Tag Archives: Financial District

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.

cactusA

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

Richmond Station

5 Apr

richmond
Location
: 1 Richmond Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://richmondstation.ca/

People have been raving about the burger at Richmond Station since it opened a couple of years ago.  So of course, the place has been on my list for quite a while (and this is a literal list, FYI – I have a Google map that I keep updated with about a hundred burgers I need to check out.  I’ll empty out that map one day.  One day).

The chef here, Carl Heinrich, previously worked at Marben, and set out on his own after winning Top Chef Canada.  The Marben connection is super obvious when you taste the burger; it is very, very similar.

In fact, you could probably just read my Marben review and get a pretty good idea of what I thought about this one, but they are different enough that I guess I should write a few words.

The Stn. Burger, as per the menu: “lettuce, beet chutney, aged cheddar, milk bun.”

The biggest connection between the two restaurants is unmentioned on the menu.  Like the burger at Marben, the one here is stuffed with braised short ribs.

richmondA

They’re also both about the same size, and though they appear small, they’re substantial.  There’s very little risk that you’ll walk away hungry.

Fortunately, though the short ribs at Marben were a bit overpowering, they seem to have a more subtle flavour here.  I compared the burger there to an upscale sloppy joe, and that’s less of an issue here.  It tastes more like a traditional hamburger.

The ground beef at Marben was also a little bit too lean, resulting in a slightly dry burger. Again, that’s less of an issue here.  The burger is quite juicy.

What is an issue, however?  The beef (which has a mild but satisfying beefy flavour) is way too densely packed, and has an oddly chewy, rubbery texture that’s closer to sausage than to hamburger.

There’s a video online of Heinrich making the burger, and you can see him squeezing the hell out of the patty with some kind of industrial squeezing machine.  I guess that’s necessary to keep the short ribs from bursting out during the cooking process, but it definitely doesn’t do the burger’s texture any favours.

As for the sausage-like texture, I’m not sure; it’s possible that they’re making and salting the patties well in advance, with the salt affecting the beef from the outside, and the short ribs affecting it from the inside.

Still, despite the textural weirdness, it’s definitely tasty, and it’s definitely satisfying.  The melted cheddar isn’t too overpowering, and the beet chutney and pickled onions add some zing while still allowing the beef to be the star of the show.  The toasted bun is nice and fresh, and holds up nicely to the messy burger.

The patty is grilled, apparently, though I couldn’t see or taste any evidence of that on the patty.  If I hadn’t watched the aforementioned video, I honestly wouldn’t have known how they cooked it.

As for the fries, they were amazing.  Perfectly cooked and tinged with rosemary, they were delicious on their own but even better with the horseradish-infused dipping sauce.  Seriously, seriously good.

3 out of 4

Richmond Station - the outside Richmond Station - the restaurant Richmond Station - the burger and fries Richmond Station - the burger

Bymark

14 Dec

bymark
Location
: 66 Wellington Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://bymark.mcewangroup.ca/

This being my 100th burger review for this blog (yeah, I can’t believe I made it this far either), I figured something special was probably in order.  And what’s more special than one of the city’s most highly-regarded burgers, and at a whopping 35 bucks, probably its most expensive?

So it was that I found myself at Bymark, a restaurant several orders of magnitude classier than where I typically go for this blog.  It’s the type of place where you look around and you think, everyone in this room probably makes more in a couple of months than I make in year.  But do they have a blog where they get to be snarky about hamburgers?  No?  Well then.

The 8 Ounce P.E.I Grass Fed Burger comes with “brie de meaux, porcini mushrooms, & crisp onion rings or frites.”  I figured the onion rings might be more interesting than fries, so I went with those.  I was also asked how I wanted the burger cooked, and requested medium rare.

I’m not going to lie: I was pretty skeptical that this meal could possibly justify the extra-large price tag.  With that price, it’s about double the cost of even the most expensive burgers I’ve reviewed for the blog thus far.  I was ready to dislike it just on principle.  Where do you get off charging that much for a burger??

