Friday, February 22, 2013

Collins Kitchen

Burger reviewed: The Wagyu Burger

Venue: Collins Kitchen @ the Grand Hyatt

Date: 22/02/2013

The Burger Friday brigade (including esteemed guests) ventured across the river to Collins Kitchen, a somewhat upmarket hotel eatery within the confines of the Spice Market building (better known for its questionably legal European backpackers on a Thursday night). In stark contrast, the restaurant presented a rather more demure Paris Hilton like surrounding compared with its arguably more famous sibling. Oh wait, I may have got that wrong, we were at the Grand Hyatt and there wasn’t a video camera involved.

Anyways onto the star of the show, the Wagyu burger with caramelized onion and smoked mozzarella. Given the hype surrounding this burger, there was much expectation among the Burger Friday crew with names such as the silky skilled Ryan Griffen or even the Little Master were being bandied around. At a touch over $40 each for the burger, shared chips and an overpriced bottle of Boags premium, the age old cost vs quality debate was not doubt to arise. For the record, Cabaret bar in sunny Brisbane wins the debate every time.

When then burgers arrived (albeit about 30 mins late with no chips), we were pleasantly surprised. Visually appealing, albeit simple. As the photo attests, unlike the 17th at Sawgrass there was nothing gimmicky about this and the result would come down to the quality of the core ingredients.

Anyways, down to the detail.

There was some debate as to whether the patty was pre-purchased from Coles or hand made. Although it was a good size for the bun and fairly well wood-fired, there was some something just something missing, perhaps taste.

Similar, the bun was mildly toasted and appealing to the eye. However structural integrity issues were to follow and I’m pretty sure I saw my bun in the $2 bin at Coles the night before.

I liken the toppings to the 2012 brownlow medallist, a beacon of light amongst an otherwise un-organised rabble. Although no bacon was afforded, the mozzarella and caramelized onions worked well in tandem, and there was also a healthy serve of mayonnaise and tomato relish. Minimalistic which definitely suited the burger, however like Brynne, its hard to dress up something that doesn’t work.

The chips had to be ordered separately. Double fried and generously cut, the texture was passable however with no seasoning, drowning in Heinz big red was required and ultimately, these didn’t quite live up to the test.

As a side note, particular comment needed to be given to the service on the day. After waiting over half an hour for the burger, the side orders of chips did not come until 20 minutes later, at which time all burgers were finished. You don’t exactly see Masterchef head honcho Marco Pierre White taking 50 minutes to bring out 2 plates of chips, even on a bad day.

In any event, I needed to think long and hard about who I could compare this burger to. There were significant similarities to Courtney Walsh (with the most ducks in test history, he knows what it’s like to take a long walk out there for minimal reward), Scott Gumbleton (Over hyped, cost a bomb and took a long time to ultimately under deliver) or even Warrington Wolves rugby player Paul Wood (something wasn’t quite right after he left something out the field during the 2012 rugby super league grand final and walked off with only one testicle). Bet the three seeds cider after the game, never quite tasted as right with two seeds missing.

Nevertheless, of all the overhyped sportsman who didn’t quite live up to their reputation, Oscar Pistorius (albeit topical) takes the cake. He was an inspiration to many through being the first amputee to participate in the able-bodied Olympics, taking part in the individual 400m race and also South Africa’s 4x400m  relay team. With his stunning model girlfriend, Pistorius arguably had the world at his fingertips with endless potential and rave reviews following him everywhere.  On 14 February 2013, Pistorius was charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, who was fatally shot at his home in Pretoria in the early hours of that morning. On this day, the level of disappointment felt when something doesn’t quite live up to its potential was nothing short of heart breaking. I guess the people who felt betrayed and disappointed with Pistorius know how we felt.  At the end of the day, the burger just didn’t have the legs to get there and certainly did not live up to the hype which followed it.

Overall, if you had a spare $40, I would recommend that you go the $38 buffet which was also on offer at the restaurant.  Until next time, yours in all things burger.

