Maison Fou Brasserie

14 May


Location
: 2197 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.maisonfou.ca/

Maybe getting a hamburger at a through-and-through French restaurant like this one isn’t the best idea ever — but inspired by my recent great experience at Collete Grand Cafe, I figured I’d try my luck.

The Fou Burger is described as “house ground beef, smoked cheddar, house bacon, garlic aioli, pickles.”

I actually got pretty excited when they asked me how I wanted my burger cooked.  I asked for medium rare; the burger came closer to medium well.  I understand that this is most people’s preference when it comes to a burger, but then why ask?

Still, it was far from overcooked, and it was actually quite juicy.  But the patty was a tough chew — I think the grind was probably a bit too coarse (which certainly isn’t a complaint that I usually make), and it was way too tightly packed.

Even more problematic was the flavour; I don’t know if they mixed  pepper in with the patty or merely blanketed the surface with the stuff, but it was absolutely overwhelmed with a peppery flavour.  It was pepper all the way through, with almost no beefy flavour at all — just pepper, pepper, pepper (pepper pepper pepper).  It was intense.

Everything else was pretty good, though.  I was a little bit worried that the smoked cheddar would overwhelm the patty (not that it would be possible to overwhelm that pepper explosion), but it was so sparingly applied that I honestly couldn’t even tell that it was there.  And though the very strongly flavoured garlic aioli probably would have been overpowering under normal circumstances, that clearly wasn’t an issue here.

The very fresh bun had a subtle sweetness, and just enough heft to hold up to the burger.  It was great.

As for the fries, they were quite tasty.  They come with a generous amount of the aforementioned garlic aioli for dipping, and man, that stuff is good.  As long as you don’t mind tasting garlic for the rest of the day, it’s pretty much dipping sauce perfection.

2.5 out of 4

Maison Fou - the restaurant Maison Fou - the restaurant Maison Fou - the brunch menu Maison Fou - the burger and fries Maison Fou - the burger

lbs.

30 Apr


Location
: 100 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://lbstoronto.com/

You know when you’re watching a movie, and it kind of sucks, but the lead actor is clearly trying really hard and actually giving a great performance? And it’s a shame, because all of that quality acting is wasted on such a middling film? That’s pretty much how I feel about the burger at lbs.

Not that the burger is even particularly bad; it’s actually fairly good. But it could have very, very easily been great.

The lbs burger, as per the menu: “6oz brisket + aged cheddar + bacon rasher + kozlicks mustard + house pickles + brioche bun.”

If nothing else, the patty is amazing; extending my strained “great actor in a bad movie” metaphor to this hamburger, the patty is the actor. It’s so, so good.

It’s cooked to a nice pink medium with an enviable amount of crust from the griddle. That crust isn’t just for show, either; it adds a great amount of crispiness that contrasts very nicely with the tender beef. And the beef itself is coarsely ground and loosely packed — the texture is perfect.

It’s also super juicy, with a ridiculously satisfying wallop of buttery, beefy flavour.

It’s a great patty, no doubt about it. Everything else, on the other hand…

There’s way, way, way too much going on. Between the very liberally applied strong mustard, the abundant sharp cheddar, the vinegary pickles, and the sweet caramelized onions (which are unmentioned on the menu, but quite abundant), the amazing flavour of the patty is absolutely buried. It’s gone. It never had a chance.

And that cheese. Yikes. There’s so damn much of it, it’s so intensely flavoured, and it’s completely cold and unmelted. It’s just a big old slab of cold, crumbly cheese that absolutely dominates the hamburger’s other flavours.  It drops trou and takes a metaphorical dump all over that magnificent patty. Even if it were melted, it would have been too much and too strong — but unmelted? Unmelted it’s ruinous.

I’ve ranted about cold cheese on a burger a few times before, so I won’t do it again. I’ll just say that clammy, unmelted cheese on a hamburger is horrible, and if you’re serving a burger like this, you should feel horrible. It almost single-handedly ruins this hamburger.

