Tag Archives: review


11 Mar

Ozzy's in Kensington Market
: 66 Nassau Street, Toronto

Salt is a funny thing.  Add just enough of it to a dish, and it disappears into the background, enhancing flavours without calling attention to itself.  I was talking to a friend about the burger at Ozzy’s being too salty (because spoiler alert: the burger at Ozzy’s was way too salty), and he seemed surprised by the notion that a burger should even have salt.  Because done right, salt just enhances the beefy flavour of a burger without actually adding a particularly salty flavour.  It does its magic and then recedes into the shadows, happy to let the beef take all of the credit.

Done wrong, on the other hand?  You end up with the burger at Ozzy’s.

I ordered the Classic burger, which comes topped with lettuce, tomato, pickles, griddled onions, and Ozzy’s sauce.

Ozzy's in Kensington Market

It’s kind of tragic, because aside from the extreme saltiness issue, the burger was top-notch.  The patty had a really impressive amount of crust from the griddle and a perfect texture, despite being cooked to well done — it was surprisingly juicy, it had a nice coarse grind, and it wasn’t overhandled.  It also had a decent beefy flavour.  It was actually pretty great.

The toppings were all solid, and the fresh, slightly sweet bun suited the burger well, though it was slightly too large.

But when I say that the patty was too salty, I mean that it was in-your-face salty.  It was unpleasant.

It’s a damn shame, because with a normal amount of salt, this would have easily been a top-tier burger.  But it was what it was (and my dining companion had the same complaint, so this wasn’t a one-off mistake).

As for the fries, bafflingly, they were completely undersalted (or maybe they just tasted that way after the salt-bomb of a hamburger).  They also had a bit of a stale oil flavour, but were otherwise pretty good.

2.5 out of 4

Ozzy's - the restaurant Ozzy's - the restaurant Ozzy's - the burger and fries Ozzy's - the burger

Kitson and Co.

16 Jul

: 1205 Queen Street West, Toronto

Sometimes, you just wanna stop eating your burger, slap your hand on the table, walk back into the kitchen and shake everybody’s hand.  Sometimes a burger is so delightfully great that it just makes you want to do something.  Especially when you’re in a place that doesn’t even specialize in hamburgers, and the burger’s greatness is all the more improbable.  A great burger from a random sandwich shop?  That just makes my day.

It’s a pretty simple cheeseburger: “Classic Double Cheeseburger with lettuce, tomato, onions and Kitson & Co. secret sauce”

It’s an amazing example of a classic, no-frills fast-food-style burger executed perfectly.  You’ve got the gooey American cheese, the crusty griddled patties, the Big-Mac-esque secret sauce, the sesame seed bun, and the classic veggies.  It’s all there.

Those patties are top notch; the flavour could have been a bit beefier, but it’s hard to complain too much when all of the other elements are right where they should be.  They were also ever-so-slightly too densely packed, but again, it’s hard to complain too much when the overall package is so damn satisfying.  The patties are cooked to a perfect medium rare with a nice layer of dark brown crust on the exterior.  They’re also super juicy; that alone is reason enough to celebrate.

The melty American cheese adds creaminess and a nice salty tang; I kinda wish that there was only one slice instead of two, as I feel like two slices of cheese on a double cheeseburger starts to overwhelm the meat, but that’s more of a personal preference than anything else.  Two slices is the standard, so it’s hard to fault them for that.

The tangy secret sauce is pretty much exactly what you think it’s going to be — it works great with the cheeseburger and, more importantly, it doesn’t get in the way.

Even the bun was surprisingly great: soft, fresh, and perfectly toasted, it somehow manages to stand up to that very juicy, messy burger without ever feeling overly substantial.  The beef to bun ratio?  On point.

As for the fries, they were crispy, creamy, and flavourful; as great as the burger was, the fries might have been even better.

3.5 out of 4

Kitson and Co. - the outside Kitson and Co. - the restaurant Kitson and Co. - the cheeseburger Kitson and Co. - the cheeseburger

Jumbo Burgers

3 Jul

: 685 Runnymede Road, Toronto
Website: None

Jumbo Burgers is yet another orange-hued old-school burger joint in Toronto, which means it’s probably lousy.  Not to be a pessimist, but these places pretty much all either serve a flat-out terrible frozen burger, or if you’re lucky, a freshly-made hamburger that has so much stuff mixed in it may as well be meatloaf.

Well, good news: Jumbo Burgers falls into the latter category, and it’s actually not too bad.  It’s not particularly good, mind you, but when the alternative is a rubbery slab of sadness bound together by pink slime (sorry: lean finely-textured beef), a freshly-made meatloaf burger is a pretty big win.

Like almost every other burger joint of a certain age, you order your hamburger and then pick your toppings from behind the glass.  I went with pickles, tomato and mayo (which, again, like most older establishments, was actually Miracle Whip or something similar).

It wasn’t bad.  The burger had a good amount of char from the grill without being burnt (like most places that were open before the fall of the Soviet Union, the burgers are grilled rather than griddled.  Yeah, these places all followed the same template back then).