Burger Friday Rating: 32/50

Collins Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 15, 2013


Burger reviewed: NSHRY's Umami Burger

Venue: NSHRY

Date: 15/02/2013

Today's burger adventure saw the Fellow's of the Burger Friday head down to the beach front restaurant of NSHRY.

Now let me set one thing straight right off the bat - No, I do not know how to pronounce the name of this joint! This presented an obvious problem to us in that we had no idea what to say to the taxi driver when we got in the cab. Our attempt at pronouncing NSHRY sounded so ridiculous that the cabbie said "bless you" after we responded to him asking "where to?"

Now I know that 'difficulty of name pronunciation' is not a contributing factor in a burger experience but if I could take a point away for an annoying name, I honestly would.

But moving on from the name, the real highlight for this burger experience was the surroundings. The restaurant is set virtually on the sand of a nice stretch of beach, just behind the Albert Park Angling Club - I can't imagine this club is known for good sports fishing (fittingly, the trophy fish displayed on the front of the Angling Club's building was a moderate sized Snapper). We were also lucky enough to head there on a sunny Friday where you could have easily parked yourself for a few hours and smashed some beers. The venue itself is modern and well set out. The ceiling of the inside section has hundreds of wooden stakes hanging off it which made you feel like you were in an Indiana Jones movie (but not Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull - that was trash).

Another win was that the Beaconsfield Parade running track runs right next to NSHRY - prime eye candy territory. This was a fitting distraction from the eye broccoli that was strutting along the beach in speedo’s (kind of like Homer Simpson walking along the beach in Rio De Janeiro).

But why am I talking about leathery skinned old men that look like an old baseball catcher's mitt when we are here to critique a burger?

The burger at NSHRY is a cracker. The patty is handmade, thick, tasty and juicy for the most (the outer part of the patty was a tad dry though). A bit like Mick Malthouse - his tough/dry exterior sets the tone as a hardened football veteran with a mural of himself in his living room. But whenever I see his daughter Christi conduct an interview with him I can't help but think there is a softer side to him.

The bun was soft and kept the burger intact (a slightly crispy outer shell but it didn't rub against the outer lips so you didn't leave looking like you had just poorly washed clown make-up off your face). Some burger management was required but if you don't mind having your fingers smell like burger for the rest of the day then you won't have any trouble.

The chips were seriously good. They were plentiful, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside and came served with three different types of sauces (tomato, aioli and a spicy sauce).

I also loved that this burger came with grilled mushroom which added a silkiness to burger. A rare event for Burger Friday.

I am a firm believer in the fact that you do not make friends with salad, but the coleslaw and cornichons on the side added a nice freshness to the proceedings.

But the thing that really impressed me about this burger was the delicate little Parmesan crisp that topped the burger. I imagine that this was produced by sprinkling some Parmesan into an egg ring on a hot plate and allowing it to melt, letting it harden, and then scraping it off. However they made it, it gave the burger that little bit of crunch which is normally provided by bacon. It really did compliment the burger like Glenn McGrath's tight line and length complimented Shane Warne's fiercely spun leg breaks.

My biggest gripe was the service - well over half an hour for service.

As yesterday was Valentine's Day, I will be comparing this burger to a couple. The great couples that spring to mind are ones like the Woodies, Jo Montana and Jerry Rice, Hayden and Langer, Tiger Woods and Steve Williams (who is still New Zealand's highest paid sportsmen despite now being on the bag of a man who is allergic to winning). These are people who all worked together in unison to achieve the ultimate goal.

But the couple I would most like to compare this burger to is that of duel NBA Hall-of-Famers John Stockton and Karl Malone. "The Mailman" Malone was the beef and brawn in the middle. Whereas "The pre-pubescent boy next door" Stockton was the class and the unselfishness on the side. Similarly, the NSHRY burger was the thick and flavorsome star of the show, aptly supported by the chips and other sidekicks that worked their backside off to make the burger better.

I recommend the food but only if you have the time to wait a while.

