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?
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?