Planta

19 Feb

planta
Location
: 1221 Bay Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.plantatoronto.com/

When I wrote my negative review of Doomie’s a few months ago, my fear was that people would just assume that I’m being a snob and dismiss it outright — that if it’s a veggie burger, I’m going to give it a lousy review on principle. I was really hoping, walking into Planta — an entirely “plant-based” restaurant by David Lee, the acclaimed chef behind Nota Bene — that the burger would be tasty and that I could put that suspicion to bed.

Yeah, about that.

Planta’s burger is billed as coming topped with “queso, mushroom bacon, pickles, tomatillo mayo”. And it looks impressive, that’s for sure — the pictures of it in reviews like this one are what compelled me to come check it out.

Beef or no beef (and obviously I’d prefer beef) the patty itself just wasn’t particularly good. It’s mostly beans, and though it has a nice crispy exterior (I’m assuming it’s deep fried) the inside is pretty much bean mush. I’m sure there’s other stuff in there, but it basically tastes like they mashed up some beans, added a few spices, then formed that into a patty. The texture isn’t much better; it’s way too mushy, though if you ever wondered if some magical confluence would occur if you crossed baby food and a hamburger, now you have your answer.

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To the hamburger’s credit, it’s not even trying to emulate beef, which was one of my main issues with Doomie’s, so there’s that at least.

It’s topped with a vegan version of queso, which was bland but inoffensive. It’s also topped with what they’re calling mushroom bacon. This tasted absolutely nothing like bacon — it tasted like smoky mushrooms. That’s not a bad thing — they were a fine burger topping.  But using the word “bacon” anywhere in their proximity is a bit disingenuous.

There’s also a fairly generous amount of some kind of pico de gallo, which isn’t mentioned on the menu, but which is where a lot of the burger’s flavour comes from. It was actually pretty tasty, if entirely lacking in spice.

The bun was pretty bad, though — it was mercilessly dense.  This would have been an issue even in a regular hamburger, but here it was disastrous. The soft patty completely smushed out of the sides of the bun after just a couple of bites, rendering the burger completely impossible to eat with anything but a fork and knife.

I will say, however, that the burger (when served on their brunch menu, at least) comes with a side of home fries that are absolutely delicious. They were perfectly fried, with an impressively crispy/crunchy exterior and a really creamy interior. If I ever find myself back at Planta, I’ll just order a big plate of those.

2 out of 4

Planta - the outside Planta - the menu Planta - the restaurant Planta - the "burger" Planta - the "burger"

Colette Grand Cafe

12 Feb

colette
Location
: 550 Wellington Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.colettetoronto.com/

You wouldn’t think Colette Grand Cafe — which is mostly about brunch, and pastries, and classic French food like duck confit and moules frites — would have a great burger.  It must just be there because a burger is obligatory on pretty much every menu, right?

Wrong.

The burger at Colette Grand Cafe (which is kind of insufferably named “L’Hamburger”) is indeed pretty great.  The menu describes it as coming topped with “farmhouse cheddar, pepper bacon, tomato jam, bibb lettuce, dijonnaise.”

It’s always a good sign when they ask you how you want your burger cooked; I went with medium rare, and yep, the burger came cooked medium rare.

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I’ll get the worst out of the way first: normally I’d mention whether the patty was griddled or grilled, but in this case I’m honestly not sure.  There was pretty much zero browning on the surface of the patty, so it’s tough to say.  That’s certainly not a good thing, but the patty was otherwise pretty tasty, with a good texture and a mild beefy flavour.

I also quite liked the melty, mild cheddar cheese — places like this are often inclined to get a bit too fancy for their own good, and wind up with a cheese that overpowers the patty.  That wasn’t the case here.

It’s hard to go wrong with bacon, and the smoky, thickly-sliced version on this burger didn’t disappoint.

The dijonnaise, on the other hand, was a bit overpowering.  Probably a good idea to ask for that on the side.

The other condiments were all solid, including pickled onions, which the menu doesn’t mention (it’s a fairly rich burger, so some form of pickle is certainly welcome to help balance that out).  And the sesame seed bun was slightly sweet, fresh, and held up nicely to the fairly substantial hamburger.

As for the thinly-cut fries, they were a tad soggy, but were otherwise pretty tasty, with a tinge of rosemary and a dipping sauce that was packed with even more rosemary flavour (yeah, they really love rosemary on their fries here, apparently).

3.5 out of 4

Colette Grand Cafe - the outside Colette Grand Cafe - the restaurant Colette Grand Cafe - the burger Colette Grand Cafe - the burger

The Carbon Bar

29 Jan

carbon
Location
: 99 Queen Street East, Toronto
Websitehttps://thecarbonbar.ca/

I’ve been pretty anxious to check out The Carbon Bar ever since I watched this drool-inducing video; if you can watch that and not want to immediately hop into the nearest car, subway, or bus to get to The Carbon Bar, you’re clearly made of stronger stuff than I am.

The Carbon Bar is primarily a barbecue joint — albeit an upscale one, with prices to match — and has a burger that definitely fits the theme.  Specifically, it’s topped with a fat slice of smoky brisket (along with American cheese, charred and pickled chili peppers, lettuce, pickles, and burnt onion aioli).

It’s really tasty.  The patty has an impressive amount of crust from the griddle and is cooked to a nice pink medium rare — it’s clearly above average.  It had a really good texture, and in the bites I got of the patty alone, a rich, satisfying flavour that you only get from great quality beef.

