Tag Archives: Bay Street

Planta

19 Feb

planta
Location
: 1221 Bay Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.plantatoronto.com/

When I wrote my negative review of Doomie’s a few months ago, my fear was that people would just assume that I’m being a snob and dismiss it outright — that if it’s a veggie burger, I’m going to give it a lousy review on principle. I was really hoping, walking into Planta — an entirely “plant-based” restaurant by David Lee, the acclaimed chef behind Nota Bene — that the burger would be tasty and that I could put that suspicion to bed.

Yeah, about that.

Planta’s burger is billed as coming topped with “queso, mushroom bacon, pickles, tomatillo mayo”. And it looks impressive, that’s for sure — the pictures of it in reviews like this one are what compelled me to come check it out.

Beef or no beef (and obviously I’d prefer beef) the patty itself just wasn’t particularly good. It’s mostly beans, and though it has a nice crispy exterior (I’m assuming it’s deep fried) the inside is pretty much bean mush. I’m sure there’s other stuff in there, but it basically tastes like they mashed up some beans, added a few spices, then formed that into a patty. The texture isn’t much better; it’s way too mushy, though if you ever wondered if some magical confluence would occur if you crossed baby food and a hamburger, now you have your answer.

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To the hamburger’s credit, it’s not even trying to emulate beef, which was one of my main issues with Doomie’s, so there’s that at least.

It’s topped with a vegan version of queso, which was bland but inoffensive. It’s also topped with what they’re calling mushroom bacon. This tasted absolutely nothing like bacon — it tasted like smoky mushrooms. That’s not a bad thing — they were a fine burger topping.  But using the word “bacon” anywhere in their proximity is a bit disingenuous.

There’s also a fairly generous amount of some kind of pico de gallo, which isn’t mentioned on the menu, but which is where a lot of the burger’s flavour comes from. It was actually pretty tasty, if entirely lacking in spice.

The bun was pretty bad, though — it was mercilessly dense.  This would have been an issue even in a regular hamburger, but here it was disastrous. The soft patty completely smushed out of the sides of the bun after just a couple of bites, rendering the burger completely impossible to eat with anything but a fork and knife.

I will say, however, that the burger (when served on their brunch menu, at least) comes with a side of home fries that are absolutely delicious. They were perfectly fried, with an impressively crispy/crunchy exterior and a really creamy interior. If I ever find myself back at Planta, I’ll just order a big plate of those.

2 out of 4

Planta - the outside Planta - the menu Planta - the restaurant Planta - the "burger" Planta - the "burger"

Cactus Club Cafe

10 Apr

cactus
Location
: 77 Adelaide Street West, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.cactusclubcafe.com/location/first-canadian-place/

Cactus Club Cafe, like Earl’s and Joey before it, is the latest Western Canadian upscale casual chain to make its way to Toronto.  A great burger from a chain like this is kind of like Bigfoot — some people claim it exists, but I haven’t seen any compelling evidence myself.  But in his (mostly unfavourable) review of this place in the Globe and Mail, Chris Nuttall-Smith singled out the burger as “a wide, deliciously sloppy mess.”  Okay.  Sold.

There are actually two burgers on the menu — the Feenie Burger, and the Cheddar Bacon burger.  As far as I can tell the two burgers are identical, save for the presence of mushrooms on the Feenie.  But that burger (created by celebrity chef Rob Feenie) is the one referenced in Nuttall-Smith’s review, so that’s what I ordered.

There’s a ridiculous amount of stuff on the burger.  Aside from the aforementioned mushrooms, it’s topped with aged cheddar, smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, pickles, red relish, mayonnaise, ketchup, and mustard.  I’m actually kind of surprised that Feenie wanted to put his name on this burger, because it’s essentially like going to Harvey’s and asking for everything.  It might be tasty, but it’s more like a random hodge-podge of stuff than a chef-crafted creation.  In particular, the vinegary-sweet combination of the abundant ketchup and mustard are easily the dominant flavours here.

