Archive | November, 2016

Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill

20 Nov

oliver
Location
: 33 Yonge Street, Toronto
Website: https://www.oliverbonacini.com/Yonge-Front.aspx

The last burger I tried from an O&B joint was thoroughly forgettable, but when I found myself at Café Grill, I figured, sure, why not?  I’m here, the burger is here, let’s do this.

(And I did debate whether I should even be reviewing more than one O&B restaurant, or if all their locations count as one big chain.  But since each menu seems to be completely different, I think they’re all fair game.)

Though I approach each burger I eat hoping for the best, I sort of figured the burger here would be much like the one I had from O&B Canteen — passable, but mediocre.

As it turns out, I was longing for the comparative delights of “passable, but mediocre.”

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The Café Grill calls their hamburger the Smashed Ground Chuck Burger, and it comes topped with “housemade BBQ sauce, bacon, cheddar, iceberg lettuce, special sauce.”

I rant about overly dry patties all the time on this blog, and I really don’t feel like doing it again right now.  I’ll just say this: the griddled patty was punishingly gray throughout and was devoid of anything even resembling moisture.  It was also really substantial, making each mouthful a bit of an ordeal.

It actually tasted pretty okay, but since it had the approximate texture of a bunch of mashed-up saltines held together with glue, does it matter?

And though the bun was a bit over-toasted and more dense than it needed to be, the toppings were all tasty enough.  But again: dry saltines.  Glue.  Agony.

Oh, and it also cost 19 bucks, putting it on the more expensive end of burgers in the GTA.

As for the thickly-cut fries, they were quite good.  Nothing too special, but they were solid French fries.

1.5 out of 4

Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the restaurant Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the restaurant Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the burger and fries Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill - the burger

The Federal

6 Nov

federal
Location
: 1438 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Website: http://thefed.ca/

This was actually my second attempt to try the burger at the Federal — the first time, it was so busy that I wound up at Royale’s Luncheonette instead (which turned out to be a pretty pleasant surprise).

It was actually really busy again, so I think it’s safe to say that you have to be prepared to wait if you want to try this place.  But you know that expression about the wisdom of the crowd?  Yeah, that definitely applies here.  Turns out there’s a reason the Federal is so busy.

Their burger is dubbed the Four Guys burger, and is described as “griddle-smashed beef, bacon, pickles, american cheese, caramelized onion, lettuce, mustard, special sauce.”

With a really good burger, all it takes is one bite to know that you’re dealing with something special, and that was clearly the case here.  One bite, and yeah, there was that really distinctive flavour you only get from really good quality beef.  That’s a flavour that’s way harder to come by in Toronto than you’d think.  It’s a face-punch of beefiness that immediately tells you that you’re in good hands.

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The texture of the beef was pretty great, too — though it could have used a bit more crust from the griddle, the medium well patty was otherwise stellar.  It was coarsely ground, loosely packed, and was nice and tender without ever tipping the scales into soft or mushy territory.  It was great.

But it’s actually really impressive that the burger’s beefy flavour managed to be as prominent as it was, because there was so much going on here. Between the sweet caramelized onions, the salty bacon and cheese, the vinegary pickles and mustard, and the tangy special sauce, the burger was kind of a mess.  A tasty mess, don’t get me wrong, but there’s definitely more going on here than I typically prefer.

It’s hard to fault the burger too much, though; my problem with a heavily-topped burger is usually that the flavour of the beef has been overwhelmed.  But here, that great beefy flavour is front and centre, minimizing that issue to an impressive degree.

The soft, toasted bun had enough substance to hold up to all those toppings, but was light enough to stay in the background, which is exactly where it should be.  So yeah, all around a pretty impressive burger.

I came at brunch, and instead of fries the burger came with a side of potato rosti and a really simple salad.  The rosti had a great layer of crispy goodness on the outside and was nice and creamy within; however, I don’t think it was seasoned at all.  It was pretty bland.

3.5 out of 4

The Federal - the sign The Federal - the menu The Federal - the restaurant The Federal - the burger The Federal - the burger