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Monthly Archives: April 2013

Fillet mignon burger

Let’s talk about show-offs; specifically those who strive to appear sophisticated. Generally, dedicating excessive effort to anything for the purpose of appearing as impressive as possible is misguided if not wasted entirely. I’m talking about people who name drop their favorite philosophers’ theses in otherwise modest conversation not because they actually have their heads around why Slavoj Žižek’s papers on false consciousness are the most brilliant shit ever (for example), but because they know that you’ll act like you know what that means and google it when you get home. I know I have. Forced intellectualism when paired with a distaste for simple (awesome) things is exponentially worse. People who universally  turn their noses up at things like bowling, dumb funny movies, and crummy domestic beer at a professional sporting event about which you actually care very little, tend to get the same smug “cool, bro”-themed reaction from me. Taking pride in your passion is one thing, but fancy for fancy’s sake is another, and it usually sucks. Usually. I am not sure who developed the recipe for the burger at the recently opened Los Feliz Scottish pub The Morrison, but that individual is most assuredly a show-off, and contrary to where the last several sentences seemed to be leading, one who deserves every praise soaked word of syrupy flattery that I am about to spew.

That busted little sushi place on Los Feliz blvd. just East of the L.A. River finally shut down. I never ate there, nor had I ever heard anyone speak of it. What replaced it however, immediately bore allure. Several friends made mention of the new phoenix of a Gastropub, risen from the sushi slums ashes before the paint dried it seemed. It still took me a few months to get there, mainly because no one managed to note that this new neighborhood watering hole had a burger. My suffered lag in discovering this place is of no consequence. What matters is this: I know about it, and now you will too.

Morrison Burger total package

The Morrison is fancy, and it’s no accident. The menu features Scottish themed cuisine and from what I am told some of it is pretty legit, though I wouldn’t claim to be able to grade the authenticity of Highland inspired dishes. They have a specialty cocktail menu that I did not fully explore but the apple wood smoked apple bourbon is definitely worth a go, which is not something I often say about an eleven dollar drink. The smoked salmon and scotch egg appetizers are good too: the first being huge sashimi sized hunks of house smoked salmon on grilled rye corners, and the latter a runny egg deep fried inside a sheath of lightly breaded venison sausage. Neither would have me writing home, though both are recommended. The burger however, has got me writing right now.

The Morrison Filet Mignon burger

The Fillet Mignon Burger at The Morrison is called that because (care to guess?) it has a steak on it. Predictably, this instantly flipped my skepticism switch on. Allow me to build this thing for you, from the bottom up: English Muffin, celeriac remoulade, ground sirloin patty, port salut cheese, a fucking steak, and marrow butter. Now allow me to elaborate on some of these ingredients in case they don’t sound snobby enough. Celeriac remoulade is a thin caper (and possibly anchovy) aioli with coarsely chopped celery root, which ended up being best described as sloppy, salty, cole slaw. Port Salut is very similar to muenster cheese but with a higher fat content so it’s extra creamy, and marrow butter is literally soft butter with roasted bone marrow folded in, because plain butter just isn’t rich enough (obviously). This burger’s description is the kind that makes me say “cool bro” and assume that their goal is more to create something impressive to discuss than delicious to eat. Well I sincerely hope that this is the only time I have ever been so completely wrong about anything. This burger is stunning. The distinctly different flavor and texture of the fillet vs. the patty was far more discernible than I expected, and the other 3 components add a TON of richness without any strong or competitive flavor, so you really taste the quality of the meat. The caper in the remoulade must come from the juice, you don’t see them in the “slaw” but the distinct flavor is in there and nearly the only thing offering any sharpness at all. Every other component is mild and as rich as can be. A side of heirloom pickles, which were also spectacular, perfectly contrasted the soft round flavors of the burger with cold crunch and acid. Butter and remoulade will run down your arm, so don’t fool yourself into thinking you’ll look good eating this burger, but rest assured you will not care. Also, it’s small compared to what L.A. restaurants have trained us to expect, which works out perfectly because if it were significantly larger it would be overwhelming. When I say it’s rich, we’re talking RICH. I’ve never had anything quite like this burger, and I went back 2 days later to eat it again just to make sure that I hadn’t gotten lucky the first time.

PICKLES!

Apparently sometimes fanciness is genuine. The Morrison definitely gets my full cosign, and while this burger is probably not something you’re going to be craving once a week till the end of time, if you have a taste for well-executed, quality, non-traditional and RICH, then you have really got to experience the fillet mignon burger from this place.

-Geoff Sawyer

The Morrison Burger Guts

Check out the puddle of marrow butter on my plate.

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Photo by Tony C.

Photo by Tony C.

