Archive | December, 2014

The White Brick Kitchen

28 Dec

white
Location
: 641 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://thewhitebrickkitchen.com/

I’ve gotta say, it was a bit of a struggle to order the burger at this place.  Having just watched this restaurant’s episode of You Gotta Eat Here, I was seriously tempted to order one of the dishes featured on that show; they looked so damn good.  But at this point, checking off more restaurants to add to this blog has become a borderline obsession.

Must… review… every… burger…

Impossible, I know.  Still, it’s a nagging enough compulsion that I was able to resist the siren song of some of the best looking fried chicken I’ve seen in my life.  My dining companion was getting the Joe Fries and said I could try some, which did help strengthen my resolve.

The White Brick Kitchen has two burgers on the menu — the revolving Featured Burger, and the 6oz Brisket Burger.  I went with the latter, which is described as coming with “house dill pickles, fry sauce.”

After last week’s Senator fiasco, I was very relieved to see a patty with some crust and colour.  The Senator’s deathly gray, colourless patty will be haunting my dreams for weeks to come, I’m sure.

whiteA

And after the grim mediocrity served at that diner, this was just what the doctor ordered.  Though the well done patty was a bit too tightly packed and slightly on the dry side, it was still fairly juicy and otherwise well above average.  First and foremost, the quality of the beef is obviously pretty high, giving the burger exactly the sort of rich, beefy flavour that you hope for.  Really good.

The aforementioned crust could have been more pronounced, but still adds a good amount of taste and texture to the hamburger.  The toppings were pretty good, too, with the pickles adding some nice vinegary crunchiness for contrast without ever overwhelming the beef.  The fry sauce did a great job of adding some flavour, but letting the beef shine through.

Though the bottom got a bit soggy, the bun otherwise complimented the burger perfectly.  The griddled, buttery crunch on the inside of the bread was a nice touch.

I ordered the cider slaw in lieu of the fries since I knew I’d get to sample the Joe Fries.  It tasted more like a less-fermented sauerkraut than like coleslaw, but it was pretty good for what it was.  As for the Joe Fries, they were just as amazing as I had hoped.  I think I’m going to have to come back just to get those.

Oh, and the fried chicken.  And the shepherd’s pie.

I think I might have to come back a couple of times.

3.5 out of 4

The White Brick Kitchen - the restaurant The White Brick Kitchen - the restaurant The White Brick Kitchen - the burger The White Brick Kitchen - the burger
The White Brick Kitchen on Urbanspoon

The Senator

21 Dec

senator
Location
: 249 Victoria Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://thesenator.com/

I was actually pretty excited to check out the Senator — any restaurant that’s been around since the ’30s has gotta be doing something right, and the place is absolutely lousy with old-school diner charm.

I’d also heard some pretty good things about their burger, which is reportedly made with beef from Cumbrae’s — one of Toronto’s more well-known butchers of note — and which is refreshingly cheap at $9.95 (including fries).

You know that part in Goodfellas where a character thinks he’s becoming a made man, only to be led into an empty basement where he has a brief moment of horror before a bullet goes into the back of his head?  That was my reaction when I was served this burger.  Excitement to horror in about 0.5 seconds.

Is boiling burgers a thing?  Is that something that they do?  I didn’t think so, but I really don’t know how else to account for the lifelessly pallid, colourless patty they put in front of me.

I’m going to assume that the patty was griddled, but I honestly don’t know how you cook a burger like that without getting even a hint of browning on the patty.  If this weren’t so clearly undesirable, I’d think it was deliberate.  Because seriously, how do you accomplish that?  How do you cook a piece of meat on a hot surface without browning it?  But it can’t possibly be on purpose.  Can it?

senatorA

This wasn’t a one-off mistake, either, because my dining companion had the burger as well and his looked identically sad.

Of course, if this were just a matter of appearances, then who cares?  But a burger gets a lot of its flavour and texture from the griddle or the grill, so in a case like this, it’s losing out on quite a bit.  You can tell from the first bite that something very essential is missing.

