Sunday, January 30, 2011

MIRU 8691 -- Beverly Hills, CA

9162 West Olympic Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
(310) 777-8378

Fat Bruce Lee (sort of on half-assed diet), ChiBurger, myself, plus one found ourselves working on a Saturday. MIRU 8691, a self-proclaimed Korean Burger and Fish Bar, was not far from our opulent offices.  We piled into Fat Bruce Lee's luxury supercar and located the strip mall where  the restaurant was located to check out their cheeseburger skills. MIRU 8691 was modern and clean--the staff was very polite.  Trivia that I picked up...Miru is the name of the the chef--8691 is the year of his wife's birth in reverse. The lunch special Miru Burger Kalbi--Kobe beef--was about 12 bucks, and that came with soup, two amuse-bouche selections, fries, and a choice of kalbi beef ribs or tuna as a burger topping. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that they had cheese for the burgers, since there was no mention of it elsewhere on the menu.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The Kobe beef was a medium grind of Chuck, and it was very subtle in flavor. There was no trace of aging, still the beef was flavorful enough that it was hard to put the burger down.  Ordinarily, it would have  been a waste to use Kobe beef in a burger. The magic of Kobe is in the texture and mild flavors, but in this case the other flavors were delicate enough to allow the beef to shine.  It was probably an 80:20 blend, and it managed to be juicy without being greasy.

The Sear: Yep, MIRU 8691 got a really nice sear on the thick patty. They managed to do that over a VERY hot grill--points for that. The sear lent crunch and chewiness to a bite that would have otherwise been uninteresting--ground Kobe beef tends to be mushy when not handled properly.

The Seasoning: They applied a light dusting of a Korean seasoning blend to the exterior, and they left the interior alone. Ordinarily, this would have been dull, but it worked in this case. Again, the Kobe patty needed tender care to avoid getting lost in the dish.

The Preparation: The cheeseburgers took at least 20 minutes to show up at our table. When they did arrive, the amount of time that it took was clearly justified. MIRU 8691 were artful in their presentation and preparation of their cheeseburgers. The  6-7 ounce burgers came out a perfect Medium. The fact that they grilled rather than griddled the burgers was a blessing--none of the carmelized sugars from the sweet galbi dishes were transferred to the burgers. This was one of the things that ruined the burgers at Kalbi Burger for me.  The thick patties were formed with gentle pressure, so there was zero chewiness. The bite was tender and yielding.

The Cheese: They used a sliced American and a shredded Cheddar blend and applied all of that to create thick layer of molten goodness. It worked. The thick, gooey, melted cheese added just the right amount of salt and umami to the dish. Again--ordinarily, a mild Cheddar would have been a bystander, but in the case of MIRU 8691, the mildness paid off.  The pictures show the perfection with which the cheese was applied and melted.

The Bun: What bun? The bun was a delicate, tender, mild spectator in this dish. Its sole purpose was to deliver cheese and beef to the mouth with a minimum of inconvenience. They toasted the bun--it held up to the juiciness of the burger without being noticed in the bite.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: Perfect.
That is a healthy amount of cheese
The Fries: These were seasoned, spiral-cut, battered, crispy, golden-brown coils of deliciousness. They were accompanied by a spicy ketchup that was better than expected. The fries were a winner, and the spice in the ketchup really rounded them out.

The Sides: The galbi beef rib meat was would have been awful as a topping on the burger, because it would have ruined the texture. The rib meat also came with a sweet sauce. That sauce would have also overwhelmed the dish.  It was nice to have some beef after polishing off my burger. Also, the grilled pineapple was terrific, and I will admit to trying it with a few bites at the end of the burger--it worked. Finally, they provided an crunchy, tempura, onion ring made with sweet, red onion.

The Value: The value was stellar. We all walked away stuffed and completely satisfied. I would have gladly paid more for this burger and its array of sides.

MIRU 8691 rocked the Kobe beef in the form of a burger. They did it by truly respecting the beef and playing to its gentle, nuanced flavor. The preparation and the presentation were both precise--a great deal of culinary talent was brought to bear to deliver this sort of dish. Keep in mind that they had designed a very different burger with clashing textures and flavors, both of which would have hidden the strengths of the burger meat. To truly experience a purist cheeseburger at MIRU 8691, one must order EVERYTHING on the side except for the cheese.

