Archive | May, 2016

Royale’s Luncheonette

22 May

royales
Location
: 1418 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.royalesluncheonette.com/

I like surprises.  Actually no; scratch that.  I like pleasant surprises.

This was supposed to be a review of the burger at The Federal, but they were absolutely slammed, with a half hour wait.  So we walked a few shops over and found ourselves at Royale’s Luncheonette, with absolutely no idea what to expect.  I’m definitely looking forward to checking out the burger at the Federal, but man am I glad they were so busy on this particular day.  Because spoiler alert: Royale’s was a very pleasant surprise.

It’s a tiny little place with just a couple of tables. The menu is posted on the wall, and you order at the counter.  The burger is dubbed the Royale with Cheese.  Given the name and rating system on this blog, I think you can guess that I approve of the reference.

It’s a fast-food-style burger done right: griddled patty, melty American cheese, shredded lettuce, pickle and tomato.  It’s topped with a sauce that, if you’ve ever had a Big Mac, is going to taste very familiar.

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I honestly wasn’t expecting all that much from this place, but I was surprised by how good it was.  The patty had a good amount of crust from the griddle, and when cooked to a pleasing medium, retained an impressive amount of juiciness.  It also had a nice, beefy flavour that easily cut through the zesty sauce.  Beefy flavour?  Juicy patty?  Not overcooked?  Why, I believe it’s time to do the dance of joy!

It wasn’t completely perfect, however.  It was way too small for the bun — the circumference of the patty was probably about two thirds of the circumference of the bread, leaving you with a lot of bun overhang.  That was a shame, as was the grind of the beef, which was ever-so-slightly too fine.  But those are minor complaints for what is otherwise a superb burger.

The lightly toasted Wonderbread bun (I could see the bag in the tiny open kitchen) suited the very unpretentious burger quite well, as did the classic burger toppings — though I wish there had been slightly less of the Big Mac-esque sauce.

No fries on the menu, sadly (I doubt that the ridiculously tiny kitchen could even accommodate a fryer), but when the burger is this good, it speaks for itself.

3.5 out of 4

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Piano Piano

8 May

piano
Location
: 88 Harbord Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.pianopianotherestaurant.com/

At the end of 2015, Chef Victor Barry shut down Splendido, a fine-dining destination that served meticulously-prepared multi-course meals. It was frequently named one of the best restaurants in the city, if not the entire country.

Early this year, Barry renovated the space and relaunched as Piano Piano, focusing on much more casual fare like pizza, pasta, and yes — a cheeseburger.  How could you not be excited by the idea of a hamburger prepared by one of the best chefs in the city?  How??

Well, I was excited.

And then the burger came and I got even more excited, because it looked perfect.  It’s pretty simple: two patties, two slices of cheese, lettuce, pickle, Dijonaisse.  But look at it though.  Those glistening patties, just the right size for the bun; the melty cheese; the dark, mahogany-brown crust from the griddle…  it’s what cheeseburger dreams are made of.

Or at least, it looked that way.

My struggle to cut the burger in half made it distressingly clear that something was amiss.  A good burger should be yielding and tender; cutting it should be like putting a hot knife through butter.  This was more like trying to saw into a particularly tough steak.

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This burger was so bad I almost can’t even believe it.  Like, how can a chef who is presumably as talented as Barry put out anything so horrible, let alone something as simple as a hamburger?  I can’t wrap my mind around it.

I will say that everything but the patty itself was pretty good — the gooey American cheese, the classic condiments, the fresh bun with just the right amount of sweetness and heft — it was all basically right where it should be.

The patty, on the other hand, was misguided on every level.  More pulverized than ground, it was tightly packed, tough, and horrible.  It also had an off-putting sausage-like consistency, possibly from having salt mixed in with the beef.  Between the unforgiving density of the beef and the oddly rubbery texture, it just didn’t want to get chewed.  It was kind of like eating hamburger-flavoured gum.

The taste wasn’t much better.  It was overwhelmingly peppery, which turns out to be a good thing, because this is beef that needs to be disguised with whatever you can throw at it.  It had a gamy, leftover meat flavour that was seemingly trying to compete with the texture to see which could be more awful.

Horrifying texture versus appalling flavour: whoever wins, we lose.

Oh, and did I mention that it costs twenty-two bucks?  Because it costs twenty-two bucks.  So not only is it gross, it’s probably one of the more expensive burgers in the city.  It’s easily — hands down — the worst hamburger that I’ve ever had from a high-end place like this.

Actually, it’s one of the worst burgers I’ve had in quite a while.

I think this might be the point in the review where you assume that I’m being way too picky.  It looks pretty good, you’re thinking.  How could it be that bad?

Okay.  Try it then.  I dare you.

As for the fries, they were the polar opposite of the hamburger.  They were amazing.  Though they’re a bit more thickly cut than I generally prefer, they were the perfect combination of crispy exterior and creamy interior.  Eating them with the hamburger is kind of like alternating between smelling a sweet, delicately fragrant flower with someone farting directly into your face.

1 out of 4

Piano Piano - the outside Piano Piano - the menu Piano Piano - the restaurant Piano Piano - the burger and fries Piano Piano - the burger Piano Piano - the burger