Tag Archives: waiter service

Piano Piano

8 May

piano
Location
: 88 Harbord Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.pianopianotherestaurant.com/

At the end of 2015, Chef Victor Barry shut down Splendido, a fine-dining destination that served meticulously-prepared multi-course meals. It was frequently named one of the best restaurants in the city, if not the entire country.

Early this year, Barry renovated the space and relaunched as Piano Piano, focusing on much more casual fare like pizza, pasta, and yes — a cheeseburger.  How could you not be excited by the idea of a hamburger prepared by one of the best chefs in the city?  How??

Well, I was excited.

And then the burger came and I got even more excited, because it looked perfect.  It’s pretty simple: two patties, two slices of cheese, lettuce, pickle, Dijonaisse.  But look at it though.  Those glistening patties, just the right size for the bun; the melty cheese; the dark, mahogany-brown crust from the griddle…  it’s what cheeseburger dreams are made of.

Or at least, it looked that way.

My struggle to cut the burger in half made it distressingly clear that something was amiss.  A good burger should be yielding and tender; cutting it should be like putting a hot knife through butter.  This was more like trying to saw into a particularly tough steak.

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This burger was so bad I almost can’t even believe it.  Like, how can a chef who is presumably as talented as Barry put out anything so horrible, let alone something as simple as a hamburger?  I can’t wrap my mind around it.

I will say that everything but the patty itself was pretty good — the gooey American cheese, the classic condiments, the fresh bun with just the right amount of sweetness and heft — it was all basically right where it should be.

The patty, on the other hand, was misguided on every level.  More pulverized than ground, it was tightly packed, tough, and horrible.  It also had an off-putting sausage-like consistency, possibly from having salt mixed in with the beef.  Between the unforgiving density of the beef and the oddly rubbery texture, it just didn’t want to get chewed.  It was kind of like eating hamburger-flavoured gum.

The taste wasn’t much better.  It was overwhelmingly peppery, which turns out to be a good thing, because this is beef that needs to be disguised with whatever you can throw at it.  It had a gamy, leftover meat flavour that was seemingly trying to compete with the texture to see which could be more awful.

Horrifying texture versus appalling flavour: whoever wins, we lose.

Oh, and did I mention that it costs twenty-two bucks?  Because it costs twenty-two bucks.  So not only is it gross, it’s probably one of the more expensive burgers in the city.  It’s easily — hands down — the worst hamburger that I’ve ever had from a high-end place like this.

Actually, it’s one of the worst burgers I’ve had in quite a while.

I think this might be the point in the review where you assume that I’m being way too picky.  It looks pretty good, you’re thinking.  How could it be that bad?

Okay.  Try it then.  I dare you.

As for the fries, they were the polar opposite of the hamburger.  They were amazing.  Though they’re a bit more thickly cut than I generally prefer, they were the perfect combination of crispy exterior and creamy interior.  Eating them with the hamburger is kind of like alternating between smelling a sweet, delicately fragrant flower with someone farting directly into your face.

1 out of 4

Piano Piano - the outside Piano Piano - the menu Piano Piano - the restaurant Piano Piano - the burger and fries Piano Piano - the burger Piano Piano - the burger

The Good Fork

13 Sep

fork
Location
: 2432 Bloor Street West, Toronto
Websitehttp://goodfork.ca/

You know what makes me sad? Burgers that should be great that are merely okay. That makes me sad. Unnecessary mediocrity. That makes me sad. The Good Fork makes me sad.

Not that they even serve a bad burger. It’s actually pretty decent. But it could have been so good without even changing that much.

I opted for the Plain burger, which the menu describes as coming with remoulade and “fixins” (which, in this case, are lettuce, tomato, pickles, and red onion).

The burger tastes really good.  The quality of the beef is obviously quite high, with an outstanding beefy flavour that’s pretty much irresistible.  The tangy remoulade adds some zip without overwhelming the taste of the beef, and is actually a pretty great condiment for the burger.

So — great burger, right?  Right…?

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It would have been great.  But it was dry.  Crazy dry, with a tough, dense texture that’s the result of the patty having been ground too finely and packed too tightly.  Cooked all the way to well done and beyond, the burger never had a chance.  It was always going to be dry, and it was always going to be tough.

I feel like I make this complaint with an alarming frequency, and I really don’t know why.  This is burger-making 101.  A good burger needs a course grind, and it needs to be loosely packed.  As you cram the strands of ground beef closer and closer together, the burger becomes more and more dense, and therefore more and more tough.  And if it’s finely ground on top of that?  Then those strands are really going to become good friends, resulting in tightly packed slab of beef that feels like it’s trying to become a steak again.  Cook that to well done and it’s all over but the crying.  You’re getting a tough, dry patty, guaranteed.

Of course, that’s not to mention the use of overly lean beef, another culprit in drying out so many of Toronto’s burgers — though here, the menu states that they’re using a blend of brisket and chuck, which should result in a pretty decent lean-to-fat ratio.  But with that particular patty cooked to the edge of well done, I suspect that no amount of fat could have saved it.

It’s served on a pretzel bun, which I normally find too dense and bready for a hamburger, though in this case that was the least of this burger’s concerns.

The shoestring fries were quite good, at least.  So there’s that.

2.5 out of 4

The Good Fork - the restaurant The Good Fork - the menu The Good Fork - the restaurant The Good Fork - the burger and fries The Good Fork - the burger

Ground Burger Bar

30 Aug

ground
Location
: 352 Doug Duncan Drive, #2, Newmarket
Websitehttp://www.groundburgerbar.ca/

I’m not gonna lie: I needed this.  I haven’t had a burger that I’ve wholeheartedly liked since April, and I haven’t had one that I thought was better than average since December of last year.  Suffice it to say, I was more than due for a really good hamburger.