Burger Review : This was about as good as Chuck could get. MIRU 8691 delivered a spot on interpretation of the cheeseburger with great precision and a little improvisation. Also, a damn good price for Kobe beef.

Rating...4 Bites

Editor's Note: We returned on 25MAR11, and the burger earned a 5 Bites rating. See most recent review here.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Burger News: goodburger--New York, NY

Dear Readers and fellow busters of burgers,

The press release, below, showed up in our inbox--courtesy of Ashley at AMP3.  We have not yet reviewed goodburger, so if anyone has tried this, please let us know.

For Immediate Release:
January 24th, 2011
Tom Galis Knows How New Yorkers Eat

New York, NY— New York City restaurateur Tom Galis's goodburger chain is one of the city's favorite burger joints. His goodburger was recently voted one of the three best in New York City, but now he will be making a few changes to create, if possible, an even tastier goodburger with brighter and crisper green leaf lettuce, a thicker, juicier roma tomato, and a tastier bun. This is all part of goodburger’s ongoing mission to bring customers the best inexpensive burger in NYC, as well as other great, fresh foods.
So who is the man behind goodburger?  Aside from New York food industry insiders, few know Tom Gialamboukis (Tom Galis as he is popularly known.) Yet his is a quintessentially New York success story, rooted in every aspect of the city’s fast food and quality casual food business. And he, more than many realize, has played an important role in shaping the way that New Yorkers eat. In addition to being the proprietor of the popular and successful goodburger chain (yes, “Home of the Goodburger”), if you’ve eaten in a Café Metro, Oxford Café, Food Merchants or Food Exchange, chances are that it’s one that Tom Galis created. Tom has opened some thirty eating establishments in the city over the past dozen years; he named Fresh and Co., founded Crave Sandwiches, and recently brought Peter’s Since 1969 Rotisserie Chicken to Manhattan. Just to firmly establish his New York City street cred beyond any doubt, Tom got his start selling hot dogs from his family’s cart in Times Square.
With the launch of goodburger in 2005, Tom helped kick off the current frenzy of quality inexpensive burgers. The New York Times and others raved, and goodburger began a rapid expansion with a total of six restaurants now open in Manhattan. As he has developed and expanded his burger domain Tom Galis has maintained strong opinions about how to cook a great burger and how to run a great New York burger joint.
Tom may grind his own beef, but he doesn’t mince words when it comes to how a burger should be cooked. “Cooking on a open flame the way we do it at goodburger is the only way to get the best taste from a burger,” he says. “Plus it melts off fat that people don’t need to eat while allowing that fat to flavor and tenderize the burger. I just don’t get people who insist that griddle frying burgers adds flavor. Sure that adds fat, those burgers are cooking in puddles of fat, and that imparts a different greasy flavor, but it’s not proper beef flavor. Also, those mashed-on-the-grill burgers are too thin to be cooked to order the way we do. When you ask for ‘medium’ at goodburger, that’s what you get.”
Of course the primary reason for Tom Galis’s success with goodburger is the quality of the food and the thought he puts into presenting what he and many fans believe is not just a good burger, but the best inexpensive burger in New York City. Tom knows that it all starts with the ingredients and he sources, selects, butchers and grinds his Hereford beef at Pat La Frieda’s famous facility. All ingredients in his restaurants are as fresh as possible and everything is made to order: they don’t even own a microwave oven. The shakes are made the old fashioned way with real ice cream, and goodburger even makes its own root beer, and lemonade in-store, as well as good old-fashioned egg creams, Lime Rickey’s and Arnold Palmers.
Tom’s concern for offering foods that are of the highest quality, and prepared in the most intelligent way carries through goodburger’s entire menu. Their grilled chicken and turkey burgers are made only from fresh antibiotic-free Bell & Evans poultry. Their veggie burgers and crabby patties are made from fresh veggies and fresh crab. Tom even cooks his shoestring fries in 100% pure canola oil (and did so before it became law), and all the goodburger restaurants are green certified.
Goodburger is a truly New York City owned and operated business, it recently finished in third place in the Midtown Lunch poll of Best Hamburgers Under $10 in New York, behind only national chain, 5 Guys, and media darling Danny Meyer’s nationally-expanding Shake Shack. “We’ll stand out on taste, and we compete on price,” says Tom Galis, “and we think that will speak for itself. We intend to catch them and end up first next year!”
For more information about Tom Galis and goodburger please visit:  For any press inquiries please contact Ashley Lutzker at AMP3 Public Relations via 646.827.9594 or