Well… It’s a pretty amazing hamburger.  It’s grilled and came cooked to a perfect medium rare — and when I say perfect, I mean perfect.  Normally when you get a burger cooked medium rare, it comes out that way in the centre, with a fairly significant ring around the edges of well done beef.  That phenomenon is minimized to a ridiculously impressive degree here, with amazingly consistent medium rare beef practically the whole way through.  I have no idea how they managed to cook it this evenly from edge to edge (sous vide, perhaps?), but however it’s done, it is glorious.

bymarkA

The patty was coarsely ground and a bit densely packed — but oddly enough, not in a bad way.  Though a loosely packed burger is normally what you’re looking for, this patty had a rich, almost steak-like consistency, without ever losing its hamburgery goodness.  It was actually quite unlike any burger I’ve ever had, but in an amazing way.

It’s also one of the tastier burgers I’ve had in a while, with a nicely beefy flavour that’s fairly pronounced, even if it could be stronger (Allen’s definitely has it beat in this regard).

Oh, and it was super juicy, too; it made me want to parade it around to most of Toronto’s burger joints and say “See?  See how juicy this is?  This is how juicy a burger is supposed to be.   Stop being an idiot.”

Are you getting the sense that I liked this burger?  Because yeah, I kinda liked it.

The toppings were pretty great as well.  The brie was super creamy, with a distinctively nutty but not overly sharp flavour that complimented the beef perfectly.  The mushrooms were garlicky and intensely flavourful; they were crazy delicious, though I do think they were a little bit overwhelming — one of the burger’s few weak points.

I quite liked the bun, too.  Though it was more substantial than I typically want, with a burger this big, rich, and juicy, you need that kind of substance or it’ll fall apart.

I will say that I wasn’t crazy about the onion rings.  They were fine, but there wasn’t anything all that special about them.  And though the smaller ones at the top of the pile were crispy and perfectly cooked, the larger ones at the bottom were doughy and underdone.  That didn’t stop me from eating all of them, of course, but after that superb burger they couldn’t help but feel like a pretty big let-down.

I honestly didn’t think that this review was going to go this way, but you know what?  This burger was absolutely worth the 35 bucks.  It’s not something you’re going to get all the time, but as a special treat?  Hell yeah.  It’s amazingly rich and flavourful, with a heady decadence and an overall level of quality that really is in a league of its own.

I kind of wish that I hadn’t eaten it, because I’m pretty sure I’m going to be craving it all the time now.  It’s a very strong contender for the best burger in the city.

4 out of 4

Bymark - the outside Bymark - the menu Bymark - the restaurant Bymark - the burger Bymark - the burger Bymark - the burger
Bymark on Urbanspoon

Little Fin

9 Nov

fin
Location
: 4 Temperance Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://littlefin.ca/

Little Fin is, as the name implies, mostly a seafood joint; it probably would have been very low on my list of places to check out for this blog, but then I saw the header photo on Toronto Life’s write-up of the place and that was pretty much that.  A visit was inevitable.

It’s a tiny little place that’s obviously meant to be a take-out joint for local office-dwellers, though they do have a few narrow tables (but no stools, so prepare to eat standing up like a horse).

The menu’s up on the wall, and though it’s mostly an array of fish sandwiches, there is a cheeseburger that can either be had single, or double.  The aforementioned photo made it look a bit small, so I went with the double; bacon jam is optional for an additional $1.25, but I passed on that.

It’s actually not quite as small as it looks.  They don’t say how big the patties are on the menu, but I’m guessing they’re somewhere in the ballpark of five ounces.

It comes topped with shredded lettuce, tomato, cheddar, and a sauce that is unmentioned on the menu, but which Toronto Life calls a “sea-urchin sauce.”

finA

It’s good, though like last week’s review, Cardinal Rule, I’m loathe to even call it a hamburger.  The patty is so thoroughly suffused with onions and spices and who-knows-what-else that the simple beefiness that makes a good hamburger so special has been completely annihilated.  It’s meatloaf.  It certainly looks like a hamburger, but if appearances are all that matters I’m pretty sure I could take brownie batter and make it look like a hamburger, but that doesn’t make it so.  

Put simply, if I wanted meatloaf I’d order meatloaf.

I think I need to calm down.  Especially because, unlike at Cardinal Rule, what they’re serving here is actually not bad.  While I would argue until I’m blue in the face against it being a traditional hamburger, it’s okay for what it is.  It’s a decent meatloaf sandwich.  It’s not a hamburger, but it’s tasty.