The patty had a pretty pronounced meatloafy flavour, I’m assuming from garlic and other spices mixed right in with the beef, but as far as this type of burger goes, I’ve certainly had worse.  There was still a vague beefy flavour, even if it was mostly wiped out by the spices.

The well done patty was a little bit dry and a little bit tough, but again, I’ve had worse.  Like I said: it’s not particularly good, but it’s not bad, either.

The toppings were fine, aside from the aforementioned mayo substitute.  The bun was slightly too big and too dense; the beef-to-bun ratio was off, but it was otherwise a decent bun.

As for the fries, they were a bit undercooked, but aside from that they were pretty good.

2.5 out of 4

Jumbo Burgers - the outside Jumbo Burgers - the restaurant Jumbo Burgers - the burger Jumbo Burgers - the burger Jumbo Burgers - the fries


4 Jun

: 196 Robert Street, Toronto

Though I’ve had burgers that were almost ruined by one particular topping before (I’m thinking of the mustard overload from the County General, or the insanely sweet tomato jam from Provo FoodBar), the burger at Rasa might just be the most glaring example of this unfortunate phenomenon.

Rasa’s burger is topped with provolone, gochujang mayo, pickles, and “scrapchi.”  No, I don’t know what scrapchi is either.  But I do know that it doesn’t belong on a hamburger.

It’s clearly some kind of variation on kimchi, but it has a strongly funky, overpoweringly fishy flavour that was fairly unpleasant, and not quite like any kimchi I’ve ever had (I should note that I really like kimchi, and I’ve been to South Korea, so I’m not exactly a neophyte when it comes to the stuff).  It was a bulldozer of flavour, and absolutely destroyed any other tastes in the burger.  This wouldn’t have been quite as big of an issue if the scrapchi actually tasted okay.  But it has an intense rotten fish flavour that was kind of gross.

I might have had a more misguided topping on a burger in my lifetime — but if I have, I cannot remember it.  It’s possible that it was just a bad batch?  Because I can’t imagine that anyone would intentionally put anything that off-putting on a hamburger.

It’s a shame, because the burger is otherwise pretty good.  Though the patty doesn’t have all that much beefy flavour (which I was only able to discern in the couple of bites I got without the scrapchi), it’s quite juicy, and the texture is pretty great.

The waiter mentioned that it would be cooked to medium rare, though it was actually much closer to rare. A lot of rare burger patties have a tendency to be a bit squishy, but that’s not the case here.  The patty had a good amount of bite without being too dense, and held together quite nicely.  I wish, however, that there had been a bit more crust from the griddle (or any crust at all — in fact, the exterior of the patty was so colour-free that I’m not even sure if it was grilled or griddled.  I’m just guessing that they griddled it).

The bun held up nicely to the substantial burger, and the other toppings were fine (particularly the satisfyingly gooey provolone), but that crazy scrapchi pretty much wiped everything else out.

As for the fries, it didn’t come with any — it came with a very small handful of taro chips instead.  That makes the burger fairly pricey at 17 bucks.

2.5 out of 4

Rasa - the restaurant Rasa - the restaurant Rasa - the burger Rasa - the burger

The Wren

28 May

: 1382 Danforth Avenue, Toronto

After seeing pictures of the various burger specials at the Wren roughly a billion times on Instagram over the last few months, my excitement level was pretty much at a fever pitch; it’s not easy to get me to venture too far east in Toronto (I’m lazy, you see), but for an amazing burger?  Yeah, I’ll go out of my way for that.

Alas, this place suffers from a very pronounced case of Sweet Jesus-itus — highly Instagrammable, but otherwise not particularly great.

I ordered the Backyard Burger, which is the most bare-bones burger they serve (they also have a much more Instagram-friendly creation called the Uncle Buck Burger, not to mention the veritable Instagram-catnip that is their rotating special).

The Backyard Burger comes topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, ketchup, mustard, and mayo.

Sometimes, you can just look at a burger’s cross-section and know you’re in trouble.  If you can tell just by looking at a burger that the grind is too fine and it’s too densely packed, you’re in trouble.

And yeah, of course the grind was too fine and it was too densely packed, because just look at it.  Look at it and weep.

It was also cooked all the way to the wellest of well done, and was almost entirely moisture-free.  It wasn’t the worst patty I’ve ever had, but it was kinda unpleasant to eat.

The taste, while not offensive, was non-existent; there was no particular beefy or meaty flavour.  Aside from the subtle smokiness from the grill, it didn’t taste like anything.

Everything else was fine.  The burger comes topped with ketchup, mustard, and mayo, which is more condiment-heavy than I’d usually like.  Here, however, those condiments are actually fairly essential to provide the burger with some much-needed moisture.  I actually could have used more.

The bun, though a little bit too crackly on its exterior, was mostly quite good.  It held up to the patty and the toppings nicely, and didn’t overwhelm.

The fries were the clear (and only) highlight.  They were perfectly cooked and tossed with a seasoned salt that made them taste pretty great on their own — no dip required.

1.5 out of 4

The Wren - the outside The Wren - the restaurant The Wren - the burger The Wren - the burger The Wren - the burger