Archive | July, 2013

Origin

28 Jul

origin
Location
2901 Bayview Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://originnorth.com/

Claudio Aprile recently opened the latest in his burgeoning chain of Origin restaurants, this one right next to Bayview Village. I took this as an excuse (like I needed one) to finally try their much-ballyhooed burger — among other accolades, Toronto Life called it the 13th best burger in the city.

Aprile obviously has very high hopes for this location; it’s a ridiculously enormous, cavernous space. There’s no middle ground here. It’s either going to be a huge hit for Aprile, or a very high profile flop.

However, if he can keep serving food of this caliber, he has a lot less to worry about.

Though it’s certainly not Toronto’s cheapest burger at 17 bucks (with fries or a salad), in this case you get what you pay for.

They don’t advertise the size of the patty on the menu, but it’s fairly substantial — I’d guess at least eight ounces.

It’s a great quality burger. Seriously, seriously good. For one thing, it’s obviously made with sufficiently fatty beef, and is really juicy. This doesn’t seem like a huge deal, but when you eat as many depressingly lean, way-too-dry burgers as I do, it’s like manna from heaven.

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The juiciness and the lack of any meatloaf-esque ingredients is enough for me to give this burger a solid thumbs up. But the flavour is also pretty great, with a really complex, satisfyingly beefy taste.  It’s always a pleasure to eat a burger at a restaurant where the chef actually takes care to source the beef he uses in his hamburger.

It’s topped, as per the menu, with “avocado + smoked mayo + arugula.” You don’t find too many burgers topped with avocado, and I’m not sure why. I wouldn’t want it on a griddle-cooked, fast food-style patty, but it’s perfectly suited for a more substantial burger like this one. Its creaminess and mild flavour are a perfect fit for this particular style of hamburger.

The smoky mayo and peppery arugula also compliment the burger pretty darn well, as does the fresh, soft yet substantial bun.  It’s very easy for the bun to be an afterthought, but it clearly isn’t here.

So what’s the deal? Is this a perfect burger? Sadly, no. Though it didn’t appear to be, and it is cooked to a perfect medium rare, the outside of the burger is a bit over-charred, giving it a slight acrid bitterness. It’s not too strong, fortunately, so I was still able to enjoy the hell out of this hamburger — but it’s there, marring what could otherwise be on a shortlist of the best burgers in the city.

Maybe this was just a one-off mistake. Maybe it’s something that almost never happens. I don’t know. Sadly, I’m not a professional reviewer, and I don’t have the luxury of visiting a restaurant multiple times. I can only review the burger I was served that day, and that’s what I was served.

As for the fries, they were truly outstanding. No caveats here: just perfectly cooked, amazingly flavourful fries. Good stuff.

Origin - the outside Origin - the restaurant Origin - the menu Origin - the burger and fries Origin - the burger
Origin North on Urbanspoon

Gangster Burger

14 Jul

gangster
Location
: 607 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.gangsterburger.com/

Gangster Burger opened about a year ago, and at the time a lot of discussion was centered around the alleged tastelessness of the restaurant’s name and general theme; people were complaining that the theme was a celebration of thugs and murderers.  This really does not bother me.  For all I care you can name your restaurant Evil Burger and sell Hitler Hamburgers and Pol Pot Poutine — if it’s good, I’ll be eating there with a smile on my face.  That’s pretty much all there is to it.

The furor eventually died down (Führer French Fries — another item I’d eat at Evil Burger.  Okay, I’ll stop now) , which only leaves one thing: are the hamburgers any good?

Let me get one thing out of the way first.  I’m not generally too perturbed about such things, but the ambiance here was horrifically, disastrously bad.  Hindenburg bad.  It’s a tiny little restaurant; probably about the size of the original Burger’s Priest, maybe a tad bigger.  I came on a hot summer’s day, and it was immediately apparent that “air conditioning” is not a phrase in this restaurant’s vocabulary.  It was hot.  And I don’t just mean a little bit toasty.  It had to have been a good 15, 20 degrees hotter in there than it was outside.  It was an inferno.

Oh, the humanity.

You know when it gets really hot and they say that youths and the elderly are at risk?  Don’t bring those people here on a hot day, because they will pass out.  By the time I got my hamburger (an excruciatingly long twenty minute wait) I was quite literally soaked in sweat.

Between the heat and the aggressively loud hip-hop being blasted over the speakers, you’ve got an environment that pretty much defines the word unpleasant.  At a certain point I was legitimately thinking about just getting out of there sans-burger, despite the fact that I had already paid.  It was a horror show.