It was also a meatloaf burger, and had enough stuff mixed into the patty that its Cumbrae’s pedigree was completely wasted.  No beefy flavour here; just onions and spices and other stuff that you don’t need.  It’s meatloaf — but then again at least meatloaf has a glaze and a nice brown crust from the oven.  I can’t repeat this enough: this tasted boiled.

If it even matters, the texture of the patty was otherwise okay.  I think it was a bit too finely ground with a slightly mealy texture, and the well done patty was drier than I’d like, but I’ve certainly had worse.

The burger comes with lettuce, tomato, and caramelized onions off to the side.  The tomato was sliced a bit thick, but the toppings were otherwise fine.  However, between the sweetness of the onions and the slightly sweet (and ever-so-slightly dry) bun, it was kind of sweet overload.  I wound up putting mustard on the burger to try to combat this, which I almost never do (I typically find it to be a bit over-assertive on a hamburger).   It helped, but there wasn’t much to be done here; it was a lost cause.

The fries weren’t much better.  They were completely soggy and practically dripping with grease, with the overwhelming flavour of oil that’s been reused one (or two, or three) times too many.

They even, somehow, managed to mess up lemonade.  This is a drink that consists of three ingredients: lemon juice, water, and sugar.  How do you get that wrong?  Missing one of those three essential ingredients would do it.  The drink was astringently sour, without even a hint of sweetness.  If it’s not sweet at all, is it still even lemonade?  Or is it just watered down lemon juice?  More importantly, if everything else is this bad, does it matter?

1.5 out of 4

The Senator - the outside The Senator - the counter The Senator - the burger and fries The Senator - the burger
Senator Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Bymark

14 Dec

bymark
Location
: 66 Wellington Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://bymark.mcewangroup.ca/

This being my 100th burger review for this blog (yeah, I can’t believe I made it this far either), I figured something special was probably in order.  And what’s more special than one of the city’s most highly-regarded burgers, and at a whopping 35 bucks, probably its most expensive?

So it was that I found myself at Bymark, a restaurant several orders of magnitude classier than where I typically go for this blog.  It’s the type of place where you look around and you think, everyone in this room probably makes more in a couple of months than I make in year.  But do they have a blog where they get to be snarky about hamburgers?  No?  Well then.

The 8 Ounce P.E.I Grass Fed Burger comes with “brie de meaux, porcini mushrooms, & crisp onion rings or frites.”  I figured the onion rings might be more interesting than fries, so I went with those.  I was also asked how I wanted the burger cooked, and requested medium rare.

I’m not going to lie: I was pretty skeptical that this meal could possibly justify the extra-large price tag.  With that price, it’s about double the cost of even the most expensive burgers I’ve reviewed for the blog thus far.  I was ready to dislike it just on principle.  Where do you get off charging that much for a burger??

Well… It’s a pretty amazing hamburger.  It’s grilled and came cooked to a perfect medium rare — and when I say perfect, I mean perfect.  Normally when you get a burger cooked medium rare, it comes out that way in the centre, with a fairly significant ring around the edges of well done beef.  That phenomenon is minimized to a ridiculously impressive degree here, with amazingly consistent medium rare beef practically the whole way through.  I have no idea how they managed to cook it this evenly from edge to edge (sous vide, perhaps?), but however it’s done, it is glorious.

bymarkA

The patty was coarsely ground and a bit densely packed — but oddly enough, not in a bad way.  Though a loosely packed burger is normally what you’re looking for, this patty had a rich, almost steak-like consistency, without ever losing its hamburgery goodness.  It was actually quite unlike any burger I’ve ever had, but in an amazing way.

It’s also one of the tastier burgers I’ve had in a while, with a nicely beefy flavour that’s fairly pronounced, even if it could be stronger (Allen’s definitely has it beat in this regard).

Oh, and it was super juicy, too; it made me want to parade it around to most of Toronto’s burger joints and say “See?  See how juicy this is?  This is how juicy a burger is supposed to be.   Stop being an idiot.”

Are you getting the sense that I liked this burger?  Because yeah, I kinda liked it.

