Tag Archives: downtown

Weslodge

5 Mar

wes
Location
: 480 King Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://weslodge.com/

If you read this blog with any regularity, you know that I’m constantly complaining about overly-dry burgers.  Constantly.  Aside from mixing superfluous gunk into the patty, I think it’s the thing that Toronto restaurants and burger joints get wrong the most.

So I really need to applaud Weslodge’s burger (“Braised beef cheek, branston pickle, English cheddar”) for the exact opposite: it was gloriously, intensely juicy. You could tell just by looking at the glistening patty; once I cut it in half, the juices came rushing out in a veritable torrent. As I ate it, they dripped readily from the patty, soaking into the bun and pooling on the plate.

It was amazing.

I should note that it wasn’t too juicy, in case it sounds that way. The patty itself wasn’t mushy or wet at all; the texture was just right. I requested medium rare and they hit it perfectly. It also had a nice coarse grind and expertly straddled the line between tenderness and substance.

In case it wasn’t already obvious that the chef here knows his way around a burger, the griddled patty had exactly the dark brown crispy exterior that you’re looking for. Suffice it to say, texturally it was one of the best burgers I’ve had in a long, long time.

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The flavour was quite good as well, with a really satisfying beefy, buttery flavour. This was complimented quite well by the condiments, particularly the Branston pickle (essentially a medley of cubed pickled vegetables) which performed the same function as the typical pickle, but which tasted a bit more interesting.

The bun, though a bit on the dense side, actually suited the substantial, very juicy patty quite well — a softer bun almost surely would have crumbled to bits.

My only real problem with this burger — though it’s kind of a big one — is the cheese.  The patty is topped with a big, honkin’ slice of very sharp cheddar.  Aside from the fact that it was doing its best to overwhelm the flavour of the amazing patty, it was completely unmelted.  If you’re serving a cheeseburger with cold, unmelted cheese, I’m pretty sure you should have to go on TV to apologize to the nation.  You have committed a crime against food.  You are, I’m sorry to say, a monster.

I’ve mentioned this before, but a burger with unmelted cheese isn’t a cheeseburger — it’s a hamburger with a piece of cheese on top.  The cheese needs to melt and become gooey and mingle with the patty to earn that distinction.  Melted cheese on a hamburger patty is one of the greatest things ever; cold, unmelted cheese is an abomination.

It’s funny how thoroughly a few moments of heat can transform an ingredient, but there you go.

As for the fries, sadly they were the polar opposite of the hamburger.  They were terrible. They’re insanely thick.  You really have to be careful when you’re cooking fries at this thickness, because they can easily wind up undercooked, with a chalky, dense middle.  That’s exactly what happened here.  Thick-cut fries aren’t my favourite to start with, but undercooked thick-cut fries?  They are the french fry equivalent of a cheeseburger with unmelted cheese.  They are an affront to humanity.

But since I’d like to end this review on a positive note, I’ll reiterate that — unmelted, too-strong cheese notwithstanding — Weslodge serves a fantastic hamburger.  If not for the cheese issue, I’d probably rank it among the best in the city.  It’s that good.

3.5 out of 4

Weslodge - the outside Weslodge - the restaurant Weslodge - the burger Weslodge - the burger

Colette Grand Cafe

12 Feb

colette
Location
: 550 Wellington Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.colettetoronto.com/

You wouldn’t think Colette Grand Cafe — which is mostly about brunch, and pastries, and classic French food like duck confit and moules frites — would have a great burger.  It must just be there because a burger is obligatory on pretty much every menu, right?

Wrong.

The burger at Colette Grand Cafe (which is kind of insufferably named “L’Hamburger”) is indeed pretty great.  The menu describes it as coming topped with “farmhouse cheddar, pepper bacon, tomato jam, bibb lettuce, dijonnaise.”

It’s always a good sign when they ask you how you want your burger cooked; I went with medium rare, and yep, the burger came cooked medium rare.