But there’s a lot going on here.  The patty, as great as it is, feels like a supporting player in its own hamburger.

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The generous slice of smoked brisket — probably about the thickness of the patty itself, if not a bit thicker — is the dominant flavour here.  I mean, I’m not really complaining; the brisket was amazingly tender, unctuously fatty, impressively smoky, and had a generous amount of seriously tasty bark.  It was easily the best BBQ brisket I’ve had in Toronto.  But the burger tastes more like a brisket sandwich with a burger patty than a hamburger with brisket.

The cheese, too, was stronger than it needed to be.  The menu calls it American cheese, but it definitely had the taste and texture of regular cheddar (and a fairly sharp one at that).  It was a bit overpowering.

The other toppings were all pretty great, particularly the charred and pickled chili peppers — they do an amazing job of cutting the richness of the patty, the brisket, and the cheese.  The sweet, fresh brioche bun was nearly perfect, though it did lose structural integrity towards the end (I had to eat the last few bites of the burger with a fork and knife).

Still, whatever faults I have as a burger purist — I really wish I could taste the patty a bit better, since it was clearly pretty amazing — there’s no question that what they’re serving here is delicious.

As for the fries, yeah, they’re delicious too.  Perfectly fried, perfectly seasoned, can’t stop eating.

3.5 out of 4

The Carbon Bar - the outside The Carbon Bar - the restaurant The Carbon Bar - the burger and fries The Carbon Bar - the burger

Rudy

15 Jan

rudy
Location
: 619 College Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.rudyresto.com/

The burgers from Rudy look amazing in pictures. I mean, look at it. Look at that crust. If you’re getting a burger cooked in that style (i.e. smashed on a griddle), then what Rudy is serving up is pretty much the Platonic ideal of what you want it to look like. That combination of melty, bright orange American cheese and the mahogany-brown crust from a perfectly hot griddle is a thing of beauty. You could look at it forever.

But could it actually taste as good as it looks?

Yes. The answer is an emphatic yes.

I ordered the Rudy, which is a single-patty cheeseburger topped with lettuce, tomato, and Rudy sauce.

Oh man, it was so good.

Foremost was that crust: the beautiful brown crust amps up the burger’s beefy flavour and provides a perfect crispy contrast to the tender beef.

rudya

I got a little bit concerned when I cut into the burger and saw well done, uniformly gray beef.  At least a little bit of pink would have been nice, but it’s hard to complain too much when the patty remains so admirably juicy.  Add in the fact that the beef was loosely-packed and coarsely-ground, and you’ve got a patty with a texture that’s exactly where it should be.

The flavour was pretty great too; perfectly seasoned with just salt and pepper and with a nice beefy kick, it’s pretty much exactly what you’re looking for in the taste department.

The toppings, too, check all the right boxes.  Gooey American cheese?  Check.  Big-Mac-esque sauce?  Check.  Fresh lettuce and tomato?  Check.  Oh, and that bun?  Pillowy, sweet, and perfect.

Yes, in case you can’t tell, I loved this hamburger.  One of the best in the city for sure.

It’s a bummer to end on a sour note, but the fries weren’t the best.  Some of them were slightly underdone, and others were potato-chip-crispy.  Also, I think they might have been seasoned with vinegar instead of salt?  A few had a mildly vinegary flavour; the rest tasted completely unseasoned.  Still, considering how good the burger was, I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume something was just off with this batch.  Either way, the burger was so damn good that it really doesn’t matter.

4 out of 4

Rudy - the restaurant Rudy - the restaurant Rudy - the burger Rudy - the fries Rudy - the burger

Smashburger

2 Jan

smash
Location
: 6301 Silver Dart Drive, Mississauga (Toronto Pearson International Airport)
Websitehttp://smashburger.com/

Though I’m assuming they’re going to expand a bit more at some point, right now if you’re in Ontario and you want to try Smashburger, you’re going to have to fly internationally out of Pearson.  I actually was flying internationally recently, so I was pretty excited to try this (supposedly) higher end American fast food chain.

They’ve got the standard selection of hamburgers, chicken burgers, and salads that you’ll find at any of the big chains.  I got the Classic Smash, which is a single-patty cheeseburger that comes with American cheese, Smash Sauce, ketchup, lettuce, tomato, pickles, and onion.

It’s… fine, I guess?  I was expecting something more along the lines of places like Five Guys or In-N-Out, but this definitely isn’t that.  It’s closer in quality to Wendy’s or A&W.  Not bad in a pinch, but definitely not something I’d get excited about or go out of my way for.

smasha

The patty — with its dry, pebbly texture and lack of anything you’d recognize as a beefy flavour — is fast food through and through.  As per the name of the joint, it’s smashed, with a bit of colour and texture from the griddle.  This seems more cosmetic than anything else, as it doesn’t particularly add anything in the flavour department.

The slightly sweet bun is fine, as are the toppings (including the Smash Sauce, which is the typical tangy mayo that you’d expect).  The whole thing is fine — it’s a bit of a shrug, but I certainly didn’t dislike eating it.

As for the fries, I tried the Smash Fries, which are tossed with olive oil, garlic, and rosemary.  They were thinly-cut and tasty, but man were they oily.  They were doused in olive oil; they were dripping with the stuff.  I poured them out next to my burger, and they left a huge pool of oil in their wake.  It was pretty ridiculous.

2.5 out of 4

Smashburger - the restaurant Smashburger - the menu Smashburger - the burger and fries Smashburger - the burger