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ford's Filling Station -- Culver City, CA

9531 Culver Boulevard
Culver City CA

Fat Bruce Lee (on a diet) and I found that our cheeseburger levels were dangerously low. We tossed a coin to choose between Rush Street and Ford's Filling Station--both in Culver City--and each visible from the  front door of the other. Ford's Filling Station came out on top.  Free public parking was available within a few blocks, and we walked into a relatively empty establishment at noon on a Tuesday. We ordered a couple of Pub Burgers at $12 each--$3.00 extra for some bacon (on the side) and Cheddar.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef:  100% Angus Chuck.  Keep in mind that Ford's Filling Station is a gastropub, so when I was told that I was getting 12 buck Chuck, I was less than impressed. We were informed that they ground the beef on the premises. Why bother? It struck me that if they were charging $12 for a burger, and they had their own grinding apparatus, then they could have added some interesting/flavorful cuts to the blend to deliver some bang for the buck and some flavor to their diners. The beef was mildly beefy; it tasted mildly of aging; it was juicy enough, but it just lacked any sort of oomph.  The beef was formerly sourced from Niman Ranch, but that was no longer touted on the menu. The beef was fine.

The Sear: The sear was EXCELLENT. It was crusty, dark, and even. This was the highlight of the burger. It provided a welcome shift in texture and savory flavors.

The Seasoning: They dusted the exterior with a pepper-skewed blend. It was competent and not over-applied. The seasoning was fine.

The Preparation: They griddled the hell out of those patties on a nuclear explosion of a flat top. This imparted a tremendous sear. In spite of the intense heat, they cooked the burgers to a perfect and pretty juicy Medium, as requested.  They ground the Chuck to Medium Coarse. The hand-formed patties were packed loosely, so the bite was tender. The patties were around 7 ounces.

The Cheese: They used a mild Cheddar, which served no purpose but to add fat to the dish. The Cheddar was completely uninteresting in terms of texture and flavor--its absence would not have been noted.

Way Too Much Bun
The Bun: I was informed that the brioche bun came from  Bread LA. Not that the purveyor of the buns mattered. The bun was the low point of the meal.. The top of the bun had been slathered in oil...unpleasant. This mildly sweet and chewy bun had thin strips of red onion baked into it to form a pattern. While this was visually appealing, I could have done without the onions in my burger. Also, the bun was a big, bready monster.

The Meat To Bun Ratio: This was tragically skewed in favor of the bun. Only by removing the bottom bun and flipping the whole works over were we able to actually taste the mild beef.

The Fries: The fries were fine. They were flat cut, skinny, peel on, and properly seasoned.  They were crisp and fried in a neutrally flavored and very hot oil.

The Toppings: The tomato wedges that came with the cheeseburgers were the nod to the "gastro" in "gastropub."  These were soaked in olive oil and dressed with fresh garlic. The bacon...dear gawd....the bacon. Apple wood smoked pork candy!  This bacon currently tops the list of things that I want to eat just before I die. The bacon was a phenomenal side dish.

The Value: $15 bucks for Chuck, weak Cheddar, and a massive oniony bun.  No!  The value was poor for a burger, which was merely fine.

Now, one of the worst burgers in LA, Father's Office, is in the area, so the bar has been set pretty low in Culver City for quality burgers.  That said, for 12 bucks, surely they could have done better than Chuck.....just sayin'.

Burger Review : I expected a little more from Ford's Filling Station...what I got was a fairly average burger for a premium price. Damn good bacon, though.