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I’ll get the worst out of the way first: normally I’d mention whether the patty was griddled or grilled, but in this case I’m honestly not sure.  There was pretty much zero browning on the surface of the patty, so it’s tough to say.  That’s certainly not a good thing, but the patty was otherwise pretty tasty, with a good texture and a mild beefy flavour.

I also quite liked the melty, mild cheddar cheese — places like this are often inclined to get a bit too fancy for their own good, and wind up with a cheese that overpowers the patty.  That wasn’t the case here.

It’s hard to go wrong with bacon, and the smoky, thickly-sliced version on this burger didn’t disappoint.

The dijonnaise, on the other hand, was a bit overpowering.  Probably a good idea to ask for that on the side.

The other condiments were all solid, including pickled onions, which the menu doesn’t mention (it’s a fairly rich burger, so some form of pickle is certainly welcome to help balance that out).  And the sesame seed bun was slightly sweet, fresh, and held up nicely to the fairly substantial hamburger.

As for the thinly-cut fries, they were a tad soggy, but were otherwise pretty tasty, with a tinge of rosemary and a dipping sauce that was packed with even more rosemary flavour (yeah, they really love rosemary on their fries here, apparently).

3.5 out of 4

Colette Grand Cafe - the outside Colette Grand Cafe - the restaurant Colette Grand Cafe - the burger Colette Grand Cafe - the burger

The Battered Fish

16 Aug

battered
Location: 224 Queen Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://thebatteredfish.ca/

Like with my last review, of the burger at Cineplex, this was probably my own fault. I mean, who gets a burger at a fish and chips place? But the signage outside of the restaurant advertises BURGERS in big, bolt font, and a poster on the inside boasts that their “gourmet burgers” are made with brisket, so I figured it was something more than just an afterthought to fill out the menu.

The place is laid out fast food style; the menu’s up on the wall, and you bring the food back to your table on a tray.  I ordered the burger as a combo with fries and a drink, and had it topped with pickles, tomato, and mayo (they threw in lettuce, too, for some reason).

It could have been worse, I guess?  All things considered, I guess I should be glad it wasn’t outright terrible.  Again: quite possibly my fault.  Go to a fish and chips joint and order a hamburger, and you’re going to get what you’re going to get.

batteredA

In this case, what I got was a griddled burger with a vague amount of crust from the griddle, but not as much as you’d like.  The main thing is that it was dry.  The patty was finely ground, tightly packed, and cooked all the way to well done (and beyond), with a dense, tough chew, like a well done steak.

But it had none of the flavour of a good steak, of course.  The beef was actually pretty bland.  It didn’t taste off, at least, but then it didn’t taste of much at all — off or otherwise.

The fresh, toasted bun was quite good, and the toppings were mostly fine — though the pickles were actually sugary-sweet cornichons that were way too cloying as a topping on a hamburger.

This being a fish and chips place, I figured that at least the fries would be a highlight.  And they weren’t bad, mostly, but they had an oddly dense, almost chewy texture that I’m really not sure how to account for.  They weren’t undercooked, and I don’t think they were overcooked — at least they didn’t taste like any overcooked fries I’ve had before.  But that oddly gummy texture was a bit of a turn off, even if they otherwise tasted okay.

2 out of 4

The Battered Fish - the restaurant The Battered Fish - the menu The Battered Fish - the restaurant The Battered Fish - the burger and fries The Battered Fish - the burger The Battered Fish - the burger

Thompson Diner

22 Mar

thompson
Location
: 550 Wellington Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.thompsondiner.com/

Nope.

Seriously, just: no.  I could rant and rave, but I’m not even going to waste my time writing a particularly long review of this hamburger.  The kitchen staff at the Thompson Diner clearly don’t respect their clientele enough to make a burger even remotely worth eating, so why should I respect them enough to put my time and energy into a full review?

The burger at the Thompson Diner is lousy.  Please do not order it.  I’ll quickly explain why, then seriously, I’m out.

It’s dry.  Oppressively, shockingly, inedibly dry.