There’s also a thin slice of back bacon, which is fine, but it’s completely overwhelmed by the burger’s stronger flavours.  I could barely even taste it.

Then there’s the bun, which in theory is great — soft, fresh, and slightly sweet. But the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink burger has way too much going on; the soft bun just can’t handle it. By the last few bites, it had almost completely disintegrated into sodden mush.

Still, as much as this burger bums me out, it was good; I enjoyed it.  It’s a bit on the pricey side at 22 bucks, but the quality of the patty was so good that I can still easily recommend it, but with a big, fat asterisk.*

The fries also make this easy to recommend.  They’re crispy, creamy, salty, and perfect.  They’re some of the best fries I’ve had in a while.

*The toppings try their best to ruin it.

3 out of 4

Lbs. - the outside Lbs. - the restaurant Lbs. - the burger Lbs. - the burger

3 Brewers

16 Apr


Location
: 275 Yonge Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://les3brasseurs.ca/locations/3-brewers-yonge

3 Brewers is a Canadian casual chain restaurant, which means by law, it has to serve mediocre food.

Oh, did you not hear about that law?  Yeah, parliament recently passed a law saying that every Canadian chain restaurant has to serve food that is “mediocre at best, with drab, uninspired cuisine that instills a profound sadness into its customers” (that’s a direct quote from the legislation).

So of course, the burger at 3 Brewers — I got the 3 Brasseurs burger, which comes topped with maple Amber beer sauce, smoked Gouda, bacon, lettuce, tomato and onion — is mediocre.  I mean, they wouldn’t want to break the law, would they?  The burger here stayed very firmly within the bounds of the legislation; it made me sad, just like it was supposed to.

It wasn’t the worst thing ever, I’ll give it that.  It was griddled and pleasantly crusty, and all the toppings were pretty good.  The smoked Gouda was nice and melty (if a bit too strong) — but then who cares when the burger itself is so poor?  The maple amber beer sauce must have just been globbed into one spot in the middle of the burger, because I got a couple of very sweet bites, and the rest of the burger was sauce-free.  The bun, aside from having an exterior that’s a bit too crunchy, was also pretty good.

It’s the patty that really made me sad.  It tasted like the patty from pretty much every other chain like this — it was well done, dry, and completely lacking in flavour.  The beef is lousy, but not too lousy — it’s the cheapest thing they can get away with without it being too flagrant (it’s not a frozen patty, at least).  It tastes like nothing, but it doesn’t offend.

As for the fries, they were fine.  A little bit better than the burger, but again, not good enough that they’re going to risk getting shut down.  Because of the law, of course.

2 out of 4

3 Brewers - the outside 3 Brewers - the restaurant 3 Brewers - the burger 3 Brewers - the burger

Harry’s Charcoal Broil

2 Apr


Location
: 160 Springhurst Avenue, Toronto
Website: None

So I’ve actually been having a pretty amazing run of excellent hamburgers — five out of the last six burgers I’ve eaten for this blog have been seriously delicious, with one contender for the best burger in the city.  And when I picked Harry’s for my next review, I felt extremely confident that the streak would continue.

Harry’s is an old school diner that was recently taken over by Grant van Gameren, one of the best chefs in the city whose resume includes places like the Black Hoof and Bar Isabel.  To say that I was excited to try the man’s take on the classic cheeseburger would be quite the understatement.

I haven’t been this disappointed by a hamburger since the great Piano Piano debacle of ’16.  How do Toronto’s best chefs keep on messing up hamburgers so badly??

Harry’s has a few burgers on the menu; I ordered the Plain Jane, a no frills cheeseburger topped with pickles, onions, and ketchup.

You can’t really tell from the shoddy pictures (it was kinda dark in there), but it looked good, at least.  Despite the restaurant’s name, it’s a smashed-and-griddled burger (because of course it is), and it had exactly the type of dark brown crust you want to see.

