, what arrived was a modest sized burger put together with high quality ingredients. 

The beef patty was exceptional. It was clearly handmade and I think the patty mixture was simply a porterhouse run through a mincer a few times. Due to the quality of the meat used in the mince this beef patty was delicious, covering all parts of the palette like Zizou covering all parts of the soccer field. The inside of the patty was cooked to more of a medium rare (which seems to be the style of French chefs) but the outside of the party was not charred as much as we would have liked. If the chef turned up the temperature of the grill plate a few notches this would have given the best quality patties we have tried a run for their money.

The bun was a real let down. It seemed like your stock standard burger bun that you would pull off the shelf at Coles. I really expected better of a country known for their bread. 

The toppings on the burger were unlike any that we have ever had here at Burger Friday - an interesting combination of sauteed mushrooms and foie gras. Foie gras is a French delicacy and is the liver of specially fattened ducks or geese. Foie gras has come under the fire of animal rights enthusiasts who have claimed that using tubes to force-feed the animals in order to fatten them up is inhumane. This initially put me off. But upon consulting our friendly waiter, we were informed that the foei gras used at Flottes was not sourced from farms who employ this tube force-feeding technique. Rather, a different type of feed that is used to fatten up the animals. Knowing this settled my stomach enough to tuck into the burger without feeling like a terrible human being. And what a result! In our opinion, foie gras is in a league of its own in terms of decadence (and not the kind of decadence like on the Inbetweeners movie) - velvety, rich and creamy. It was a pure delight to eat. However, teaming foei gras with sauteed mushrooms was not a good idea. The two had a similar texture which gave the burger a slippery feel/texture. I was kind of hoping that the foie gras would essentially melt and ooze down the burger creating a quasi-sauce. But as you can tell from the picture, the foie gras was quite substantial and basically acted like a second patty rather than fulfilling my saucing needs.

The burger did have some top quality bacon which was cooked crisply enough to partially cut through this slippery texture but the race was run.

This is the part of the blog where I usually talk about the sauce and how adequately it meshed the ingredients of the burger together. Unfortunately, this burger had no sauce to speak of. Meaning that the burger was very rich and left you feeling greasy. Even a cheeky French Hollandaise would have lightened the mood a bit. With the lack of sauce this burger was bit on the dry side meaning that you needed to choke it down (don't get me started on French athletes choking). 

All in all, this burger had a number of the highest of quality ingredients, including the ultimate X-factor in foie gras, but lacked a sauce to bring the burger together which ultimately resulted in a burger which underperformed. Seeing something with the X-factor only to underperform reminds me of so many French sportspeople but the one I am choosing today is former French tennis player turned Channel 7 special commentator Henri Leconte. Leconte burst onto the French tennis scene by winning the 1981 French junior championship and spent a number of years at the pointy end of grand slams thanks to his sizzling play. The pinnacle of Leconte's career came in 1998 when he made the final of the French Open, only to be smashed in straight ones by Mats Wilander. Ultimately, Leconte found most of his success playing doubles and actually nabbed a grand slam. My advice to Flottes would be to follow in the footsteps of our dear Henri - team up with a quality sidekick (a tangy sauce for the purposes of this analogy) who can make up for your deficiencies. If that happens, you are onto a real winner.

I would definitely recommend this burger if you find yourself strolling down Rue Cambon. In order to counteract the richness of the burger, I recommend the macarons next door. Or if you would like a more traditional French dessert try the in-house creme brulee - I caused a bit of a disturbance in the restaurant when I cracked the caramelised sugar on top of the creme brulee with my spoon. Seriously, it sounded like glass shattering.

Score: 37.5/50 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Shack

Burger reviewed: The Western King

Venue: The Shack (Perth)

Date: 26/07/2013

Today's burger adventure saw Burger Friday tackle the first of Perth's many pseudo burger chain restaurants. The venue of choice - The Shack (previously known as The Local Shack. And before that, The Burger Shack). What is particularly perplexing about the name changes of this venue is that The Shack does not give off the feeling of a shack at all. With its high ceilings, big doors and rustic paint work you could be forgiven for thinking you are chowing down in a cafe in inner-city Melbourne. But who cares about the venue? We are here for a burger.

The Shack boasts 18 different burgers ranging from the stock standard beef burger to a chicken burger called the "Thai Cockfight" (whenever I hear the word cockfight I can't help but think of Seinfeld episode where Kramer and Little Jerry Seinfeld take on Marcellino's "dog with glove on its head"). This presents an obvious selection dilemma in that we are spoilt for choice. However, as we have a selection policy of choosing a burger that our rating scale is not prejudicial towards, we ordered the Western King with cheese and bacon and got ready to nosh.    
The patty was well put together and had that fibrous texture indicative of a handmade patty. What became obvious from the start was the adventurous use of dried herbs and spices in the patty mixture which created a flavoursome first bite. My only gripe with the patty was that it was cooked to more of a well done than a medium which meant that some of juice from the meat had been cooked out of it. I would recommend that the chef at The Local Shack turn the temperature of the grill plate up slightly - this will allow a slight charring of the outside whilst keeping the inside juicy and medium rather than cooking the patty completely through (we should write a book on grilling burger patties - "A time to grill" or "To grill a mockingbird").