Rating...3 Bites

Friday, January 21, 2011

Go Burger -- Hollywood, CA CLOSED

6290 Sunset Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 327-9355

Fat Bruce Lee was not attractive enough to be allowed access to Hollywood, so that left it up to me to check out Go Burger during their first week of being open.  Go Burger is a BLT establishment, which is brought to us by Chef Laurent Tourondel. This was the LA outpost of the NYC Go Burger franchise.  I have been meaning to try BLT in NYC for some time, and this just saved me a ton of gas money. Go Burger only opened in LA three days prior to this review, so I was chancing that they wouldn't have the usual service and quality kinks. Parking on Sunset was what one might expect. The was a line and a list for a table, but since I was flying  solo, I sat down at the bar--no waiting--same menu....suckahs.

I ordered The Classic, which was a 100% Black Angus burger for $9.00, American Cheese $1.00 (sigh), the Skinny Fries $3.00, the Duck Fat Fries $6.00, and a Diet Coke. The joint was packed, but there was a staff of 8-10 in the kitchen.  It did take  30 minutes to deliver a burger, and I chalked this up to newness and an unexpectedly large lunch crowd.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: The beef was a coarsely ground blend of Chuck, Sirloin, Shortribs, and Brisket. There was an upgrade option ($18) for a 30-day, dry-aged blend of Brisket, Shortribs, and Sirloin--next time....I have to imagine that would be on par with the Black Label Burger at NYC's Minetta Tavern, which is simply amazing. The  Classic burger's beef blend tasted great. It was strongly beefy. A mild aging came through, band this was expressed as a pleasant end note. The blend was easily beyond 20% fat, which made for a creamy mouth feel. That creaminess was a nice counterpoint to the firm chewiness of the sirloin. In spite of the fat content, the burger was juicy rather than greasy.

The Sear: The partial sear was thin and satisfyingly crunchy. This provided a nice contrast to the creamy beef.

The Seasoning: On the first few bites, I hit a patch where the patty was over-salted. Once I got past those first few bites, everything settled in, and the seasoning was well-balanced both inside and out.

The Preparation: The 5-6 ounce patty was loosely formed and cooked on very hot griddle. The burger came out to a perfect Med-Rare.

The Cheese: Go Burger offered a variety of quality cheese options. I opted for American on this outing. I am glad that I did, because my second choice, the Vermont Cheddar, would have been too salty. The Cheddar would have also masked the subtle notes of the beef blend. The American cheese was beautifully melted. It matched and accentuated the creaminess of the beef fat while bringing some tasty umami to the party. The cheese was a winner.

The Bun: Breadbar provided the perfect buns. Breadbar can do no wrong in the burger bun department. This was a toasted, seeded burger bun, which was mildly sweet, a touch yeasty, moist, firm, yielding, and perfectly toothsome.

The Meat to Bun Ratio: Perfect--just perfect.

The Fries: The Skinny Fries were just right. They were perfectly seasoned, crisp, and creamy on the inside. They were cooked in a properly hot and fresh oil. The Duck Fries were a weak point. These were cut thicker, and they came out mealy. This was the result of the starting temperature of the oil being too low--the oil did end up at a hot enough temperature, as the burner kicked in, so these fries looked fine. It was the initial temperature variance that ruined the texture. The chef at the pass agreed, comped the Duck Fat Fries, and sent out some Waffle Fries--they were perfect.

Skinny Fries

The Value: It was $20 bucks for a cheeseburger, fries, soda, and the tip. This was a little pricey, but the quality of ingredients and skill of preparation were in place.

Burger Review : Go Burger served up a darn good burger. I would have The Classic burger again, and I highly recommend it anyone that is in the neighborhood. I will be returning to try the Prime STEAKHOUSE Burger.

Rating...4 Bites

Thursday, January 13, 2011

South Beverly Grill -- Beverly Hills, CA

122 S. Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90212

Fat Bruce Lee (on a diet) and I were on our way to sample a Ruth's Chris burger, but the allure of the South Beverly Grill was simply too much for us to resist, so we stopped short of our destination. Upon reaching the front door, we did discover that South Beverly Grill was a Hillstone Restaurant Group joint--Gulf Stream, R+D Kitchen, and Houston's--none of these burgers had been stellar, and some had been downright lousy.  But...we eat hard so you don't have to, so we pressed on.  There was no wait for bar seating, so bar it was. This was one of the few bars that I have been to that served those tiny bottles of Diet Coke rather than having a fountain or a gun to fill the glasses. The cheeseburgers were $14 each and came with the usual toppings and fries.