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As for the mushrooms that apparently warrant Rob Feenie slapping his name on the burger?  There’s so much else going on that I literally couldn’t even tell they were there.

Still, it’s a pretty good hamburger.  The patty has a bit of crust from the griddle, and in the rare bites where you get a taste of the beef without too much else getting in the way, it has a pretty decent flavour.  It’s also fairly juicy, with a nice coarse grind that hasn’t been overhandled.  It makes me a bit sad that it’s completely overwhelmed by the voluminous toppings (Nuttall-Smith called the patty “somewhat irrelevant” in his review, which is apt), but tasty is tasty.  Sometimes it’s best not to overthink it.

As for the fries, they were lightly battered, cardboardy, and personality-free.  They couldn’t have been more obviously from a bag if they came with a big lighted sign that said “FROM THE FREEZER.”

3 out of 4

Cactus Club Cafe - the outside Cactus Club Cafe - restaurant Cactus Club Cafe - the burger Cactus Club Cafe - the burger

The Gabardine

29 Jun

gab
Location
: 372 Bay Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.thegabardine.com/

The list giveth, and the list taketh away.  I am referring, of course, to Toronto Life’s list of the 25 best burgers in the city, which seems to be guiding quite a few of my burger choices recently.    I had a pretty awful experience at that list’s number 23 restaurant, The Queen and Beaver, which made me wary of its choices.  The Harbord Room was much, much better, however.  This made me much more inclined to trust the list.

I’m wary again.  Boy, that list is hit-and-miss.  Yikes.

The Gabardine is, bizarrely, closed on the weekends, which might be why it’s taken me so long to check it out.  It’s a fairly small room, but it’s cozy, and they seem to be doing well.

The burger, as per the menu: “sirloin bacon cheeseburger with aioli, tomato, lettuce & fries.”

I’ve mentioned it before, but sirloin is an absurd cut of beef to make a hamburger out of.  I know why some restaurants do it, because it sounds fancy — hey, sirloin is steak, right?  It must be good!

Well, no.  Sirloin is super lean, and pretty much all of a burger’s juiciness comes from fat.  No fat = dry burger.

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To the Gabardine’s credit, they at least don’t cook the burger all the way to well done, which would absolutely guarantee that a burger made from beef as lean as sirloin will be dry.  The grilled burger I received was cooked to medium, with a little bit of pink in the middle; this helped negate some of the dryness. It was still quite dry, no doubt about it, but they at least tried to serve up something worth eating.

Much, much more problematic was the burger’s texture.  It was finely ground to an almost criminal extent, giving it a dense, oddly mealy texture that I found quite unappealing.  It was as if they ran the beef through a meat grinder, and then ran it through again.  Then again, then again.  Then one more time.  Then, hey, what the heck, once more, let’s make sure it has the most off-putting texture possible.  Between that and the lean beef, this was a burger that required a lot of chewing.  I felt like a spittoon should have been provided.

It tasted okay, but with the abundant, sharp cheddar and the salty bacon, there was zero flavour from the beef.  Like, none at all.  The cheddar flavour so thoroughly dominated the weakly-flavoured beef that it was like chewing on some kind of beef/cheese hybrid.  It was like science had created a new substance that has the texture of beef, but the taste of cheese.

I liked the bun, I’ll say that.  Very delicately crispy on the outside, but fresh, soft and pliant on the inside, it was pretty great.  If it could talk, it would have expressed its sadness to be part of such a sub-par burger, but it’s okay: I don’t blame you, bun. You did your best.  You brought your A-game.

Also bringing their A-game?  The fries.   Man, those were good fries.  I’m baffled as to how the same kitchen puts out fries that great and a burger that middling.  The universe is mysterious.

The Gabardine - the outside The Gabardine - the restaurant The Gabardine - the burger and fries The Gabardine - the burger
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