Tag Archives: Yorkville

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"

Bar Reyna

18 Dec

reyna
Location
: 158 Cumberland Street, Toronto
Websitehttps://www.barreyna.com/

If you’re charging over twenty bucks for a hamburger, that burger had better be damn good. It had better be foolproof.

The burger at Bar Reyna is 21 dollars. It is not foolproof.

Their burger is labelled Big A’s burger and fries (is that a play on “big ass”?  An actual guy named Big A?  What, no one cares?). I’ll let the menu describe it: “brisket + ribeye / sweet potato bun / muenster / caramelized onions / lettuce / tomato / chipotle aioli.”

There isn’t a single element here that particularly works.

They actually asked me how I wanted the burger cooked, which is always a delightful question. I asked for medium rare, and I know I wasn’t misheard, because the waitress proudly proclaimed “medium rare hamburger” as she set my plate down. It was closer to well done.

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It was still actually fairly juicy, which was nice, but the texture was off; it was way too finely ground, and a bit mealy. It also had pretty much zero beefy flavour — considering the hefty price tag, it’s not unreasonable to expect that they’ll be using top-shelf beef. If they were, it certainly didn’t taste that way.

Then there were the toppings, which were mostly okay, though between the very sweet caramelized onions and the equally sweet “chipotle aioli” (which tasted exactly like thousand island dressing), it was sweet overload. I will say, however, that the muenster cheese was pretty much perfect — it had a subtle cheesy flavour and a perfect amount of gooey meltiness. I’m really not sure why you don’t find it on cheeseburgers more often.

But I’m not even going to sugar-coat it: the bun was the absolute worst. The texture was closer to a stale biscuit than a traditional hamburger bun. It was incredibly dense and so thoroughly inappropriate for a burger that I’m legitimately curious if the restaurant just made some kind of mistake and used the wrong bun. It had zero give — normally, when you pick up a hamburger, the bun absorbs most of the pressure from your fingers and leaves the insides of the burger undisturbed.  But here?  The bun was a solid, unyielding mass.  As soon as I picked it up, the patty and all the toppings started squishing out of the sides. It was game over once I took a bite.  I had to eat the majority of the burger with a fork and knife. Like a monster.

The shoestring fries, on the other hand, were really good.  They were cut super thin, which can sometimes result in fries that are too crunchy, but the fries here still managed to retain a decent balance of crunchiness and creaminess.  They were seasoned with smoked paprika as well as salt, which gave them a unique flavour and a bit of a kick.

1.5 out of 4

Bar Reyna - the outside Bar Reyna - the restaurant Bar Reyna - the burger Bar Reyna - the burger

Cafe Boulud

17 Jan

boulud
Location
: 60 Yorkville Avenue, Toronto
Websitehttp://www.cafeboulud.com/toronto/

After a rocky start, Cafe Boulud was shut down and completely retooled last year; most notably (for readers of this blog at least) this shake-up brought us chef Daniel Boulud’s famous Frenchie burger, which no less than the New York Times dubbed as “the perfect burger.”

Obviously, I had to try it.

After an absolutely fantastic bread bowl, which came with a small disc of what might be the best butter I’ve ever had, the burger arrived looking quite impressive.  I had very high hopes.

The Frenchie Burger, per their menu: “7 oz burger, morbier cheese, dijon mustard, pork belly, tomato-onion compote, arugula, black pepper bun.”

Before I start laying into it, I will say that it’s an all-around good burger.  It tastes good.  There’s nothing terribly wrong with it.  But given its sparkling reputation and the intense $24 price tag, I expected greatness.  It is not great.

bouludA

The patty is decent enough, but given the hefty cost, it’s not quite at the level you’d hope it would be. I requested medium rare, and the grilled patty was cooked perfectly to that temperature — but I think it was a bit too tightly packed, and it was slightly more tough than it should have been.  It was also a bit over-charred on the grill, with a subtle hit of bitterness that marred things somewhat.

Otherwise, the flavour of the beef was nothing to write home about. It wasn’t bad by any means — it tasted fine, and is obviously not made with low-quality meat, but it lacked the rich beefy flavour that you’d expect from a restaurant of this caliber.

The toppings were all pretty good, though they were a bit too assertive. The beef-versus-condiments balance was tipped squarely in the favour of the toppings.  In particular, the dominant flavours here were of the zingy tomato-onion compote and the peppery arugula, both of which probably could have been reduced by half.

The Brie-like Morbier cheese was creamy and a pretty good fit for the burger, but like the other toppings, it was a bit too generously applied.

The pork belly, at least, was tasty and in the right proportion — it added porky unctuousness without ever getting in the way.

The bun was great: fresh, fluffy, and packing just enough heft for the task at hand.  Between the bread basket and this bun, Cafe Boulud’s baker clearly deserves a substantial raise.

As for the fries, they were perfectly cooked, but tasted overwhelmingly of roasted garlic.  The flavour slaps you in the face.  It’s excessive.

3 out of 4

Cafe Boulud - the outside Cafe Boulud - the restaurant Cafe Boulud - the bread and butter Cafe Boulud - the burger Cafe Boulud - the burger