The list giveth, and the list taketh away. I am referring, of course, to Toronto Life’s list of the 25 best burgers in the city, which seems to be guiding quite a few of my burger choices recently. I had a pretty awful experience at that list’s number 23 restaurant, The Queen and Beaver, which made me wary of its choices. The Harbord Room was much, much better, however. This made me much more inclined to trust the list.
I’m wary again. Boy, that list is hit-and-miss. Yikes.
The Gabardine is, bizarrely, closed on the weekends, which might be why it’s taken me so long to check it out. It’s a fairly small room, but it’s cozy, and they seem to be doing well.
The burger, as per the menu: “sirloin bacon cheeseburger with aioli, tomato, lettuce & fries.”
I’ve mentioned it before, but sirloin is an absurd cut of beef to make a hamburger out of. I know why some restaurants do it, because it sounds fancy — hey, sirloin is steak, right? It must be good!
Well, no. Sirloin is super lean, and pretty much all of a burger’s juiciness comes from fat. No fat = dry burger.
To the Gabardine’s credit, they at least don’t cook the burger all the way to well done, which would absolutely guarantee that a burger made from beef as lean as sirloin will be dry. The grilled burger I received was cooked to medium, with a little bit of pink in the middle; this helped negate some of the dryness. It was still quite dry, no doubt about it, but they at least tried to serve up something worth eating.
Much, much more problematic was the burger’s texture. It was finely ground to an almost criminal extent, giving it a dense, oddly mealy texture that I found quite unappealing. It was as if they ran the beef through a meat grinder, and then ran it through again. Then again, then again. Then one more time. Then, hey, what the heck, once more, let’s make sure it has the most off-putting texture possible. Between that and the lean beef, this was a burger that required a lot of chewing. I felt like a spittoon should have been provided.
It tasted okay, but with the abundant, sharp cheddar and the salty bacon, there was zero flavour from the beef. Like, none at all. The cheddar flavour so thoroughly dominated the weakly-flavoured beef that it was like chewing on some kind of beef/cheese hybrid. It was like science had created a new substance that has the texture of beef, but the taste of cheese.
I liked the bun, I’ll say that. Very delicately crispy on the outside, but fresh, soft and pliant on the inside, it was pretty great. If it could talk, it would have expressed its sadness to be part of such a sub-par burger, but it’s okay: I don’t blame you, bun. You did your best. You brought your A-game.
Also bringing their A-game? The fries. Man, those were good fries. I’m baffled as to how the same kitchen puts out fries that great and a burger that middling. The universe is mysterious.