Burger Friday Rating: 40.17/50

Nshry on Urbanspoon

Monday, February 11, 2013

Decca Bar

Burger Reviewed: The Decca Burger
Venue: Decca Bar
Date: 8/2/2013

Friday the 8th saw the Burger Friday fraternity venture to the corner of Queen St and Collins St to the gastropub by day/ nightclub by night, Decca bar.
Upon entering we were taken down the steps into what looked like the main dance floor to where we were quickly seated in front of the DJ Booth, disappointingly the only thing that was ‘pumping’ was the air-conditioner(which was rather refreshing on a sweltering 32 degree day might I add). Apart from one couple putting in some early hours before Valentine’s Day, we were the only customers present on what should have been a busy Friday lunch time. Not unlike Ricky Nixon’s aspiring Comedian career (yes, I’m serious)…this was a clearly worrying sign.
Considering the size of the group, the ‘Decca Burger’ came out within reasonable time. Cooked by the head chef, who shared an uncanny resemblance to the Iron Chef (why else would you watch SBS?), the Burger Friday crew was expecting big things.
The Decca burger came served with an ensemble of chips and pot of miller (the only beer on tap) for a very reasonable price of $15. Plated beside the burger was a small pile of jalapeños which served as a pleasant surprise, not unlike Lewis Jetta’s 2012 season, nor Chris “The Gooch” Guccione’s” run to the final in the 2008 Sydney Medibank International …. unexpected!
Now to the burger, which was: a fresh brioche bun with a processed and slightly compact tasty lean Australian beef patty, together with slightly melted cheese, fresh lettuce and tomato. A small amount of mayo was drizzled on the bottom of the top bun, while some tomato sauce drizzled on the bottom bun. Yet to our disdain, bacon was not present (-1).
The structural integrity of our burger earned high praise and due to the lack of sauces and moisture on the patty, the burger didn’t drip everywhere, thus making it the perfect meal to consume while chatting with friends without worrying about the grease stains all over your new white shirt. However there was one main let down, the heart and soul of the burger… the patty. Clearly processed and if I may, a touch too dry, it was the only component that could be clearly faulted.
The relationship of the burger to particular professional sportsman/men became obvious; Colin Sylvia or Bernard “Pea Heart” Tomic would take the honour in this case. Both have all the tools to become superb players, but what they lack is heart (ticker) which is most integral to any sport. The example that sticks out in my mind is Tomic’s  6-3 6-4 6-0 defeat to Andy Roddick in the 2nd round of the 2012 US Open, which prompted Aussie Tennis great John McEnroe to accuse him of tanking.
In summary, the ‘Decca Burger’ for $15 with chips, beers and let’s not forget jalapenos is great value.
If you’re in the area, it would be rude not to go!
Burger Friday Rating: 34.33/50

Decca Bar on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 8, 2013

Grill'd Burgers

Burger reviewed: Crispy Bacon & Cheese

Venue: Grill'd burgers

Date: 5/2/2013

Today's burger adventure saw the burger lads venture all of a couple hundred metres down Southbank Boulevard to the highly regarded yet grammatically incorrect Grill'd Burgers (I believe it is pronounced grill-lud but I could be wrong).

We were greeted by a plethora of burger lackeys with rubbish tattoos and multi-coloured hair - kind of like Pink in her early days. You know, before she became a role model for young women.

What burger did we order you ask? We ordered the crispy bacon and cheese burger with a side of chips and sweet chilli mayo. The reasoning behind that decision was that bacon and cheese represents two points on our marking scale and we do not want to be unfairly prejudicial to a burger purely based on being spoilt for choice. As Buddy Franklin would say - "that's not how we roll bred". Side note, why the hell do Buddy and his mates (none of them from Hawthorn by the way) call each other bread? Are they as passionate about simple carbohydrates as we are? Anyways.

We were stung a touch over $20 for the burger, chips and a drink. A touch steep if you ask me.

