>> Saturday, September 17, 2011

I'm going to digress off the normal format of a review for this restaurant because the experience at Burlap was abnormal. I visited Burlap because with it being walking distance from my place, I figured I would be asked about it and have to have an opinion about it.  Furthermore, with Chef Malarkey showcasing his burger on the Today Show, I figured it would be an easy way to kill two birds with one stone and add a stop to the burger shootout series.

Since I'm writing about Burlap's burger now, clearly it will not be a part of that burger shootout. Since I only ordered the burger though, I'll go ahead and give a review of what would have been included, as the eating of the food went normally.
Note: I'll state it now and again when I get to the restaurant burgers but all of these burgers are really good. If you're going to go wrong at these places, I'll let you know. With that said, it is my job to be the nitpicker and split hairs to determine which of these restaurant burgers is the best, so I've really increased the level of criticism for these burgers.
Burlap calls their burger the beefburger and it contains gruyere cheese, butter lettuce, tomato, red onion, grilled onions, and "baconnaise". According to the Today Show, the baconnaise is mayonnaise that is made in house out of bacon fat. For an extra $3, I was able to add a side of sweet potato fries.
sweet potato fries with ginger aioli
The sweet potato fries seemed to be the standard throw away frozen sweet potato fries you see everywhere, but I was actually pretty impressed when these initially came out. They weren't overcooked, were crunchy, and I really enjoyed the ginger dipping sauce. There was also some fried parsley flakes thrown on top to enhance the fries a bit.
I ordered the burger medium rare, but what I got was on the far side of medium. Fortunately, this mistake did not detract too much from the enjoyment of the dish as the burger was still juicy. What was different about this burger was that the burger had a nice sear on the outside the resembled more of the cast iron skillet cooking method rather than the grill. The outer meat formed a nice carmelized crust, which trapped the juices of the burger in the patty. Where I did have an issue was that the beef was allegedly grass fed but turned out to be Brandt chuck. As soon as I took a bite, I knew it wasn't grass fed so I asked the server to confirm the sourcing with the kitchen (and it was confirmed).
 I've never been a fan of raw onions on burgers, and I was very skeptical of this burger when I saw it included both raw and grilled onions. However, I didn't end up minding the raw onions as they added some textural contrast to the burger that was otherwise sorely missing it. This brings up the point of the baconnaise. The baconaisse did deliver in that it tasted like bacon and acted as mayo to the burger. However by not actually including bacon, the burger was missing what otherwise would have been a nice crunch for textural contrast.
The bun did not appear to be house made and it wasn't "pretty" in terms of how fluffy it looked, but it was the correct density in terms of not drowning out the flavor of the burger. It was also toasted, which always increases the enjoyability of the bread. It was a standard white bread bun.

Taste: 70.625

  • Overall: 80
  • Patty: 50
  • Bun: 50
  • Other: 80
  • Temperature: 65
Value: 55
$12 for a Brandt Beef burger and salad, $3 for the fries. If Burger Lounge can give a grass fed burger for $8, fine dining restaurants should be able to find a way to offer a grass fed burger for charging $12.

Creativitiy: 35
The baconnaise was creative, but I wasn't a big fan of it. The only other aspect of creativity was the inclusion of both grilled and raw onions, which isn't that creative.

Miscellaneous: 76.67
  • Sides: 60 - I did enjoy the fries, but the soy-ponzu dressing for the salad was overpowering. Asian flavors are clean and refined not raw and overbearing
  • Plating: 90 
  • Service: 80 - The server was helpful and willing to go ask questions about the food he was unaware of. Food arrived in a timely manner
Overall: 63.1

