After a rocky start, Cafe Boulud was shut down and completely retooled last year; most notably (for readers of this blog at least) this shake-up brought us chef Daniel Boulud’s famous Frenchie burger, which no less than the New York Times dubbed as “the perfect burger.”
Obviously, I had to try it.
After an absolutely fantastic bread bowl, which came with a small disc of what might be the best butter I’ve ever had, the burger arrived looking quite impressive. I had very high hopes.
The Frenchie Burger, per their menu: “7 oz burger, morbier cheese, dijon mustard, pork belly, tomato-onion compote, arugula, black pepper bun.”
Before I start laying into it, I will say that it’s an all-around good burger. It tastes good. There’s nothing terribly wrong with it. But given its sparkling reputation and the intense $24 price tag, I expected greatness. It is not great.
The patty is decent enough, but given the hefty cost, it’s not quite at the level you’d hope it would be. I requested medium rare, and the grilled patty was cooked perfectly to that temperature — but I think it was a bit too tightly packed, and it was slightly more tough than it should have been. It was also a bit over-charred on the grill, with a subtle hit of bitterness that marred things somewhat.
Otherwise, the flavour of the beef was nothing to write home about. It wasn’t bad by any means — it tasted fine, and is obviously not made with low-quality meat, but it lacked the rich beefy flavour that you’d expect from a restaurant of this caliber.
The toppings were all pretty good, though they were a bit too assertive. The beef-versus-condiments balance was tipped squarely in the favour of the toppings. In particular, the dominant flavours here were of the zingy tomato-onion compote and the peppery arugula, both of which probably could have been reduced by half.
The Brie-like Morbier cheese was creamy and a pretty good fit for the burger, but like the other toppings, it was a bit too generously applied.
The pork belly, at least, was tasty and in the right proportion — it added porky unctuousness without ever getting in the way.
The bun was great: fresh, fluffy, and packing just enough heft for the task at hand. Between the bread basket and this bun, Cafe Boulud’s baker clearly deserves a substantial raise.
As for the fries, they were perfectly cooked, but tasted overwhelmingly of roasted garlic. The flavour slaps you in the face. It’s excessive.