It is worth noting that "diet" does mean what Fat Bruce Lee thinks that it means.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: 80:20 Chuck...they were proud enough of the Chuck to state on the menu that they used, "Ground Chuck Steak, all the way." Interestingly and happily, unlike at the sister restaurants, the beef at the South Beverly Grill was pretty good--it was strongly beefy in flavor. It was lacking in iron and aging, but it was flavorful and pleasant. It was also very juicy.

The Sear: They cooked it on a gas grill and got some thorough grill marks on the patty. This gave it a satisfying medium sear and no char. This was good, too.

The Seasoning: This was a little overdone. The individual that was grilling the burgers had a heavy hand with the spice shaker. As a result, the burgers were over-salted--not dramatically, but they used more seasoning than was appropriate. The salt did dominate/mask the more subtle flavors of the burger. There was enough blood in the burger that it should have tasted of iron, but the salt killed that flavor.

The Preparation: They nailed the requested Medium over a hot gas grill. The 9 ounce patties were formed gently with a house ground Chuck--the grind was medium coarse. This made the burgers firm but not chewy--it also left long enough strands of beef so that the mouth feel was substantial and satisfying.

The Cheese: Meh--the cheese was a passenger--the mild, white Cheddar added nothing to the dish--perhaps this was because of the amount of salt shaken onto the patty.

The Bun: They baked the chewy, sweet, seeded, moist, yeasty burger buns in house. The bun was fresh and toothsome. It was springy yet yielding--this was a truly excellent bun.  The other Hillstone establishments' kitchen staffs should spend a week at South Beverly Grill to learn how it's done. This goes for not only the baking of the buns but also the grinding and grilling of the meat.

The Meat to Bun Ratio:  It was PERFECT...down to the last morsel.

The Fries: These were super skinny, crisp fries, which needed more salt, but they were fine.  Skinny fries like this, due to the high surface area to volume ratio, loose their heat rapidly. This results in room temperature fries--not a fan.

The Value: It was difficult to gauge--Fat Bruce Lee and I were in shock that a Hillstone restaurant put out a good burger.  $14 was a little steep for Chuck, but this was a burger that we would eat again--the value was fine.

R+D Kitchen, Houstons, and Gulf Stream all started with the same ingredients, but none of them were able to produce a cheeseburger as good as the one that we had at South Beverly Grill.

Burger Review : This was a better than average burger, and the portion was large. We both finished our burgers in spite of the over-seasoning.

Rating...4 Bites

Monday, January 10, 2011

Beverly Hills Diner -- Beverly Hills, CA

474 North Beverly Drive
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

My cholesterol levels were getting dangerously low, and I noticed that Beverly Hills Diner had gotten a little love on some food sites because of the tasty cheeseburgers that they had been reportedly serving up. I am often amazed at the seemingly endless number of burger places that there are in LA. Beverly Hills Diner was located at the corner of Beverly Drive and Little Santa Monica Blvd, which put it within a block of Bouchon (awesome), Wolfgang's Steakhouse (sometimes awesome), and The Farm of Beverly Hills (horror on a burnt bun).  Beverly Hills Diner was the least fancy (expensive) of the lot--a burger there went for about $8.50--a big, Double Diner Burger--no fries--those were about 3 bucks extra.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: This was a nicely aged, 80:20 Chuck. The beef was funky from the aging and really beefy. This burger really tasted like a burger. It was also as juicy as it could get without receiving an X-rating. This burger, like Nook and The Six, really showcased how good Chuck can be when placed in the right hands.

The Sear: This was nearly non-existent. The beef was so moist that as it cooked on the griddle, it exuded so much water that it was steamed in its own juices--as a result, things were just too wet for the Maillard reaction to take place. This was not a deal breaker--the burger meat was good enough without the sear.

The Seasoning: They lightly salted the exterior with just the right amount of salt to enhance the savoriness without drawing attention to the seasonings.

The Preparation: The loosely formed, medium coarse grind patties (about 5 oz each) were smashed on a hot griddle to a sopping wet Well Done. This treatment was just fine for this beef and was in keeping with expectations of a diner griddled cheeseburger.

