Tag Archives: brunch

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"

Provo FoodBar

19 Jun

provo
Location
: 308 Dundas Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://provofb.com/

There’s nothing sadder than when a burger comes ridiculously close to greatness — so close that it can almost touch it — but something holds it back; the elements are pretty much all there, but there’s one stupid little thing that ruins it.  I’m thinking, for example, of the burgers at the County General (felled by overly strong mustard) or Broncos (bun overload).

The burger at Provo FoodBar might just be the most blatant example of this phenomenon.

The menu describes the burger as coming with “tomato jam + aged cheddar + pain au lait bun.”

There’s some other stuff that the menu doesn’t mention (arugula, crispy onion strings), but let’s talk about that tomato jam, a.k.a. the ruiner of hamburgers, a.k.a. the worst thing that’s ever been put between two buns.

Okay, maybe it’s not that bad — it’s actually kinda tasty on its own.  But it’s so wrong for this burger that it’s almost absurd.  It’s overwhelmingly, disastrously sweet.  It’s dessert sweet.  Like, you could put it on ice cream and it wouldn’t be out of place.  At all.  And they slather it on both the top and the bottom half of the bun, so it’s everywhere.  I attempted to remove it in the second half of my burger, but it was so thoroughly suffused into the bun and the other condiments that getting rid of it was completely impossible.

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I guess it’s supposed to be like a playfully gourmet take on ketchup, but even ketchup (which is far from my favourite burger topping) has a vinegary kick to balance out the sweetness.  No such balance here; just cloying aggression.  This is a tomato jam sandwich that happens to have a hamburger patty in it.  The jam is clearly the dominant flavour.

It makes me incredibly sad, because the patty is good.  Really good.  It’s all there: it’s cooked perfectly to medium (and I mean perfectly, edge-to-edge) with a good amount of crust, it’s got a great texture with a nice coarse grind that hasn’t been over-handled or too tightly packed, it’s nice and juicy, and though it’s difficult to tell thanks to that stupid jam, it has a decent amount of beefy flavour.

It’s a great patty that really, really deserves to be part of a better hamburger.

As for the other toppings, they may as well have not even be there, because this is the tomato jam show through and through.

The bun was mostly okay, though it was a bit too big for the patty.  It was also somewhat ruined by the bizarre way it was toasted — it tasted like they put it in the oven at a really low temperature for a really long time until it formed a hardened, crouton-like shell.  It wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it was unfortunate.

That patty, though.  It was so good.

I came at brunch, so the burger came with home fries instead of the traditional French fries.  They were fine, though they were a little bland, and served at a temperature somewhere between lukewarm and cold.

3 out of 4

Provo FoodBar - the outside Provo FoodBar - the restaurant Provo FoodBar - the burger Provo FoodBar - the burger

Cardinal Rule

2 Nov

cardinal
Location
: 5 Roncesvalles Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.cardinalrulerestaurant.com/

Cardinal Rule is a cozy little diner on Roncesvalles that seems to be doing pretty well for themselves; they were featured on You Gotta Eat Here, and when I went at around 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon, they were pretty much packed.

Usually when I review a place I’ll go there with the specific intention of writing a review — in this case, I just happened to find myself there and what’s this?  A burger on the menu?  Well then.

I actually almost didn’t order the burger. It’s one of those brunch burgers with the works piled on top which I normally avoid, but a big kitchen sink burger actually sounded pretty good at that moment, so I went for it.

This particular hamburger — dubbed the Wallop Burger — comes topped with “a potato latke, bacon, cheddar & a sunny fried egg on a ciabatta bun.”  So, basically it’s a complete breakfast crammed onto a burger.

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It’s… okay, I guess.  It actually should have been pretty tasty, but the burger itself is iffy.  It’s a meatloaf burger, for one thing.  And oh man, it’s so damn meatloafy.  Seriously: at what point does a burger stop being a burger and become meatloaf?  When onions are added?  Spices?  Breadcrumbs?  Eggs?  Because I’m not sure about the latter two (though I have my suspicions) but there were definitely a crap-ton of onions and spices in this “burger”.

So what makes it a hamburger and not a meatloaf sandwich?  Is it just because the meat has been formed into individual patties and not into a pan?  Is that it?  As long as one of the ingredients is beef and it’s in a patty shape, it’s a hamburger?  I just…  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m being a stick in the mud, but when you take something as simple as a hamburger and start cramming all kinds of other flavours into it, it changes its essential character so thoroughly that it’s no longer the same thing.  It’s a different dish altogether.  It’s a meatloaf sandwich.

Whatever it is, it’s over-spiced, with a face-punch of flavour but zero beefiness remaining.  It’s also quite dry and a bit more dense than it should be.

As for the other stuff, it’s not bad.  The fried egg has a satisfyingly runny yolk, and the cheese is creamy and melted.  The patty packs such a strong salty punch, however, that the bacon is mostly superfluous.  As for the latke, it’s fine, but there’s clearly a reason why you rarely find potatoes on a hamburger (or on sandwiches in general)  — it’s just adding additional starchiness that isn’t really necessary when you’ve already got bread.

The bun is a bit on the crusty side, but since there’s so much stuff piled on here, the more substantial bun is definitely quite welcome.

I don’t wanna pile onto the place, but I should mention that the service was kind of questionable.   It took about half an hour to receive our food, which seems a bit excessive for a casual diner like this.  We also pretty much never saw our waitress aside from our order being taken and the food being delivered; getting the bill was a bit of a challenge (eventually, one of us had to get up to ask for it).