My main gripe with this burger is around the quality of the bun. It didn't seem fresh, was a bit on the crusty side and was quite heavy. And to make things even worse, this was one of the hardest burgers to eat from a structural integrity standpoint. This burger resisted all burger management techniques. Even the universally accepted "cut the burger in half" burger management technique (pictured above) - a technique so proven it has taken its rightful place along side the other game changing techniques such as the famed "bite and suck the filling" pie eating technique and the hair dressing methodology of putting the hair between two fingers and cutting above them. If it wasn't for Clause 7 of our sacred Constitution, I would have reached for the knife and fork.  

The salads were fresh and played their part. Salads on a burger is like Snicko in the Decision Review System - while it can add value, it is left out of the decision making process for good reason.

The sauce was the real winner. An eclectic mix of guacamole and seeded mustard which created a tangy and refreshing salsa that cleansed the palette with every bite. Full marks for the sauce. 

The chips were a quality side dish. Similar to the burger, they were sprinkled with dried herbs and spices and were accompanied by a quality sauce. Plentiful in supply (a large serving was enough for two people) and cooked to a level that saw them crunchy on the outside but remain fluffy on the inside.  

Overall, the herbs and spices used in the patty and chips teamed well with the extravagant sauce combination. However, the cooking of the patty and the poorness of the bun let the team down. This display of flare and extravagance only to be ultimately let down reminded me of Dean Wallis in the 1999 Preliminary Final against Carlton. A rugged defender without an attacking bone in his body, Wallis decided to take the game on in the final minute only to be caught by a Fraser Brown tackle, ultimately costing the Dons a chance of overrunning the Blues and a spot in the Granny.  

If you find yourself in the CBD and need a beef injection, check out The Local Shack and the vast array of burger treats it offers.

Score: 33/50

Monday, September 23, 2013

Shake Shack (New York)

Burger reviewed: The Double Shack

Venue: Shake Shack

Date: 17 August 2013

Continuing on the Burger Friday Fellows journey around America, our next stop on tour is the Shake Shack.

If you like burgers and have not heard of Shake Shack then you might as well have been living under a rock. Nine years ago, New York's, and arguably the world's, hamburger landscape changed forever when an unassuming shack began serving up humanely raised 100% Angus beef.

Started by Danny Meyer in Washington Square Park in NYC, this little roadside burger cart grew into a hospitality group and a cultural phenom, and the rest is history. Since then, Shake Shacks have been popping up worldwide developing a market, alongside companies like Five Guys, into what is now known as the Better Burger market (i.e., above your McDonalds or Burger Kings, but below your gourmet burgers). As the Fellows like to dabble in cult phenoms, as well as food which falls into the Better Burger market, Shake Shack was high on our list of food to try in NYC. This and the fact that almost all of the fellows burger loving friends were continually yabbering about it before we left.

So while in NYC, the Fellows headed to the original Washington Square Park site on what was a glorious summers day to try the most talked about burger in the world to see if the hype lived up to the bite.

Greeted by a line curling around the Parks walkway, the Shack almost blends into the surrounding greenery, with the only give away being the connecting fairy lights and the hundreds of people mingling around in excitement. After about a 30 minute wait to order and another ten whilst it cooked, our food arrived.

In true Burger Friday tradition we ordered the signature Shack burger and decided to do it with a double pattie because, as with beef and beer, two is always better than one. The Shack burger is a 100% Angus beef pattie served with American cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles and a special Shack Sauce, all squeezed between a marshmallow-like soft bun.

The incredible simplicity of the ingredients listed above, belie the complexity of the flavourings and sensations that exploded in my mouth on that very first bite. While almost everyone I know has talked up this burger as being almost orgasmic, i had found it hard to believe the hype until I could taste it to prove it. So after that first bite, I was a believer. This is a great burger.

The burger literally melted into your mouth with every morsel, dissolving into a beefy and savoury remnant. I would say that this is without doubt the softest burger I have ever eaten. Think of velvety cake like substance that just happens to taste like burger.

While small in size, it was extremely rich in flavour and by the end I was starting to feel a little overwhelmed by choosing the double.

Although it may seem sacrosanct to criticise the burger, and that this act may cause Shack devotees to seek me out for directed acts of revenge, I did have some things I did not like about the burger.

The hero and the villain for me was the Angus beef pattie. Cooked to a perfectly juicy medium from reportedly ground fresh daily beef, it was so buttery soft that it hard to determine where it stood on the liquified to hockey puck pattie cooking ratio. For mine if it had an offsetting somewhat less soft bun, it would have been perfect. Ala the M&M effect. Or, alternativel,y with the bun it had, I would have liked to have seen the pattie charred to give some contrast in texture. (What's soft on the outside and hard on the inside? - maybe avocado?)

The super soft bun, plus the soft pattie meant that there was too much of the sameness, and towards the end of the burger it got a bit blah.

The other thing which I thought it could have also used was slightly more tang. Whilst the Shake Sauce was zesty, I found myself adding American mustard which was freely available from the condiments stand.

The accompanying chocolate shake and crinkle cut fries were both solid and a good addition to the burger, in flavour and at making sure my daily calorie intake was met in a single serving.

In light of the hype, and the overwhelming softness of the burger, I am going to dub this the Wayne Gretsky. Like Shake Shack, Gretsky is universally known as one of the all time greats. While it might be hard to argue that he was truly soft, rumour has it that whilst teams usually have an enforcer who fights your battles on the ice, Gretzky supposedly took it a bit further by having a bodyguard roam the rink just in case things got too out of hand. Regardless it is still a hall of fame burger and I can testify the hype.

If in New York, or a Shake Shack is near you (they are expanding at a rapid rate), definitively go try it out to see what the fuss is about for yourself.

Burger Friday rating: 42/50