Resto Boemo


Location
: 111 Richmond Street West, Toronto (in the Assembly Chef’s Hall)
Websitehttps://www.instagram.com/restoboemo/

Since getting back into town a couple of months ago, I’ve been hearing literally nothing but great things about the burger at Resto Boemo.  The more I heard, the more I was drawn to it like a magnet to… a more powerful magnet?  One of those really strong electromagnets?  (This metaphor has really gone off the rails, like a train that’s been derailed by a really strong magnet.  Okay, I’ll stop now.)

You can choose from either single or double, but other than that there’s just one burger on the menu, and it’s a no-frills cheeseburger: American cheese, lettuce, onion, pickles, and some kind of special sauce.

It’s a good burger, but alas, not a great one.  There are a few things holding it back from being truly special, like a magnet that’s not quite powerful enough to stick, slowly sliding down the fridge door.

But first, the good: it’s smashed and griddle-cooked (because apparently there’s no other way to cook a burger as far as Toronto chefs are concerned), with an impressive amount of crust on its exterior.  The patties are cooked to a perfect medium, with a blushingly pink interior, and a really satisfying amount of juiciness.  That’s not to mention the beefy flavour, which was impressive and pronounced.

I also quite liked the toppings, especially the thinly-shaved onions — they added a mild oniony flavour without overwhelming, as raw onions are prone to do.  And the gooey, melty American cheese is the perfect accompaniment to this style of cheeseburger.

Oh, and I really liked the bun, too.  It was soft, mildly sweet, and had just the right amount of heft to stand up to the messy burger.  It was actually pretty great.

Yeah, there was a lot about this burger that I really liked.

But, while the patties were nice and juicy, they were also a bit too tightly packed, which made them tougher than they should have been.  And the texture was ever-so-slightly off, with a very subtle sausage-like chew.  I suspect they’re either salting the patties too far in advance, or mixing salt right in with the meat.

And speaking of salt, between the salty American cheese and the salt on the patties themselves, the sodium level here is a little bit intense.  It’s not a huge issue, but it’s there.

As for the fries, they looked and tasted a lot like what they serve at McDonald’s — but not as good.  The exterior was slightly too crispy, and the interior was off-puttingly dry.  It was a turn-off, like two magnets with the same poles pushing each other away.

3 out of 4

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Manhattan’s Hand-made Burgers

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Location
: 333 Bay Street, Toronto (inside the Bay Adelaide Centre)
Websitehttp://www.manhattansburger.com/

Odds are pretty good that you haven’t heard of Manhattan’s Hand-made Burgers, an under-the-radar spot that’s nestled away in an underground food court downtown. There’s not a whole lot of chatter about it online, and if you don’t already know about it, you’re probably not going to run into it (and even if you do know about it, you might struggle to find it, as I did).

There didn’t seem to be a signature burger among their handful of pre-topped specialty burgers, so I went simple with the Yankee Burger, their no-frills choice. It came up to about ten bucks for the combo, so it’s not a bad value at least.

I was given the choice of bun, and went for white. I could have picked whole wheat, but since “whole wheat” and “hamburger” should never be in the same sentence together, that obviously wasn’t going to happen. I asked for the burger topped with my usual pickles, tomato, and mayo, and watched the man behind the griddle do his thing.

On their website, Manhattan’s proudly proclaims that they “strictly use Lean Ground beef with half the fat content of the regular grind.” Obviously, the alarm bells were going off in my head. I’m a broken record about this, but the reason so many GTA burger joints serve dry burgers is this weird compulsion to make burgers healthier by using leaner beef. This is the equivalent of trying to make a cookie healthier by cutting out most of the sugar. It might end up being much healthier, but if it’s not sweet, what’s the point?? Same goes for a burger: juiciness comes from fat. Cut out the fat, and you end up with a dry burger. No ifs, ands, or buts.

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Still, that doesn’t mean that my mind was entirely closed. If your preparation is otherwise solid (ie. a good grind, good quality beef, no extraneous seasonings, etc.) you can still serve a burger worth eating. Case in point: Fresh Burger. They come right out and admit that they use sirloin (a super lean cut of beef) but because they use good quality beef and the burger is well prepared, it’s still pretty darn good.

Sadly, the burger at Manhattan’s Hand-made Burgers is not pretty darn good.

For one thing, despite cooking the patties on a griddle there’s very little browning. Though the patty has the vaguest inklings of a crust, it’s clear that the griddle wasn’t nearly hot enough, which means that the burger misses out on a lot of potential flavour.

And of course, it’s dry. The burger was cooked to well done but not overcooked, and though it did have some juiciness (not much, but some), it was clearly dryer than it should have been.

The biggest issue, however, is the way that they’ve ground the beef. It’s way too fine, giving the beef an oddly mealy, somewhat unappealing texture. I’ve certainly had worse, but the texture holds the burger back from being anything particularly worth eating.

The flavour isn’t much better. Again, I’ve had worse, but the patty definitely had that very distinctively muddled flavour that you get from middling quality beef. I also don’t think it was seasoned at all, which didn’t help (as much as I hate overly-spiced meatloaf burgers, a little salt and maybe some pepper is fairly essential to bring out the flavour of the beef).

The sesame seed bun was fresh and suited the burger quite well, at least, and the toppings were fine.

The fries were the highlight — they were excellent. Crispy, perfectly cooked, amazing. I seem to be going to a lot of places recently that have great fries and mediocre burgers. I wish it were the other way around, but at least something is good I guess?

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