The toppings were pretty great as well.  The brie was super creamy, with a distinctively nutty but not overly sharp flavour that complimented the beef perfectly.  The mushrooms were garlicky and intensely flavourful; they were crazy delicious, though I do think they were a little bit overwhelming — one of the burger’s few weak points.

I quite liked the bun, too.  Though it was more substantial than I typically want, with a burger this big, rich, and juicy, you need that kind of substance or it’ll fall apart.

I will say that I wasn’t crazy about the onion rings.  They were fine, but there wasn’t anything all that special about them.  And though the smaller ones at the top of the pile were crispy and perfectly cooked, the larger ones at the bottom were doughy and underdone.  That didn’t stop me from eating all of them, of course, but after that superb burger they couldn’t help but feel like a pretty big let-down.

I honestly didn’t think that this review was going to go this way, but you know what?  This burger was absolutely worth the 35 bucks.  It’s not something you’re going to get all the time, but as a special treat?  Hell yeah.  It’s amazingly rich and flavourful, with a heady decadence and an overall level of quality that really is in a league of its own.

I kind of wish that I hadn’t eaten it, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to be craving it all the time now.  It’s a very strong contender for the best burger in the city.

4 out of 4

Bymark - the outside Bymark - the menu Bymark - the restaurant Bymark - the burger Bymark - the burger Bymark - the burger
Bymark on Urbanspoon

Stein Burger and Koop

7 Dec

stein
Location
: 1285 Elgin Mills Road East, Richmond Hill
Websitehttp://www.steinburgerandkoop.com/

This was actually my second time going to Stein Burger and Koop.  It wasn’t my second time eating there, but it was my second time at the restaurant.  A couple of friends and I visited a few months ago; we were seated and handed menus, and then promptly ignored for the next half hour.  None of us were in a particularly confrontational mood, so we eventually just left, sad and burgerless.  The amazingly bad service (or non-existent, more accurately) would have been impressive if it weren’t so frustrating.

I guess everyone deserves a second chance, so I recently found myself back at the restaurant; the service was much better this time (well, there was service, which by default means it was better).

Stein Burger and Koop is essentially a sports bar, with mostly burgers and wings on the menu, and the usual generic selection of sandwiches and wraps to round things out.  I went with the Steinburger, which is no-frills with just lettuce, tomato, onion, and their “signature sauce.”

It’s a smashed and griddled burger, because apparently that’s the law.  Didn’t you hear?  They passed that law.  All burgers have to be smashed now.

steinA

It’s fine.  There’s not much crust from the griddle, and the well-done burger was quite dry, but it was okay.  Nothing about it offended me.  There wasn’t much beefy flavour (or any flavour at all, really), but again, it was perfectly edible.

The toppings, too, were fine.  The onions were too strong for my taste (but then I find most raw onions too strong, so that’s on me) and the “signature sauce” basically tasted like plain mayo, but it all got the job done.

The soft, fresh bun was mostly okay, though it wasn’t quite up to the task at hand; even with the fairly dry patty, the bottom bun sogged up and was close to falling apart in the last few bites.

But whatever.  There are certainly worse burgers in the GTA.  You can eat here, I guess.  When you do, you’ll think to yourself “Yes, that was a burger I just ate.”  Then you’ll stand up, walk out the door, and never think about it again.  It will be consigned to the trash-dump of your memory, where all the hundreds of anonymous, unmemorable meals that you’ll eat throughout your lifetime will go to be forgotten about forever.

Maybe a few months later someone will ask you about it.  “You ate there, right?” they’ll ask, looking to you for some form of guidance.  “How was it?” You’ll rack your brain, straining to remember if you’ve ever even been there, let alone how the burger was.  This will be for naught.  It’s gone.  Nothing about that visit has remained.

On your deathbed, in that brief moment after your heart stops beating and your brain shuts down, a synapse — unused for decades — will suddenly fire.  You will remember that meal, that mediocre burger.  “Oh yeah, I guess I did eat there” you’ll think, and then darkness.

2.5 out of 4

Stein Burger and Koop - the restaurant Stein Burger and Koop - the inside Stein Burger and Koop - the burger and fries Stein Burger and Koop - the burger
Stein Burger & Koop on Urbanspoon