The Cheese: Meh--this was a mild, yellow Cheddar, which was merely along for the ride. The beef was so flavorful and wet that this particular cheese stood no chance of contributing to the dish in terms of flavor or texture. The cheese did not detract, it simpls added extra calories.

The Bun: The bun was a very moist, egg bun. It was just a little yeasty and sweet but bordered on neutral. The bun did a very capable job of keeping fingers dry without intruding on the bite.

The Meat to Bun Ratio: It was spot on from the first bite to the last.

The Fries: They looked great. My table got the cheese fries, so it was impossible to judge the fries on their own merit--the cheese fries were covered with the same meh cheese that came with the burger, so they were not exciting.

The Value--YES!  I would have the Double Diner Burger at Beverly Hills Diner again. I think I'll take Happy Meal there--he loves diners.

Burger Review : The burger at Beverly Hills Diner was a winner at less than 1/2 the price of the cheeseburger at Bouchon. It was not in the same class as the steakhouse burger at Wolfgang's Steakhouse (on a good day), but it was a darn fine burger, nonetheless.

Rating...4 Bites

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Simmzy's -- Manhattan Beach, CA

229 Manhattan Beach Boulevard
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266-5314
(310) 546-1201

Happy Meal and I had finished up at the Aquarium of the Pacific, and it was time for dinner. We had been hearing good things about Simmzy's, and it was kind of..sort of...on the way to our domicile.  Parking was relatively easy, but they juke an extra quarter/hour out of you in Manhattan Beach by only giving you 12 minutes for a quarter.

Simmzy's had a healthy menu of microbrews, but Happy Meal was already tanked on the vodka that I used to spike his apple juice--he's so cute when he bumps into walls. I still had to drive that evening, and the fistful of random pills that I had kiestered earlier in the afternoon were starting to kick in. I didn't want to add another chemical element into the mix. We ordered Diet Coke and lemonade. After the usual awkward interrogation of the server to determine what cuts of beef were in the burgers--they always say "Angus" first...sigh. We ordered a couple of plain cheeseburgers cooked Medium.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef:  It was Sterling Chuck derived from Angus cattle. The beef had no taste of aging or iron, and it was only mildly beefy in flavor.  It was ground to medium. It was far greasier than it needed to be--see the shot of well-lubed knife later in this review to get a feel for the fat content of the burger at Simmzy's.  Keep in mind that this was the same beef that Nook used for their burgers, but at Simmzy's the beef had  almost no character. Nook's burger made a funky , bold statement. This burger was timid in comparison. This may have been due to the choice and application of the seasonings.

The Seasoning:   This was my first burger au poivre.  Simmzy's got a crunchy coating of mild, cracked peppercorns on the burger. Next, they melted the cheese on top of that to inexorably fuse it to the burger. This was way too much cracked pepper for the thickish burger--it obscured all of the other flavors. This was true for both burgers. An au poivre treatment is great on a steak, but that's because the texture of the steak causes the effect of the pepper to dissipate during the chewing the case of the Simmzy's burger, chewing simply forced the pepper evenly throughout the ground beef. The result was that pepper flavor dominated the bite from start to finish.

The Sear: They used a wood fired grill to get a  lackluster sear on the burger patties, but it provided no crunch.

The Preparation: The coating of cracked pepper overwhelmed any smokiness that may have been present from grilling the burger over a wood fire. The burgers came out closer to Med Well than the requested Medium. The burger patty was formed with medium pressure, so it was firm but not chewy.

The Cheese: This was a very mild Cheddar, which was properly melted. It really lacked oomph, and it ended up being a passive player in this dish. Considering the power of the seasoning on the burger, they should have used a much sharper cheese to fight through the coating of pepper and provide some umami  and savoriness to the dish.

The Bun: The bun was one of those impeccably toothsome, neutral, moist, and perfectly competent brioche-style buns from Breadbar. It was not toasted, and in the face of a weak sear, the bun really should have been toasted to provide that element of texture.

The Meat to Bun Ratio:  Perfect! It's almost impossible to go wrong with a bun from Breadbar.

The Fries: They were very crisp, but they were over-salted with a granular salt, which could not be brushed off. The fine-grained salt served as a confusing inconsistency considering that the kitchen used coarse cracked pepper on the burgers.

