Tag Archives: home fries

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

Batch

27 Mar

batch
Location
: 75 Victoria Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://batchtoronto.com/

Batch is shockingly great.  It’s a corporate brewpub — it’s owned by Creemore Springs, which is owned by Molson.  I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect the food to be passable at best; something along the lines of chain fare like Kelsey’s or Milestones, with the several beers on tap being the main attraction.

Based on this one visit, at least, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

The Batch burger is described on the menu as “dry aged beef + cheddar + red onion + ranch mayo.”  It’s served by default at medium rare; an immediate point in their favour.

As I cut into the hamburger, I could already see juices on the plate.  Another several points.

Yes, it’s an amazing hamburger.  As advertised, it came cooked to a perfect medium rare, with an immensely satisfying, deep brown layer of crust from the griddle.  And it’s juicy — so, so juicy, to an extent that’s almost four-leaf-clover-rare in a city that’s so dishearteningly crammed with dry, overcooked patties.

Aside from the awe-inspiring juiciness, the texture of the beef is just right.  It has a nice coarse grind that hasn’t been overhandled, resulting in a patty that has the perfect amount of tenderness without ever tipping the scales into soft and squishy territory.  It’s so good.

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The flavour of the patty is also well above average, though this is the one area where the burger stops just shy of greatness.  Though it certainly has a nice beefy flavour, it wasn’t quite as pronounced as it could have been.  It’s still better than most — but when you’re a straight-A student, that one B+ feels like a failure, even if in any other context, it’s an amazing grade.

The toppings were similarly superb.  Though the menu claims that the cheese is cheddar, I’m not so sure; it was either a creamier cheese along the lines of brie, or a higher-class processed white cheddar.  Whatever it was, it was mild, creamy, and suited the burger perfectly.

The red onions were soft and griddled; to me, a hamburger and grilled onions are like peanut butter and jelly.  Best friends 4 eva.

I was a bit concerned about the ranch mayo, as that dressing has a pretty assertive flavour, but it worked perfectly.  It added a nice hit of flavour without getting in the way.  The other toppings (lettuce and tomato) were solid, as was the soft, fresh bun.

The fries, sadly, were pretty weak.  I came at brunch, so I’m not sure if they were supposed to be some kind of amalgam between french fries and home fries, but they just didn’t particularly work.  They were way too thick, slightly chalky in the middle, and just all-around unsatisfying.  The funky house-made ketchup helped, but even then, the fries couldn’t even begin to hold a candle to that outstanding burger.

The meal ended on a high note, however.  The coconut cream pie — with its rich, custardy flavour and perfect balance of coconut — easily gives the famous Scaramouche pie a run for its money.

3.5 out of 4

Batch - restaurant Batch - the brunch menu Batch - the restaurant Batch - the burger and fries Batch - the burger Batch - the coconut cream pie

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.

The Whippoorwill - the restaurant The Whippoorwill - the restaurant The Whippoorwill - the burger The Whippoorwill - the burger
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