PEr FYI

July 29, 2017

Minetta Tavern Restaurant and Bar, New York City…The black label burger renders other burgers meaningless

This place opened in the 30’s so it’s wonderful to see the vintage décor of the old saloon-era interior intact. Being a full house, I sat at the refinished oak bar in the front of the room, elbow to elbow with other diners. The vibe is buzzy, exclusive, and properly chaotic.

The food rocks as much as the scene. The US$33 Black Label Burger – selection of prime dry-aged beef cuts with caramelized onions and pomme frites is without question a mind-blowing rivetingly intense experience. Named the best burger in America by CNBC, a continent full of burger connoisseurs, The Daily Meal,  calls it “the stuff of legend.”  The beef is a blend of four different cuts—short rib, skirt, brisket and rib-eye. It’s like eating a dry-aged steak in burger format. The bun was airy but not spongy. There is a chewiness and lushness in the same bite. Each bite of this burger was lingered over and savored. Even the fries were perfectly seasoned, and nicely crisped. It held to the quality of the burger.

This is now my must-go place in NYC, but frequent Minetta too often and I’ll be broke and really fat. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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December 21, 2014

T.G.I Friday’s, New York City…far from the pinnacle of American cuisine, but they are decent

First I should say, I have never been all that crazy about this chain restaurant in the first place. Let me be clear on that. They’re far from the pinnacle of American cuisine, but they’re not terrible – they are decent.

Waking away from watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, after 3.5 hours of standing by the roadside on 6th Avenue in the blistering wind and light snow, we tried to get into a couple of restaurants in Times Square but was told that waiting time is at least 30 minutes. We took a chance and jumped into the next restaurant with vacant tables, TGI Friday’s. Like all the TGI’s I’ve been to, the walls at this TGI Friday’s at Times Square are covered with everything but the kitchen sink.

We had the slow-cooked, fall-off-the-bone (or should I say peel-off-the-bone) tender and juicy baby back pork ribs basted in Tennessee BBQ sauce, then fire-grilled and served with seasoned fries and ginger-lime slaw; and the Philly Stacked Burger (Braised shredded beef, mozzarella, Asiago & Parmesan, roasted cremini mushrooms, spicy giardiniera and green onion between two fresh burgers with Swiss cheese, horseradish spread, onion bacon jam and peppered bacon). The food was pretty damn good – definitely not the horrific, inedible trash-heap I was expecting – but the staff and general lack of care for customers negated all that. But…the ribs…I will return just for the ribs.

The prices were steep — most of the entrees are between $20-$30, with the sandwiches in the upper teens — but what else could you expect from a restaurant in Times Square? You’ll get the same at the Hard Rock or Bubba Gump nearby. This is the true truth, as I say it as it is…

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December 6, 2014

Umami Burger, New York City…Underwhelming Umami

The chain that forever “changed the burger game”. The “finest burger in all the land.” The owner Alan Richman himself described the burger as “half beef, half beyond belief.”

I ordered a Truffle Burger ad truffle fries. They were the saddest fries I’ve seen. Lukewarm and almost limp, they were glued together by a congealed, paste-like substance that might have once been gooey, melted truffle cheese. The burger arrives, stamped with a thick capital U in purplish vegetable ink. The Truffle Burger was grilled to a perfect medium rare with a crisp, caramelized crust, the texture of the meat nostalgically reminiscent of meatloaf.  ‘Umami’ is the word for savory in Japanese. The  focus is on ramping up the umami flavor (the hard-to-pinpoint fifth taste, after sweet, salty, sour, and bitter, best exemplified by MSG) in almost every component of the burger. It was a really good burger, but for all the umami bluster isn’t notably different from other good burgers around town. Game-changing? no.

After all the hype, Umami Burger truly underwhelms. It just doesn’t hold up against similar burgers in its price range  or even the far superior, and slightly cheaper Five Guys and Shake Shack. This is the true truth as I say it as it is…

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