The Value: $3.00 for fries and a 10 buck burger that didn't warrant eating more than half of it. The value was...meh. 

Burger Review : Simmzy's prepared an OK/Average burger. If you asked them to go easy on the pepper, it would probably be a little better.

Rating...3 Bites

Friday, January 7, 2011

Bluebird Cafe -- Culver City, CA

8572 National Boulevard
Culver City, CA 90232-2447

Fat Bruce Lee was on a diet, so it was my job to help him fail.  I needed someone to compare myself to so that I come out favorably, and I was not about to let his health concerns trump my vanity and need to feel superior. Remember, we eat hard so you don't have to--we chose an out of the way spot called Bluebird Cafe. Bluebird Cafe was in the hinterlands of Culver City, and it was further complicated to get there due to a light rail construction project. We went at lunch time--the place was only 50% full--there was free parking beside the restaurant.

We ordered a cheeseburger, and by "Cheeseburger" I mean a massive9 oz cheeseburger, a big pile of tasty fries, a salad (quality, mixed greens), and a cupcake...all for about $10..that's right 10 bucks.

The Burger Breakdown:

The Beef: The beef in the Bluebird Cafe burgers was 80:20, Angus, ground Chuck. It had no trace of aging. It was pleasantly, but not strongly, beefy. The burger patty was juicy and enjoyable.

The Sear: KABOOM! The sear was crunchy, dark, and had a wee hint of carbon to remind us that man harnessed the power of fire for a reason. That reason was to get a sear onto the dead critters that we like to eat. Bluebird Cafe nailed the sear, and they did it on a gas grill.

The Seasoning: The burger was seasoned on the exterior with something salty and maybe just a little fiery like a hint of cayenne.  The seasoning was good.

The Preparation: The medium ground Chuck was firmly formed into large, thick, even, flat patties. The patties were gas grilled to Med/Med-Well. I had requested Medium, but they cooked them a little hard. This was not the end of the world, since Chuck can tolerate a little over-cooking. The beef was juicy enough to handle the cooking temp, too

The Cheese: This was a bland, rubbery, Tillamook Cheddar, which simply did nothing for the burger--it NEVER does. It really didn't melt, so it contributed nothing in terms of of texture since the cheese didn't properly combine with the meat while it was in the mouth. It was bland, so it contributed nothing in terms of savory or umami notes. The cheese was a pass.

The Bun: They briefly attempted to toast the big brioche on the grill, but this didn't accomplish anything. The bun was cold and untoasted. Beyond that it was too dry, so it robbed the dish of moisture. I ate half of the burger topless, and the other half with no bun at all. Also, they oiled the top of the bun, and I hated the greasy feeling. The bun was a pass.

The Meat to Bun Ratio: There was too much bun. 

The Fries: The shoe string-style fries were cooked in fresh canola oil. The fries were crisp, golden, and seasoned with flakes of sea salt, parsley, and bits of fried garlic.The fried garlic was mild, but it took the frozen, food service fries and made them great. I would have the fries again.
The Value: The value was gut busting. 10 bucks for a mountain of food--most of which was good. We never even got to the cupcakes, but we were told that they were delicious.

This was a slightly better than average burger with weak cheese and a weak bun. Had they used a decent bun and some American cheese, the Bluebird Cafe would have had a winning cheeseburger on their hands. The bun and cheese dragged the burger down to average in spite of the epic value.

Burger Review : Bluebird Cafe served up an slightly above average tasting burger on a weak bun, BUT the value was tremendous, and the fries were excellent.

Burger Rating...3 Bites

Saturday, January 1, 2011

DG Burger -- Costa Mesa, CA

South Coast Plaza
3333 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, CA 92626

A fist-sized burger at DG Burger
What if acclaimed American chef Charlie Palmer opened up a burger joint?  You'd get DG Burger in Costa Mesa. According to the signage, DG stood for "Damn Good." When an establishment declares their burger to be damn good, we are obliged to see if that claim holds up.  Happy Meal and I headed down to the South Coast Plaza in Orange County to investigate. Chef Palmer and crew had already had a month to work out the kinks, so we hoped for a smooth service.

