Restaurants & Bars 57

Malarkey says burgers at The Counter are better than Burlap

karaethon | Sep 17, 2011 09:12 PM

Ok, so I'm totally spinning what he said for sensationalist headlines, but read on and find out.

(The following is taken from my blog. A lot of it is not going to make sense but I'm including it to comply with Chowhound rules. For the part stated in the title, scroll down to the bottom where it says "The Abnormal Bit". Note to moderators, the poster is not in any way affiliated with the restaurant. The restaurant did not know the poster was coming to the restaurant ahead of time. At no point prior to finishing the meal did it become known the poster was a blogger. It perhaps could have been inferred by the restaurant staff as the poster carried a dslr camera, but the restaurant did not ask the poster. Had the restaurant asked the poster prior to the meal being finished, the poster would have lied and said that he was not a blogger)

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: 85
$12 for the burger and salad, $3 for the fries

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: 68.1

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...

Link with photos and better formatting: http://www.gastrobits.com/2011/09/bur...

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