2 out of 4

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Mildred’s Temple Kitchen

10 Aug

mildred
Location
: 85 Hanna Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.templekitchen.com/

It’s been a while since I’ve visited a place from Toronto Life’s list of the best burgers in Toronto, and though my last experience wasn’t particularly great, I figured it was about time to check another one off the list.  This week: number 17, Mildred Temple Kitchen.

I actually tried to go here a couple of weeks ago for brunch, but the restaurant was packed, with a 40 minute wait for a table.  It’s a popular place.

My second attempt was more successful.  I scanned the menu and quickly found the MTK Burger: “topped with tomato relish & crispy tobacco onions, served on a pain au lait bun.”

I’ll get the bad out of the way first: It’s a meatloaf burger, and not a subtle one at that, with all kinds of spices and other stuff mixed in (I definitely saw onions, and there may or may not have been garlic as well).

I’ve laid out my problems with meatloaf burgers a few times before, but my main objection is this: a beef patty on its own (seasoned with salt and maybe pepper) and a beef patty with spices and onions and who-knows-what mixed in are two very, very different things.  They look similar, but they taste so radically different that I don’t know how, in good conscience, you can call them both the same thing.  On a very fundamental level, one is a hamburger, and one is an imitation of a hamburger.  I’ve made this analogy before, but It’s like comparing authentic Chinese food to chop suey; you can call both Chinese food if you want, but no one’s buying it.

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The patty at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen is tasty enough, but all the other stuff mixed in with the beef completely annihilates its flavour — the burger could have been made from ground pork or lamb and it would have made zero difference.  There’s no flavour whatsoever from the beef.  None.

I will say, however, that the burger is otherwise superlative; super juicy and cooked to a perfect medium rare, it has a really satisfying texture with none of the sausage-like consistency that you get from a lot of meatloaf burgers.  There’s also an addictively crispy crust from the grill.  The meatloafy taste of the patty is a bit on the salty side, but otherwise pretty good.

The condiments are quite good as well — the menu doesn’t mention the garlicky aioli, which is quite tasty, if a bit strong.  The abundant crispy onion strings add some texture and compliment the burger quite well.  As for the tomato relish, the burger’s other flavours are so assertive that I honestly couldn’t even taste it.

The pain au lait bun is a bit on the dense side, though with a burger this juicy and this messy, a more substantial bun is definitely needed, so it works quite well.

Seriously, I can’t say enough about how juicy this burger is; in a city filled with overly-lean, dried-out burgers, that alone is a huge plus in its favour.

Pretty much everything about this burger is above average; it’s just a real shame that the beef’s flavour (i.e. the star of the show in a hamburger) has been completely wiped out. Still, for what it is, it tastes pretty good.  It might just be the best meatloaf burger I’ve ever had.

As for the fries, they too were above average, particularly when dipped in the aforementioned garlicky aioli.

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The Whippoorwill

1 Jan

whip
Location
1285 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.thewhippoorwill.com/

NOW Toronto recently called the burger from the Whippoorwill the best burger for over ten dollars in the city; it wasn’t even on my radar before that proclamation, but obviously once you make a statement like that I’m pretty much obligated to check the place out.

I showed up at around noon on a Saturday and the place was packed, so they’re obviously doing pretty well.

My dining companion ordered the burger as well, because how can you not order a burger that’s been called the best in the city by a reputable source (even if it is by popular vote, which can sometimes result in questionable results)? You have to. You have no choice.

The Whippoorwill Burger, as per their menu: “ground prime beef, cheddar cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion, Russian dressing, on a buttered bun.”

The waitress (the spitting image of Mila Kunis, I should note) asked if medium was okay for the patty; I prefer medium rare, but if I’m reviewing a burger, I’ll take it however the restaurant wants to serve it. Anyway, medium is certainly better than the ubiquitous well done, so I’m not complaining.

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The burger was quite good, that’s for sure, but best in the city? That’s questionable. For one thing, it was a bit dry. The pinker part in the middle was reasonably juicy, but closer to the gray, well done edges, it became lamentably dry. It’s a thick patty, and the edges required a bit more chewing power than I’d typically like to expend on a hamburger.

I also don’t think the quality of the beef was high enough for this to be considered as a truly top-shelf hamburger. It was good, don’t get me wrong, but it lacked that satisifyingly beefy bite that you get from really good quality meat.

It probably doesn’t help that there’s a little bit too much going on, flavour-wise. Specifically, the assertively-spiced Russian dressing is completely overpowering, and pretty much punches all of the hamburger’s other flavours in the face. It’s the star of the show when it should clearly be a supporting player.  Another supporting player muscling its way to the front of the stage: the sharp cheddar cheese.  Though it was perfectly melted, it’s probably not the best choice for a hamburger.

I never thought I’d say this, but the bun was too buttery. Normally I love a buttered bun on a hamburger, but this one was greasy and soaked through with the stuff. Even with all the other flavours, the butter taste was pronounced and a tad overbearing.

It was brunch, so instead of the usual fries the burger came with home fries. They were deep fried with a delightfully crispy exterior. The inside, however, was overcooked; it was crumbly and dry, and borderline inedible without the provided ketchup to lubricate things.

I should probably note that they clearly have consistency issues, so your mileage may vary. My burger came haphazardly assembled, with the components falling out and everything askew. My dining companion, on the other hand, got a picture perfect burger and was raving about how juicy and delicious it was, so who knows. Maybe I got a bad one.

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