Enter Ground Burger Bar, a brand new burger joint up in Newmarket that seems to be an instant hit; we came on a Friday night and the place was packed, with a wait upwards of forty minutes (reservations are advised).

The menu has the usual assortment of topping and meat choices, featuring burgers with names like “The Crazy Korean” and “The Dirty Bird’ger.”  I went with the Ground Signature, a beef burger with lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickles.

It’s a damn good burger.  It’s grilled, with a nice bit of char from the grill and a lightly smoky flavour that doesn’t overwhelm.  Most importantly, the quality of the beef is obviously above average, with a nice beefy flavour that comes through loud and clear.

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Loosely packed with a nice course grind, the medium patty was a bit on the dry side, but was otherwise pretty much exactly where it needed to be from a texture standpoint.

The brioche bun (you also have the choice of pretzel, multi-grain, or gluten-free) is slightly too dense, but otherwise suits the burger quite well.

I ordered some mayo on the side, and even that was above average — I’m not sure if they make it there, but certainly, it is a step above the usual Hellmann’s.

The fries, too, were pretty great.  They’re liberally tossed with rosemary, so if you don’t like that herb you might find its presence here a little bit overwhelming, but personally I found it quite tasty.  The fries otherwise had that crispy/creamy combo you’re looking for down pat.

3.5 out of 4

Ground Burger Bar - the outside Ground Burger Bar - the restaurant Ground Burger Bar - the menu Ground Burger Bar - the burger and fries Ground Burger Bar - the burger Ground Burger Bar - the burger

Smash Kitchen and Bar

10 May

smash
Location
: 4261 Highway 7, Unionville
Websitehttp://www.smashkitchen.com/

The problem with the abundant, booming popularity of hamburgers in this city is that for most restaurants, having a burger on the menu is more of an obligation than an option.  Unless a restaurant is dedicated to a very specific type of cuisine, there’s gonna be a hamburger on the menu.

Remember that scene in Chef where Dustin Hoffman crushes Jon Favreau’s dreams of cooking a personal menu, telling him that he’ll continue to cook what he’s become famous for, and he’ll like it?

I imagine that some variation on that scene plays out every time a chef in a restaurant like Smash Kitchen and Bar decides he has no interest in making a hamburger.

Oh, you don’t want to serve a burger?  Do you still want to be employed tomorrow?

This is all a fairly roundabout way of saying that the burger at Smash feels perfunctory. It feels joyless. It’s not bad; it’s alright.  But it’s clearly made by someone who doesn’t quite understand what makes a good hamburger so special.  By someone who doesn’t really care.

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I ordered the Smash Burger, which is described as being topped with “Cheddar cheese, onion rings, Smash sauce.”

I normally like to mention whether a burger has been griddled or grilled, but honestly, the burger was so middle-of-the-road that  I don’t remember.  Nothing about this hamburger is particularly memorable, other than its in-your-face mediocrity.

It wasn’t horrible, but the patty is vaguely meatloafy and oddly sweet, with a middling, barely-there beefy flavour and a slightly mealy texture.

The condiments were fine and the bun was fine.  The whole thing was fine. It’s certainly not great, but it tastes okay and it basically gets the job done.

It’s clear that the kitchen at this restaurant can put out food that’s better than okay, because the fries were quite good, as were the appetizer and dessert that I tried.  But it’s also clear that they serve a burger not because they want to, but because they have to.

Basically: it’s obligatory.  And it tastes obligatory.

2 out of 4

Smash Kitchen and Bar - the outside Smash Kitchen and Bar - the restaurant Smash Kitchen and Bar - the burger and fries Smash Kitchen and Bar - the burger

The Daughter

19 Apr

farmers
Location
: 1588 Dupont Street, Toronto
Websitehttp://farmhousehospitality.tumblr.com/

I’ve been hearing good things about the burger at the Farmhouse Tavern.  This is not a review of the Farmhouse Tavern.  I was in the area, and it was lunch, and the Farmhouse Tavern was closed.  Solution: The Daughter, a spinoff restaurant, which is open for lunch, and which also serves a burger.

That burger?  The Franklin Burger, per the menu: “Farmhouse  beef / bun / sauce w/ cheese / lettuce / tomato / onions.”

It’s pretty good.  The sizable patty (probably about six ounces) has a nice crispy crust from the grill, though it is leaning a bit towards over-charred.

It’s also too tightly packed; though the medium rare-ish middle of the burger (it’s somewhere between medium and medium rare) is nice and tender, the more well done edges suffer from over-density, and are a bit too tough.

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Still, it’s a fairly juicy burger, which helps make up for some of its deficiencies.  The mild (but nice) beefy flavour is also a firm plus in this burger’s favour.

I wasn’t too crazy about the cheese, however.  The menu doesn’t specify the type of cheese, which turned out to be goat’s cheese.  It’s an unusual choice for a hamburger, and eating it here, it’s pretty clear why.  The strongly salty, sour flavour is way too assertive in this context, completely overwhelming the flavour of the beef.  It’s not bad, but the balance of flavours is off.

The sauce is a tangy, Mac sauce-esque concoction, though again, the flavour here is pretty much all goat’s cheese, all the time.  

The other toppings were fine, and the soft, fluffy sesame seed bun was above average.

As for the fries, they were really crispy and creamy and tasty; complimented with the curry-tinged ketchup, they were pretty stellar.

3 out of 4

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