Saturday, September 27, 2008

Burger Bar, Las Vegas Nevada

Perhaps it was Boulud, perhaps some point someone decided that a 99cent cheeseburger at McDonalds simply wasn't enough. Foie Gras, Truffles, Shrimp, name it, you got it. While I do find it odd that I found myself being led into Burger Bar by my friend when I don't particularly like beef and don't eat burgers, I will admit to have had a few in the past and my all-time was the Thurman Burger in Columbus Ohio, a famous one in its own right. In a day that included Tableau for breakfast and Alex for dinner I must say I didn't expect much from the Burger Bar....but I was pleasantly surprised.

While the Bar was located in a shopping mall at Mandalay Bay I didn't judge....most of Vegas feels like a mall anyhow and Per Se in NYC is located in a mall, as well. Arriving around 2:30pm there was a line...a good sign I guess....our names were taken and 10 minutes later we found ourselves seated at a 4-top in the middle of the restaurant. While the place was quite loud, conversation was quite easy and our menus were delivered quickly. With 5-6 bread options, 5-6 meat options, 40-50 topping options, plus desserts it actually took longer to order than we had imagined. Eventually I settled on the Turkey Burger on Ciabatta with grilled Shrimp, Pesto, and a side order of Sweet Potato fries while my buddy opted for the Kobe Beef Burger with Sharp Cheddar and Hickory Bacon on Whole Wheat with Spicy Skinny Fries and a sampler of beers.

As the place was busy we chatted for a bit and I decided to get up and explore. Much to my surprise the kitchen was wide open for viewing and I wandered about to realize how fresh all the ingredients were, the bread being baked in visible ovens, and the meats stored in large lockers. Everything appeared very hygienic and clean, very much unlike your average burger shack. By the time I arrived back at the table my buddy was working on his beer and approximately two minutes later the food arrived. While I spent a moment dressing my burger and eating my incredibly garlicky pickle spear, I heard my buddy partially-moan....clearly he was loving this burger.

Once my burger was adequately dressed and I had a large pile of ketchup for my fries it was time to dig in. Crisp ciabatta with a fluffy interior first greeted my tongue followed by the wonderful basil blast of the pesto mingling with plump and tender shrimp and well cooked yet juicy turkey. Great texture, quality ingredients, wonderful flavor, well cooked....what more can you ask for in a burger? I next dug into the fries which were simply fantastic and #3 only to Michael Mina's Duck Fat Fries and Michael Symon's Lola Fries in terms of crispy outside and soft/salty inside. I do find it rather unfortunate that the restaurant did not order an organic/original ketchup given the quality of the ingredients otherwise, but I guess a minimal amount of HFCS won't kill me.

Having finished off our burgers and laughing more at the PTI analysis of the USC/Oregon State result my buddy and I opted for a dessert burger - the chocolate version featuring a split donut topped with a chocolate gnache puck, mango "cheese", and strawberries. Humorous in presentation and tasty in flavor, this choice was excellent and split down the middle this "burger" was just enough after the huge burger/fries. The mango cheese was especially surprising in its fresh taste and jello-like texture while the chocolate puck was so rich I doubt I'd have finished one myself. The donut was a tad dry, IMO, but didn't hurt the burger overall.

All told I liked the energy and the food at Burger Bar. While certainly our most "low class" meal, I actually enjoyed the experience and the pricetag more than Sensi and Craftsteak and my buddy loved it which was excellent since he humored me in going to so many French restaurants on the weekend. IMO, foie and truffles are best served by a chef like Stratta or Savoy and not on a piece of beef and buried under toppings...the concept of the Rossini Burger is ludicrous and anyone ordering it is showing off and missing out on the opportunity for more originality and customization at a lower price. Regardless, to each his/her own and I think the concept of designer burgers has a lot to offer...even if the underdressed and uncustomizable option at Father's Office is still the standard by which most burgers are judged.

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