I’m gonna try and write this, but man oh man friends it’s been a hard week. As we speak there’s a full on manhunt in the city of Boston for a Chechen man who may or may not have set the bombs at the Boston marathon. His brother was shot last night. There were explosives being thrown out of vehicles, a shootout, and their relatives have been on the radio all morning denouncing their nephews.  A cop at MIT was shot and killed.  Young men who had nothing to do with the bombings have been targeted because of irresponsible reporting and Reddit. My cousins are under lockdown in their apartments. All of this has happened in less than 24 hours. It’s a lot to process.  I probably should have written this review last week when my heart was not sick with worry. But I didn’t.  So bear with me.

In Los Angeles, the police have been blowing up every suspicious package in sight. CicLAvia is going forward as planned on Sunday as is Coachella, but everyone is on edge. Seems like a good a time as any to talk about burgers because after this week we ALL need one. (With fries, extra cheese, bacon, and a spiked chocolate malt.)

Last week I headed to Comme Ca, a fancy French brasserie in West Hollywood. I knew this was going to be one of the big ones.  It’s a burger that is named dropped in most of the discussions I have with strangers about my favorite burger. It usually goes like this, “Yes, but have you tried the Comme Ca burger? OH you HAVEN’T?” *purses lips* “I see…” It’s one of those burgers that completely destroys your burger Los Angeles aficionado status when people find out you haven’t had it.

comme ca chalk board

Comme Ca is one of those odd places that are supposed to make you feel at home and fails to do so. They have lovely wooden floors, chalkboard walls with specials written on them, framed French themed sketches on the walls, exceptionally handsome waiters in pressed Ben Sherman checked shirts, low lighting, and white tablecloths. It’s supposed to feel like a bistro in Paris, but ends up feeling overdone. It’s a little too exact. It reminds me of a brand pair of jeans that you put on for the first time. It’s a wonderful color and fits you well, but still smells foreign and is a bit stiff.  It hasn’t formed to your body yet.  That’s how Comme Ca feels, not lived in yet.

The menu had a variety of gorgeous things from house cured salmon gravlax to roasted beef marrow and oxtail jam with toast, but I was there on a mission. Their burger has its own little section on the menu with a cow next to it (in case you were confused about what was in it?) It’s listed as a special blend of certified Angus beef, Vermont cheddar, and pomme frites. When it arrives however, the first thing you’ll notice about it is the giant scoop of coleslaw on top of it. Why it’s not mentioned in the description is beyond me. It’s like describing Charlie Chaplin without mentioning his mustache. It’s right there, people.  It is a wonderful sloppy mess.  The creamy coleslaw has a satisfying crunch that counters the juicy beef patty draped in cheese in the middle. It’s very hard to hold on to.

But is it worth its fame? No. Why? Because it’s eighteen freaking dollars.  That’s right. Eighteen.  A burger that costs that much should throw you into ecstasies.  After consuming such a burger, you should be weeping with joy. It should make you feel that if you keeled over and expired afterwards, you could die happy. The Comme Ca burger is a very good burger, but the price is absolutely unreasonable.  I don’t care how “special” their Angus beef blend is. At the end of the day it’s just a burger.

Comme Ca

 

 

F.O. Burger

Once upon a time I moved to L.A. Thanks do a dear friend, client, and maker of fine rap music, I was immediately made aware of the innumerable amazing places in this wonderful town where one might shift his or her stomach level from E to F. Within a very short window of time I also learned of the fact that Los Angeles is arguably Mecca to burger-heads such as myself, which lead to my frequent asking of any and everyone (which has yet to dissipate) “so what’s your favorite burger in L.A.?” A few answers came up far more than any others: Umami (of course), The Oinkster, Apple Pan, and this week’s burger maker: Father’s Office.

I excitedly made my way to the Culver City location immediately after hearing about it, and only shortly after calling Southern California home. At the time, Father’s Office was perhaps the most talked about burger of which I was aware, though to be fair, the burger quest on which I currently find myself had not yet begun. Rather than recount the entire experience I will distil to one point: the staff was SO rude, I hardly remember anything about the food. I have not been spoken to by a hostess that way in my life, before or since. I left completely disappointed and did not return for over 3 years.

Outside

Over the course of those 3 years, I really dug into this city and its burgers, and while the journey thus far did not suffer for a lack of Father’s Office, I did continue to encounter people who cited it as their all-time favorite. The masses had spoken, so a return trip, this time to the original Santa Monica location, had to be made.

Upon entering this quaint, nostalgic taproom, a bubbly young man offered to show me to a seat. His cheer and desire to please instantly bagged the other place. There was no way it was going to be as shitty this time. I found a seat at the crowded little bar and ordered my burger and fries (each are offered a la carte). They have a rather impressive draught beer selection as well that I would have loved to show you and I might have even ordered one, had the bartender not reprimanded me for attempting to take a photo of the taps. “House rule” he said. Apparently the fear is that someone will plagiarize their beer list. He was relatively polite considering his role at that moment in our interaction though. So far so good, kind of.

The Meal

Shoestring fries and ambiguously herby mystery aioli.