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Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let me talk about the burger.  It’s smashed and griddle-cooked a la Burger’s Priest, by a sweaty chef who kept wiping his perspiration-soaked face with his sleeve.  Let’s put it this way: come here on a hot day and I can pretty much guarantee that some of the salt in the burger and fries will be from the chef’s sweat.

Appetizing, I know!

As I mentioned earlier, the burger took an agonizing twenty minutes to be ready. The wait seems to be due to the fact that, bafflingly, they only cook two or three burgers at a time, despite the fact that they have a fairly enormous griddle to work with.  I guess the sweaty chef can only keep track of a couple of patties at once.

The burger came with a bit of a crust and looking fairly promising.  I’m willing to walk over hot coals for a delicious burger, so if the burger was good, even after the misery of waiting in that restaurant, I probably would have been back.

That is thankfully not an issue I’ll ever have to deal with.

I could tell just by looking at the uncooked beef that it was too lean.  And lo and behold, when I took a bite of the well done burger it was very, very dry.  It was also a bit too tightly packed, resulting in a burger that required a fair amount of chewing power.

The flavour of the beef was fine.  It wasn’t good, but it wasn’t bad either.  It had a meh, nothing flavour that is typical of so-so quality meat.

I got the Don C burger, which is no-frills with just lettuce, tomato, and your choice of sauce.  I went with the Gangster Goo (which has to win a prize for the most unappetizing sauce name ever), which is just spicy ketchup.

The bun was fine, though it was a bit on the dry side and a bit too big.

I hadn’t ordered any fries, though they gave me some anyway as an apology for the long wait.  They weren’t bad.  They had a decent flavour and seemed like they could have been above average, but they were very soggy.

All in all the burger here isn’t horrible, but it’s so aggressively mediocre that I couldn’t possibly foresee any scenario in which I would recommend it, unless you are an aficionado of loud hip-hop and sweating profusely.  But even then, I’d say just get a burger from either Burger’s Priest or White Squirrel (which are not even a five minute walk away, making this place completely redundant) and then head over to your nearest sauna.

Gangster Burger - the outside Gangster Burger - the restaurant Gangster Burger - the burger Gangster Burger - the burger Gangster Burger - the fries
Gangster Burger on Urbanspoon

Wallace & Co.

1 Jul

wallace
Location
299 Wallace  Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.facebook.com/299WALLACE

I was browsing blogTO the other day when I saw, among their most recent reviews, a picture of a big, fat burger.  I read up to “a fat ball of chuck is griddle-fried” and I was gone so fast that I’m pretty sure I left a dust outline where I was sitting.

The small restaurant has a sketchy, old-school diner vibe, with minimalist decor and a griddle — manned by a row of scruffy, bearded chefs — behind the counter.

I scanned the menu too late to notice that they make their own homemade sodas; I had already ordered a plain old ginger ale like a chump.  Dear Wallace & Co. waitstaff: a little heads-up about this would be nice.

Of course, being here to review the burger, I went straight for the Dirty Burg, which comes topped with “cheddar, house bacon, fried onion, coleslaw, BBQ aioli, yellow mustard.”  No, they aren’t shy with the toppings; not surprisingly, there is way, way too much going on here.  The vinegary coleslaw and mustard in particular completely dominate the hamburger’s flavour profile.

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All the other toppings are fine, but the strong vinegary bite of the coleslaw and the mustard make it pretty much impossible to discern too many other flavours.

The beef, however, helps to mask most of the hamburger’s shortcomings.  A fairly substantial patty of fatty, wonderfully juicy beef that is nicely griddled and not overcooked makes me all-too-happy to suffer through an over-condimented hamburger.  Though it’s not the beefiest meat I’ve ever had (in fact it has a disappointingly mild beefy flavour — which, of course, I was only able to discern in the few mouthfuls I got of the beef alone), it still had a decent enough taste.  And man, it was so juicy.

Seriously: ask for extra napkins.  It’s a saucy, juicy mess of a hamburger that fully justifies its Dirty Burger moniker.  Between the fatty, loosely packed patty and the quickly disintegrating bun, it was a race against time for me to be able to finish this with my hands and not have to pick up a fork and knife.

And though the soft, fresh brioche bun had a bit of a hard time holding up to the burger and all of the toppings, it was still pretty great and definitely an above average hamburger bun.  With a burger this messy, even the hardiest of buns would struggle to maintain its structural integrity, so it’s hard to fault the bun in this case.

As for the fries, they were crispy on the outside and creamy on the inside; they don’t come with the hamburger, but they are definitely worth ordering.

Wallace & Co. - the outside Wallace & Co. - the restaurant Wallace & Co. - the Dirty Burg Wallace & Co. - the Dirty Burg Wallace & Co. - the fries
Wallace & Co. on Urbanspoon