The Abnormal Bit:
As I was finishing up the food, Chef Malarkey walked into the restaurant (he doesn't actually cook there). He noticed that I was taking photos and I guess he wanted to know why I was there taking the photos. Along with (what I assume) was his head chef and the general manager, he struck up a conversation with me that went the following way (paraphrased to the best of my memory).
Malarkey: Who are you shooting for?
Me: Myself - I'm a blogger.
Malarkey: Oh really? That's nice
Me: Yes, I'm doing a series on gourmet fine dining burgers.
Malarkey: What did you think of the food, are you going to write about it?
Me (deciding if I should tell the truth - why not?): I enjoyed that you got a nice sear on the patty as nobody else did that, but I ordered medium rare and got medium
Malarkey (interrupting): Uh-oh, you're one of those tough ones
Me (continuing):  And your patty isn't really grass fed as it's Brandt. At a fine establishment such as this, I'd much rather pay the extra $2 for the real grass fed. You can really taste that last year of the cattle being corn fed.
Malarkey: Well The Counter is right across the parking lot, why don't you go walk over there?
Me: Actually The Counter uses commodity beef...
Malarkey (walking away): Yeesh! Well the world needs more bloggers...
Needless to say, I won't be returning to Burlap anytime soon. It's one thing to be disappointed by the food or the service (which I wasn't in this case), it's an entirely different thing to pay money to the restaurant and leave insulted. I probably should have asked for a refund since the General Manager listened to the entire conversation...
Following the conversation, it was pointed out to be that sourcing of ingredients is a sore point for Malarkey.  It looks like Malarkey doesn't believe there are actually chefs that forage for food, shop themselves, and use local and sustainable product. Instead he has someone on his team order product from a farm and then calls his food farm to table. I guess if I had known I would have asked to speak to Tim Mavrakos...


Rodzilla September 17, 2011 at 9:17 PM  

No doubt they shouldn't advertise something if they don't have it, and I always hold your opinion in high regard. That said, this interaction didn't get me up in arms.

If that was the conversation verbatim then I think he likely would have given a very different response had you fashioned your own a bit differently.

You even said the food was very good, I probably would have told him that first - then went on to say "I did want to bring to your attention that the beef...and I wanted to ask about the grass-fed beef"

just my take.

Tim P September 18, 2011 at 8:48 AM  

>>>it's an entirely different thing to pay money to the restaurant and leave insulted<<<

And of course you see nothing insulting in your behavior? I do think you need to get over yourself.

James September 18, 2011 at 9:41 AM  

@Rodzilla - I don't think the point is to get up in arms over it. As for why I didn't just say it was good to begin with, I tend to get caught up into small details at the moment, so in this case I was really bothered by the temperature being medium instead of medium rare, which clouded my judgement. I also wasn't (and still am not) a fan of the baconnaise. The conversation is also pretty much verbatim from my memory because I don't want it to be said that I spun what he said or took it out of context.

@Tim - Yes, I could have phrased the feedback better, but I chose to tell the entire story to my own detriment rather than simply taking the quote out of context. If a Chef asks you about the food, I think they should be prepared for some criticism, even if they are the local celebrity.

Bobby @ Gourmands Review September 18, 2011 at 2:06 PM  

Malarkey could have easily used this opportunity to explain why he uses Brandt over other products and talk food with someone who actually knows and cares about the product being served but instead he chose to act the way he did. If you are going to ask what someone thought of your food expect an honest answer or don't ask at all. Not everyone is going to kiss your ass because you were on TV and are somewhat of a, and I use this term loosely 'celebrity chef'. If you care more about being a celebrity go design a cookware line and sell it on HSN.

Anonymous,  September 19, 2011 at 10:14 AM  

Malarkey, is so high on his so called fame, that he can carless about customers. He just cares about his popularity. Being able to tell grass fed from corn fed is something he believes his customers don't know. He has no respect for people, just his 15 minutes of fame. The good thing is in the end his food will have to shine through, his fame will fade and he won't be around in a few years.

Anonymous,  September 19, 2011 at 12:37 PM  

I think the real issue is not being addressed here: Baconnaise sounds delicious.
Oh, and Gastro Bits, your photogrphy skills are first rate.

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gastro bits is a blog that juxtaposes the geeky with the foodie; it is an attempt to be educational about food, yet entertaining at the same time.
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