We were given the table number 25. A number most made famous by it being the winning score required to win a set of volleyball and it being typically reserved for the best slugger on a baseball team - example: Barry Bonds. Such a fascinating and topical individual. Topical in that he was found guilty of using anabolic steroids in his mid-30's despite feverishly denying his guilt. The dead give away of Bonds guilt was the undeniable change in Bonds appearance. San Francisco Giants management, unwilling to enrage their petulant star with unproven allegations, instead chalked up Bonds’ new look to the muscle explosion, skull growth, testicle shrinkage, back acne, swollen feet and jaundice that all men naturally experience at age 34. Further, they explained that the increase in his shoe size from a 10.5 to a 13 could be simply attributed to a late growth spurt.

On that point - has anyone noticed any Essendon players' skulls getting any bigger? It is not like they have a team of Brett Ebert and Shaun Higgins' running around do they? If they continue their drug taking regime they might end up looking like they are off NBA Jam! Ahh what a week to write a blog!

Minutia aside, we are here to critique a burger.

The patty was obviously processed and mass produced but it was still the right size and tasty enough to be serviceable.

The bun was dry and resulted in structural integrity issues. Not to mention I walked out looking like I had just sand papered the edges of my thimble of a mouth.

The toppings were fine. Would like the bacon a little crispier. But the cheese was melted, lettuces and tomatoes seemed fresh and the double sauce application is always good.

The chips were really good. Plentiful and perfectly seasoned with salt and dried 'erbs. They were a little flaccid though. No analogy required there.

As Monday was the Super Bowl, I will use an NFL themed analogy this week. I would liken this burger to that of Cincinnati Bengals/New England Patriots/Miami Dolphins (seriously, this bloke has played at more clubs that The Delltones) wide receiver Chad Ochocinco (formerly Chad Johnson) - yet another fascinating human being from across the Pacific. Ocho's most productive receiving year was in 2006-07. Interesting fact about that year - between April 2006 and June 2007, 10 Cincinnati Bengals were arrested. During that same period, the Bengals win-loss record was 8-8, thereby accumulating more arrests than wins. Not to be out done, Ocho was lauded for his extravagant touchdown celebrations for which the NFL repeatedly fined him for - my favourite example is the touchdown celebration where he pulled out a sign which read "NFL, please do not fine me" - for which he was fined.

The Ochocinco comparison is fitting because the appearance of the people behind the counter is loud and brash. And the name Grill'd is grammatically incorrect. Chad Johnson legally changed his name to Chad "Ochocinco", the Spanish translation of his number 85, in order to raise awareness for Hispanic Month. What Chad didn't realise, is that the Spanish translation for 85 is "ochenta y cinco". I imagine that when Ocho was made aware of this he turned around to his manager and said - "where were you on that one dipshit?".

All in all, the burger is serviceable but not one you would step over your own mother just to get.

Burger Friday Rating: 33.75/50  

Grill'd on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Merrywell Upstairs

