Maison Fou Brasserie

: 2197 Bloor Street West, Toronto

Maybe getting a hamburger at a through-and-through French restaurant like this one isn’t the best idea ever — but inspired by my recent great experience at Collete Grand Cafe, I figured I’d try my luck.

The Fou Burger is described as “house ground beef, smoked cheddar, house bacon, garlic aioli, pickles.”

I actually got pretty excited when they asked me how I wanted my burger cooked.  I asked for medium rare; the burger came closer to medium well.  I understand that this is most people’s preference when it comes to a burger, but then why ask?

Still, it was far from overcooked, and it was actually quite juicy.  But the patty was a tough chew — I think the grind was probably a bit too coarse (which certainly isn’t a complaint that I usually make), and it was way too tightly packed.

Even more problematic was the flavour; I don’t know if they mixed  pepper in with the patty or merely blanketed the surface with the stuff, but it was absolutely overwhelmed with a peppery flavour.  It was pepper all the way through, with almost no beefy flavour at all — just pepper, pepper, pepper (pepper pepper pepper).  It was intense.

Everything else was pretty good, though.  I was a little bit worried that the smoked cheddar would overwhelm the patty (not that it would be possible to overwhelm that pepper explosion), but it was so sparingly applied that I honestly couldn’t even tell that it was there.  And though the very strongly flavoured garlic aioli probably would have been overpowering under normal circumstances, that clearly wasn’t an issue here.

The very fresh bun had a subtle sweetness, and just enough heft to hold up to the burger.  It was great.

As for the fries, they were quite tasty.  They come with a generous amount of the aforementioned garlic aioli for dipping, and man, that stuff is good.  As long as you don’t mind tasting garlic for the rest of the day, it’s pretty much dipping sauce perfection.

2.5 out of 4

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The Good Fork

: 2432 Bloor Street West, Toronto

You know what makes me sad? Burgers that should be great that are merely okay. That makes me sad. Unnecessary mediocrity. That makes me sad. The Good Fork makes me sad.

Not that they even serve a bad burger. It’s actually pretty decent. But it could have been so good without even changing that much.

I opted for the Plain burger, which the menu describes as coming with remoulade and “fixins” (which, in this case, are lettuce, tomato, pickles, and red onion).

The burger tastes really good.  The quality of the beef is obviously quite high, with an outstanding beefy flavour that’s pretty much irresistible.  The tangy remoulade adds some zip without overwhelming the taste of the beef, and is actually a pretty great condiment for the burger.

So — great burger, right?  Right…?


It would have been great.  But it was dry.  Crazy dry, with a tough, dense texture that’s the result of the patty having been ground too finely and packed too tightly.  Cooked all the way to well done and beyond, the burger never had a chance.  It was always going to be dry, and it was always going to be tough.

I feel like I make this complaint with an alarming frequency, and I really don’t know why.  This is burger-making 101.  A good burger needs a course grind, and it needs to be loosely packed.  As you cram the strands of ground beef closer and closer together, the burger becomes more and more dense, and therefore more and more tough.  And if it’s finely ground on top of that?  Then those strands are really going to become good friends, resulting in a tightly packed slab of beef that feels like it’s trying to become a steak again.  Cook that to well done and it’s all over but the crying.  You’re getting a tough, dry patty, guaranteed.

Of course, that’s not to mention the use of overly lean beef, another culprit in drying out so many of Toronto’s burgers — though here, the menu states that they’re using a blend of brisket and chuck, which should result in a pretty decent lean-to-fat ratio.  But with that particular patty cooked to the edge of well done, I suspect that no amount of fat could have saved it.

It’s served on a pretzel bun, which I normally find too dense and bready for a hamburger, though in this case that was the least of this burger’s concerns.

The shoestring fries were quite good, at least.  So there’s that.

2.5 out of 4

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The Works

Location2245 Bloor Street West, Toronto

Though it’s been around in Ottawa for over a decade, The Works has only recently made its way into Toronto, opening a location on the Danforth earlier in the year, and more recently, in Bloor West Village.  There are supposedly more locations on the way; if my recent experience at the Bloor West location is any indication, this is definitely, as Martha Stewart would say, a good thing.

Unlike many (most?) of Toronto’s burger joints, The Works is a full service restaurant, so don’t expect to pop in for a quick bite.

The menu is full of choices, with six different patty choices, three buns, and over 70 customized burgers, with toppings ranging from standard fare like bacon and various cheeses to more bizarre selections like mac and cheese and peanut butter.

Scanning right past the novelty items on the menu (peanut butter!), I landed on the Plain Jane, and asked for it topped with my usual mayo, tomato, and pickles.

Most of the burgers seem to be in the 12 dollar ballpark, which does seem bit pricey; that does, however, include a side, so it’s pretty much in line with what other places are charging.

The grilled burger came out looking nicely charred and attractive; I took a bite and was heartened to discover that it tasted just as good as it looked.  It’s not a great burger — but it was a very, very good one.

For one thing, the well done burger was actually reasonably juicy.  It could have certainly been juicier — the meat was still, like pretty much every other burger in Toronto, a bit too lean.  But it was far from dry, and I guess that’s all you can really hope for in this city.

The loosely packed patty, seasoned only with salt and pepper, also had a nicely beefy flavour, and a decent amount of crust from the grill.

The soft, fresh bun complimented the burger perfectly, and the toppings were fine (though the burger did come out with onions instead of pickles, a mistake that was quickly rectified).

It’s not exactly a burger I’ll remember forever, but it was one that was very well executed on every level.

As for the fries, they were a tad soggy, but were otherwise perfectly cooked and quite tasty.

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