The patty is off, though.  The taste and the texture are both just… wrong.  It had a chewy, sausagey texture that makes it immediately apparent that something is amiss in the kitchen.  I don’t think they mixed any spices into the beef, however, I’m pretty positive that they mixed salt right in with the ground beef — a pretty flagrant burger no-no that results in a burger whose texture is closer to a sausage than a traditional hamburger.

The taste, also, was off.  I’ve had worse, but instead of the satisfying beefy flavour you expect from decent quality meat, the taste was just muddled.  It was neither here nor there; a whole lot of nothing.  It wasn’t altogether unpleasant to eat, but it was one of those burgers that had me furrowing my brow with every bite.  “Why does it taste like this?  What is this flavour?  Where’s the beef?”

(Yes, this burger had me quoting a 30 year old advertising slogan.  Though technically the beef was there, but where was the flavour?)

It was topped with a very McDonald’s-esque combination of ketchup, melty American cheese, tiny little onion bits, and pickles.  I’m normally not a big fan of ketchup on a burger, but they didn’t overdo it here; combined with the other toppings, it worked.

The bun was a pretty classic soft-and-squishy fast food style bun; it was mostly pretty great, but it was a bit too big for the very diminutive patty.  The beef-to-bun ratio was off.

As for the fries, I kinda thought they’d be lousy when I first saw them; they’re the thick-and-chunky style that I’m not a big fan of.  But they were perfectly cooked, with a crisp exterior and a tender interior.  They were great.

One more thing: when I was looking up Grant van Gameren for this review, I found this 2014 interview with the man from BlogTO.  They asked him for one food trend that needs to end, and he gave a very simple one-word answer: burgers.  And suddenly it all seemed so clear.  This hamburger tastes like a burger made by a guy who would give that answer.  Someone who doesn’t quite get what makes a great hamburger so special.

You know that old saying about how when you cook with love, it shows?  Well it’s also pretty apparent when the opposite is true.

2 out of 4

Harry's Charcoal Broil - the outside Harry's Charcoal Broil - the restaurant Harry's Charcoal Broil - the burger and fries Harry's Charcoal Broil - the burger

Skyline Restaurant

19 Mar


Location
: 1426 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.theskylinetoronto.com/

I wasn’t crazy about the Skyline Restaurant on my first visit, but that was before the recent change in ownership; I figured another try was probably in order.

My first impression was how delightfully cheap the burger is; for twelve bucks with a hefty side of fries, it’s very much on the low end of what you’d expect to pay from a restaurant like this in Toronto.

It’s a no-frills hamburger, topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, onion, and mayo.  The waitress asked if medium was okay; it was.  And the grilled patty was indeed cooked to a perfect medium, with a rosy pink interior.

Griddled burgers are so ubiquitous in this city that a grilled burger is almost a novelty these days.  I like a griddled burger as much as the next guy, but cooking a hamburger patty on a grill gives it a bit of a smoky flavour and a unique character, so it’s always nice to have that option.

It’s especially nice when the burger is as good as it is here; with its satisfying punch of beefy flavour, it’s very obvious that they’re using above-average beef.  It’s not the juiciest burger that I’ve ever had, but it’s very far from dry, and the texture was about 95% where it should be (it was just a bit too finely ground, making it ever-so-slightly tougher than it needed to be, but that’s a very minor complaint).

The toppings were mostly quite good, though the very thickly-sliced tomato was a bit mealy.  And the soft, fresh bun — lightly toasted — suited the burger well.

As for the fries, they were amazing.  Perfectly crisp and perfectly tender, with just the right amount of salt — very close to fry perfection.

3.5 out of 4

Skyline Diner - the sign Skyline Diner - the restaurant Skyline Diner - the burger and fries Skyline Diner - the burger and fries Skyline Diner - the burger