Burger Reviewed: The Merrywell Angus Burger

Date: 1/2/2013
Venue: Merrywell Upstairs

It seems that we have been breaking a lot of new ground recently here on Burger Friday. In another Burger Friday first, today the Burger Friday Fellows went back to a venue which has already been reviewed and holds a prominent place amongst illustrious company inside the top ten Burger Friday Best Burger list – Merrywell. It should be noted however that today we dined in the upstairs restaurant big brother of the downstairs burger bar. 
Situated at the Jeff’s shed end of the glitzy lights of the Crown Casino (which somehow just attracts pensioners like mosquitos to a blue light), Merrywell is a relative new entry in the burger industry but I must say the Burger Friday Fellows are big fans of their work. Any place that centres their menu around burgers gets a doff of the hat from the Fellows every day of the week.   
Now whilst we have already been to Merrywell before, the integrity of the Fellows dictates that each burger reviewed be judged on its merits on the day, and attempts to shy away from bias and just let the burger do the talking. Having watched the boxing during the week, I like to think of the Fellows as the peoples champs, ala the Daniel ‘the Real” Geale as opposed to the Anthony ‘the mouth’ Mundine. Now while I have been a fan of Mundine in the past (because sometimes the shit he talks is genuinely funny – ie when promoting a previous fight, I quote: “there will be three hits, me hitting him, him hitting the floor and the ambulance driver hitting the accelerator),  his recent antics have seen him elevated into a new level of floggery, with company including the likes of Andy Murray and Bernard Tomic. 
So in the spirit of the Queensberry rules, the Fellows stepped into the ring today, to judge on its merits,  the signature Merrywell Angus Burger with aged cheddar, bacon, secret sauce, caramelised onions, LTO, pickles, fries. What exactly is LTO you may rightly ask? Ladies Tits Out? Unfortunately not. 
When the burger came out, I had the er no shit moment when lettuce tomato, onion, was attached to skewer on the bun exterior. That er no shit moment, or ENS for short, happens when you are oblivious (or naive) to something plainly happening right in front of your face. Kind of like when your female friend asks why all these AFL players seem to have developed acute facial muscle spasms in the offseason, only for you to explain that they are actually chewing their faces off on some special k. Or when your girlfriend asks if you think that a hot girl that has just walked past is goodlooking. ENS you think she is good looking... 
Not discounting that we reviewed the burger on its merits, being that we have already reviewed its little brother, I think it is worth drawing some comparisons to its sibling as a point of reference for our burger brethren. The Upstairs burger is certainly larger of the two (actually a proverbial beast of a burger which one Fellow failed to finish!) and comes out on a brioche style bun, which was almost buttery in texture. For me, this erred slightly on the side of pastry, in the pastry v bread spectrum, but definitively well toasted and fresh. The brioche is probably symbolic of the upstairs burgers just a little bit fancier approach. The other large difference between the burgers was that in comparison it seemed to lack some of the zing which really makes the downstairs burger great.  

Credit for the two types of onion on the burger, being caramelised onions and fresh red onion. For mine, this one two punch worked as well as Brereton, Dunstall in their heyday. Also worth noting was that the meat pattie was cooked to medium perfection. Overall though I throughly enjoyed this burger. Nice to see that Merrywell can create a burger that is quite different to its brother.

In light of the sibling rivalry, I am going to dub this burger the Shane Lee. Whilst obviously related to the its younger flashier brother Brett or in this case Merrywell downstairs, it’s just a little bit more rotund in size, slightly more polished, but with not as much zip. 
Whilst I preferred its younger brother, this burger is nothing to sneeze at. If you are in the area and have a healthy appetite, give it a crack for sure. 
 Burger Friday Rating: 38/50

The Merrywell on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 1, 2013

Octopus Restaurant & Wine-Bar, Nai Yang Beach, Thailand

Burger Reviewed: The Cheeseburger

Venue: Octopus Restaurant & Wine-Bar, Nai Yang Beach, Thailand

Date: 30 January 2013

Today marked yet another first for the Burger Friday crew, our first international review. Yes, Burger Friday has gone global. Our destination, a somewhat secretive cove - Nai Yang Beach - about an hour tuk-tuk ride from the Phuket shopping district in Patong. With an array of beach front restaurants to choose from, we settled on the Octopus Restaurant & Winebar for no particular reason other than the shops logo (a ninja octopus) drew a stark similarity to a childhood icon - Mr Miagi. Needless to say, the view from our table was straight off a postcard with the crystal clear water, white sandy beach and a shoreline scattered with traditional Thai fishing boats (the photo doesn't do this justice). It is the ideal location save for the octogenerians wearing their Trevor Hendy inspired speedos which do nothing for the imagination; not that I wish to be ageist, but skin tight Lycra on skin that is not tight isn't the best appetiser.

Before getting into the specifics of the burger I wanted to touch on something which to date has gone undocumented in this blog - the burger reviewer psyche. I for one, try to adopt the mantra made famous in cricketing parlance of judging each individual delivery on its merits. To that end, do not let any preconceptions or, if you have been fortunate enough to have visited a venue on a previous occasion, any history influence your judgment. Treat each burger on its merits. Sure, this has its limitations but our mantra has been and continues to be to judge the burger on that day. You can absolutely draw on those past experiences when writing the blog but it shouldn't sway your rating.