It certainly smelled of tasty burgers as we approached the Bloomingdale's entrance of the mall. We were the only customers at the DG Burger space when we arrived at noon, so we encountered no waiting time. We ordered the DG Burger, $7.95, with aged Cheddar, $2.00 extra, cripes. $9.95 for a cheeseburger--we passed on the $5.00 fries, since a tiny bottle of Diet Coke was already $3.00, and a chocolate malt (it tasted heavily of molasses) was $5.00--it was a cloying and unpleasant version of a milkshake. Still, this was one of Charlie Palmer's self-proclaimed Damn Good Burgers. After a brief wait, our food arrived from the kitchen. The attendant at the ordering kiosk (not kidding) was kind enough to let us have the accompanying vegetables and sauce on the side--well, that's what I requested, twice. What happened is that none of that stuff ever showed up...Weak!  I also had to ask her twice about the beef blend in the patties. She didn't seems to care enough to remember...keep in mind that this is Charlie Palmer's signature burger venue. We ordered the chicken skewers, too, but Happy Meal found them repulsive. They whisked them away from the table but failed to suggest/provide an alternative or offer a refund, so I just threw that 8 bucks away. Weak.

The Burger Breakdown...

The Beef: 60% Chuck, 20% Short Rib, and 20% Hangar Steak  The patty was about 5 ounces, and the beef was coarsely ground. The beef was better than average:
  • It was reasonably flavorful. It did lack a beefy punch, though.
  • There was not taste of aging that one might expect from the non-Chuck elements.
  • It was not overly greasy.
  • It was almost juicy enough. The cooked mine pretty hard--maybe Med-Rare would have been better.
  • The beef was toothsome without being chewy, and the gristle from the Chuck was minimal.
The Sear: The sear was hefty, dark, and crunchy. There was a certain amount of char, which was pleasant on the first few bites, but over time that wore thin, and had me wondering why Charlie Palmer dinged me 10 bucks for a small backyard burger.

The Seasoning:  The seasoned the exterior, and the blend was not seasoned. This was fine.  The patty was small and thin enough not to require seasoning throughout. Still, it was lacking in umami flavors.

The Preparation:  The small patty was medium in thickness--about 1/2 inch. The blend was formed into patties with gentle pressure, so the bite was firm without being chewy. Sadly, it was cooked too hard--Medium/Medium-Well.  The puck of beef was cooked on a mighty hot gas grill.

The Cheese: It sure didn't taste like 2 bucks. It was merely fine. It was a competent  medium sharp, white Cheddar, which didn't really stand up to the chewy bun. It did, however, lend some creaminess to bite.

The Bun: This was a toasted, Semolina/Potato bun. It was mild, dense, and satisfyingly chewy.  The bun was fine and it stood up to the firmness of burger. This came from a local bakery.

The Meat to Bun Ratio: This was dead on.

The Value: The DG Burger was a lousy value.10 bucks for a small burger, no fries, and an extra 3 bucks for a mini bottle of soda was way too much. A bigger, better, and less expensive burger can be found at Umami Burger.

Charlie, you got me once, but you won't get me twice.  The burger was pretty good, but it was way over-priced considering the following:
  • the indifferent service, 
  • the meager portion size, 
  • the burger was mostly Chuck, 
  • the over-cooked and over-charred patty,
  • the fries were $5.00 extra, sodas cost three bucks, 
  • the chocolate malt was not good. 
Also, DG Burger was in a mall. I suppose they must have been banking on having enough mall traffic that they would not need repeat business to sustain them. I didn't mind shelling out some dough at Charlie Palmer's at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas, but the portions were not miserly there, either.  Happy Meal and I walked away from DG Burger hungry and feeling a little ripped off.  We were both ready for lunch after blowing 32 bucks (with tip) at DG Burger. That notwithstanding, we don't really rate on the value--we rate on the burger alone, and it was pretty good.

Burger Review : Damn Good Burger was hyperbole for "Way Over-Priced, Dinky, Better Than Average But Not Great Burger."  I walked in a fan, and I walked out a skeptic.

Rating...2 Bites....Service and Value were so bad that we factored them in. The flavor was better than average, but the burger was over-cooked and charred.  We do not, by any stretch of the imagination, suggest that anyone go to DG Burger.

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