Was it overcooked?  I mean, it was cooked all the way to well done, but it didn’t seem to be cooked too far past that.  To me, well done is overcooked, so it can be tough to differentiate between the two.  But I’ve certainly had well done burgers that remained juicy.

thompsonA

Was the beef too lean?  Almost certainly.

I noted in my most recent review, of the burger at b.good, that it was one of the driest burgers that I’ve ever had.  It’s as if the chef at the Thompson Diner took this as a challenge.  “You think that’s dry?  I’ll show you dry.”

Maybe my burger was an aberration.  Maybe they’re not always this bad.  I doubt it, but maybe.  But there’s no excuse for a professional kitchen to put out food this bad ever.  It’s inexcusable.

The taste of the patty wasn’t horrible – it wasn’t particularly beefy, but it tasted okay.  But who cares?  If a burger is this dry, I really don’t care what it tastes like.  It’s worthless.

The bun and toppings were also fine, but again: worthless.

The fries were bad too.  Frozen and mediocre, they’re a waste of your time, though at the very least they’re not a slap in the face like that hamburger.

.5 out of 4

Thompson Diner - the restaurant Thompson Diner - the burger Thompson Diner - the burger
(Image of the front of the restaurant in the header photo taken from Caroline’s Culinary Delights. I guess I was in such a rush to get out of there that I forgot to take the photo on my way out.)

The Tavern by Trevor

16 Nov

tavern
Location
: 147 Spadina Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.tavernbytrevor.com/

Though The Tavern by Trevor isn’t technically on Toronto Life’s list of the twenty best burgers in the city, it’s a spin-off of a restaurant that is (Trevor Kitchen and Bar), so I sort of figured I was in good hands.

The burger they serve is labelled as a Kobe burger. Excuse me for going on a brief rant, but this is misguided on several levels, not the least of which being that anything called Kobe beef in Canada is almost certainly not actually Kobe beef. Kobe beef refers to a specific breed of cattle raised in a specific part of Japan (Kobe), and is pretty much never exported to Canada — not legally, at least. It’s far more likely that what’s being served here is Wagyu beef, which is similar enough to Kobe that many restaurants feel okay labeling it as such, even if it’s not really true.

That’s not to mention that the biggest appeal of Kobe (or Wagyu) beef is its prodigious marbling, which is rendered entirely moot when you grind it up for a hamburger.

So basically, labeling something as a Kobe burger is completely meaningless. It is a marketing ploy at best, and an excuse to overcharge at worst. Fortunately the latter isn’t the case here; at ten bucks (plus an additional five for fries), the price is about on par with what you’d expect at a restaurant like this.

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The 6 oz Kobe Burger is described as coming with “horseradish mayo, smoked cheddar & caramelized onion.”

The grilled burger came cooked to medium rare and was reasonably juicy. I think, however, that the heat was too high, as the exterior of the burger was thoroughly charred, with an unpleasantly acrid, bitter flavour.

The patty was also too tightly packed and, I think, a bit too finely ground. It was fine in the medium rare centre, but the well done edges were dry, dense, and unpleasant.

Still, the bulk of the patty (i.e. everything but the edges) is fairly tasty with a good texture, though the pervasive bitterness is unfortunate.

The smoked cheddar is creamy, nicely melted and not too sharp, allowing the beef to be the star of the show. The horseradish mayo also suits the burger pretty well.

Sadly, the bun was awful. Dry, unpleasantly dense, and — I think — more than a little bit stale, it’s a complete fiasco. It’s definitely one of the shoddiest buns I’ve had in quite a long time.

Basically, it’s a good burger with a few pretty major flaws.  With a fresh bun and without being way over-charred it actually could have been really good, but sadly they served what they served.

As for the fries, they were outstanding.  Really tasty and addictively crispy without ever becoming too crunchy, they were pretty great.

3 out of 4

Tavern by Trevor - the restaurant Tavern by Trevor - the menu Tavern by Trevor - the burger and fries Tavern by Trevor - the burger
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