Today, ashamedly, I entered a burger review expecting the worst - thinking that a burger may just be stretching the Thai culinary repertoire a little bit too far - but, to my delight, I was met with something that would hold its own against many of the burgers we have had the pleasure of reviewing. The type of embarrassment I felt is that which Jennifer Hawkins would've experienced when she infamously tripped on her dress only to give the public a snapshot of her derrière; yep, its hard to be too ashamed when the alternative is that much better.

To be fair, the description didn't do the burger any favors in ridding this preconception - grilled minced beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and capsicum. There were no illusions of aged and dried wagyu rump here. I was expecting a thawed and lifeless pattie, but this was handmade, seasoned and came with a dash of chilli. It was smaller pattie than usual - think McDonalds cheeseburger (the stereotypical benchmark) and add a couple of millimeters of thickness - but was complemented perfectly by melted cheese. Although cooked to a thorough medium well, I can't fault this too much as I would hate to think of the consequences if undercooked.

Interestingly, the Octopus employed a technique which I am going to dub the Lego burger. The Lego burger is not unprecedented in Burger Friday circles, with the reputable and highly regarded Rockpool and Trunk burgers both adopting the technique, where the diner is asked to assemble the ingredients into the burger. You're given a handful of ingredients and can stack them if and as you please. In this instance, it was merely the choice of Heinz tomato sauce or Kraft barbeque sauce. I went the BBQ and while it lacked the authenticity of homemade sauce or relish, it did ensure that my burger was adequately sauced. I'm not sure if this trend towards the Lego burger is the sophistication of the humble burger or mere laziness on the chef's part, but given the burger arrived on a table quicker than an Anthony Mundine racist slur after a deserved loss I may just put this one down to efficiency.

The concept of the Lego burger is the perfect segue into a term which is thrown around rather loosely in the Burger Friday vernacular - the "X-Factor" - something which many burgers have fallen down for in the past. In its simplest form the X-Factor is what makes the burger unique and the Octopus burger certainly has that. It gave us not one, but three shades of capsicum: red, yellow and green. Surprisingly, this gave the burger a crunchy texture and something that we may see take off in the land girt by sea.

I am sad to report however that beer battered chips have yet to reach the shores of Siam (the former name of Thailand - jot that down for your next Herald Sun quiz). Apparently salt on your chips is also a western phenomenon; fortunately, there was some Heinz tomato sauce to save the day. An easy fix really - a bit of seasoning and I'd be happy to spare a few milliliters out of 640ml Chang to baste them in.

Another nonchalant aspect of this burger was the bun. It was not so much that it did anything particularly wrong, it was toasted, reasonably fresh (perhaps this was masked by the toasting) and also had a sprinkle of sesame seeds. However, given the push towards more exotic types of buns, it was a bit like getting a good footy sticker only for your mate to be parading his most recent shiny club logo - as an aside, 3 plain for a logo was always the going rate in my day. Back to the bun, it was good but there is better out there.

In naming this burger, it would be remiss of me not to liken it to one of Thailand's greatest athletes - Paradon Srichaphan. While Paradon was never able to triumph on the world stage (never getting past the fourth round of a major), his career high ITP ranking of #9 suggests that he was a more than serviceable player. Similarly, this burger is not going to be memorable on a world stage but it was a serviceable companion to the ice-cold Chang. More to the point, both the burger and Paradon are accompanied by arguably the best backdrop the Burger Friday crew has seen - Paradon is now married to Miss World 2005 Natalie Glebova (you can add that to your showbag of useless knowledge) and, equally, you'll struggle to find many more picturesque beaches than Nai Yang.

At 280 baht (roughly AUD9.5, or perhaps it is more appropriate to now adopt the global currency - USD10), you will be hard-pressed to find better value. A burger, fries and pint of Chang for under 10 bucks - not to mention the view. Winning at life.