My burger came quickly, and I may be grading on a slight curve because I was STARVING. According to the menu, which I inspected closely only after I ate, the Father’s Office burger comes adorned with: caramelized onion, applewood bacon, gruyere, Maytag blue, and arugula. My notes about the onions were that they were very bouillon heavy: salty and sweet at the same time, and nearly overpowering of the other flavors. Upon reading the description, I inquired as to why my burger hadn’t had bacon on it (because it didn’t). The same cheerful gent who greeted me explained that the bacon wasn’t strips but is confit, and it’s IN the onions. I would absolutely never have known, but I really wish I had because I wonder if the experience would have been any different. I never picked bacon out as a flavor in those salty onions, and I’m so bothered by it now that I almost want to go eat it again as I write this. In any case, the burger is pretty well assembled even if one flavor dominated. The cheese appeared to be broiled on to the patty, making it melted and browned a.k.a delicious. Arugula is always a good pick for sharp green, and F.O. serves its burgers on buttered Portuguese rolls, which I thought was innovative. Instead of being yet another brioche pusher, they slap their burger on some cheap yummy white bread. The patty wasn’t particularly seasoned that I could tell, and was firmly packed for my preference but overall, Father’s Office has a great and somewhat unique burger.

Father's Guts

There’s a bug on my thumb. I didn’t eat it.

So the verdict is: there is some truth to the hype. Do I think that Father’s Office’s burger should rank amongst L.A’s finest? I might if it was six bucks, but for the money you spend I can think of many places I would rather eat. A burger, fries, one beer and decent tip is $30, and for that you can just about have your pick of any of Los Angeles’ finest ground meat sandies. To lay my initial Father’s Office experience to rest was not cathartic but important, and for the first time my opinion of this place is actually objective. This all feels good, but I’m still in no hurry to go back.

-Geoff Sawyer

The Lazy Ox Canteen Burger (Photo by Peter C.)

The Lazy Ox Canteen Burger (Photo by Peter C.)

The challenge this week was to find a good burger in Little Tokyo. My first attempt was at the Lazy Ox Canteen on San Pedro St.  Named Best Burger by LA Weekly in 2011, I figured this was a sure bet. Sitting down in this fancy pants gastro pub, I was instantly charmed by the beautiful menu which took its influences from all over the city. Basically they had everything  that a drunken gourmand would want from a bar, from pigs ear chicharrones to Galbi beef dumplings to Pacific prawns kebab. The low lighting and bare brick walls made the place feel cozy and warm.  All and all, if I was going to get some late night nibbles, this would be a good place to stop.

However, I would never come here for a burger.  Yes, on paper it looks magnificent.  7oz of beef on a brioche bun with bravo farms white cheddar, whole grain mustard, red onions, and a leaf of butter lettuce cooked just how you want it. Sounds satisfying, right? Here’s the thing. They over seasoned the beef. Instead of letting the meat shine through, they buried it in salt.  Perhaps if there had been a sweet counterpoint like a caramelized onion or a tomato jam, it would have been okay, but there was nothing to soften the blow but whole grain mustard and cheddar. Now, it is entirely possible that maybe I was just there on a bad day and they knocked over a salt shaker into the beef, but for a fifteen dollar burger  it was very disappointing.  Their fries, however, were excellent.  These thick cut  potatoes were golden and crispy and hot. (Although to be fair, I have yet to meet a fry that I didn’t like.)

The Spice Table Cheeseburger

The Spice Table Cheeseburger

Bummed out but not beaten, I decided to go over to The Spice Table on Central Ave to see if they fared any better.  Housed in a big brick building, the high ceilings and sparse but tasteful adornments reminded me a bit of having dinner in a rundown carriage house (in a good way). There was nothing frilly or pretentious about this place. All of the attention was paid to the food. The menu paid homage to the owners’ culinary heritage, Vietnam and Singapore respectively. Chock full of tempting satays and noodles, I was a little sad I was just getting the burger.

That is until it arrived. Then all those fleeting feelings of regret disappeared. Dressed in a wax paper bag escorted by a side of fries covered in garlic, a swimming pool of ketchup, and some delectable pickled bok choy, the burger did not disappoint.  Whoever designed the Spice Table cheeseburger is a very big fan of In -N-Out. Instead of a regular beef patty, the Spice Table upped it a notch by making theirs out of ground short rib and topped it with shallot mayo, but was not above putting a slice of Kraft American cheese on there. The real star of the sandwich was the sambal that gave it a subtle heat which took the burger from being good to great. It was the perfect fusion of high and low ingredients that gave the illusion of a classic American In-N-Out burger with a distinctly Singapore twist. So if you’re in Little Tokyo, hankering for a gourmet burger with twenty bucks in your pocket, this is the place to stop.

The Spice Table Cheeseburger Wins!

The Spice Table Cheeseburger Wins!