It’s fairly well spiced, though it’s strong enough that the beef’s natural flavour has been almost entirely wiped out.  It’s also a bit too finely ground, with a slightly odd, overhandled texture.  It’s fairly juicy, however, which is nice, and which helps to compensate for some of the patty’s textural deficiencies.  The cheddar is also fully melted and nicely gooey.

The condiments are mostly okay, though the tomato was a bit mealy.  The very tangy sea-urchin sauce would easily overwhelm a traditional hamburger, but with a through-and-through meatloaf burger like this, all bets are off.

The bun has been off-puttingly dyed jet-black (because charcoal black is clearly the colour you want your bread to be, right guys?), but aside from its weirdly dark colour, it’s above-average.  It’s fresh, soft, and slightly chewy, and holds up to the burger quite well (though I suspect it might be a bit overwhelming with the single-patty option).

As for the side… there wasn’t one.  I’ll admit that I only gave the menu a cursory glance, but given the fairly steep $14.25 price tag for the double burger, I just assumed that a side of some sort would be included.  Nope.  Suffice it to say, it’s a bit overpriced.

2.5 out of 4

Little Fin - the restaurant Little Fin - the menu Little Fin - the restaurant Little Fin - the burger Little Fin - the burger
Little Fin on Urbanspoon

Momofuku Daisho

21 Sep

momo
Location
: 190 University Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://momofuku.com/toronto/daisho/

When I heard that Daisho was going to start serving the Momofuku collaboration with Shake Shack that reportedly caused the longest line-up in Shake Shack history, I was pretty excited. And by “pretty excited”, I mean crazy excited.

Alas, it turns out that this burger is only served at lunch, and Daisho only serves lunch during the week. Seeing that I work in Mississauga, trying this burger suddenly seemed like an impossible dream (see here for an approximation of my reaction to this fact).

But then I remembered that I was taking a week off for TIFF, and all was right with the world again. I made sure to leave a gap in my schedule, and I was off to the races.

The Momofuku Shrimp Stack is described on the menu like this: “beef, hozon mayo, kohlrabi slaw” (very descriptive, I know — because everyone loves menus that just list a few ingredients and tell you nothing about what the dishes are actually like.  I’m sorry, did I say loves?  Because I meant hates).

Not that you’d know this from the super vague menu description, but the thing that makes the Shrimp Stack a shrimp stack is the thin shrimp patty resting atop the burger’s more traditional toppings (cheese, pickles, etc.).

momoA

The best thing about this burger? The beef patty. It’s ridiculously juicy. It is amazingly, awe-inspiringly juicy. It also had a good amount of crust from the griddle, a great texture, and a decent (if not particularly overwhelming) beefy flavour.

It’s pretty great. Also great? The soft, pliant, incredibly fresh bun that held up to the rest of the burger amazingly well. It added just the right amount of breadiness without ever over-asserting itself or getting in the way. It was perfect.

I wasn’t quite as crazy as the burger’s eponymous shrimp patty, however. While it was tasty enough, it was deeply shrimpy and was easily the burger’s strongest flavour. Of course, the burger is called Shrimp Stack, so perhaps criticizing it for being too shrimpy is ridiculous. But this is a burger blog, so obviously that’s where my head’s at.

My other main objection is that the burger’s flavour is overwhelmingly rich. Between the melty American cheese, the juicy beef patty, and the concentrated shrimpiness of that patty, the flavour is a bit one-note. You’d think the pickles (traditional pickles and pickled onions) would cut the richness, but you can honestly barely even tell they’re there.

Still, though the whole thing wasn’t quite as earth-shakingly delicious as I had hoped, it was still pretty damn tasty, flaws and all.

The onion rings, with their delicately crispy batter and perfectly cooked onions, were outstanding. I’m normally not a dipping-my-onion-rings guy, but it came with a curry-tinged ketchup that was too good to resist. The kohlrabi slaw was also well above average.

Momofuku Toronto - the outside Momofuku Shoto - the restaurant Momofuku Shoto - pickles Momofuku Shoto - the Shrimp Stack Momofuku Shoto - the Shrimp Stack
Momofuku Daishō on Urbanspoon