Alan Richman, with thanks to Cousin Richard, has become known for his travels about America trying to discern the best hamburgers (his opus 2006 can be found here for those interested) and, in what was a first for him, named a Burger of the Year in December 2010 (see here). Richman writes for GQ and not to be undone, our friends at Epicurious also posted their listing (a compendium of various food critic’s reviews) here.
There are differences and some similarities which all goes to say, really, it’s anybody’s guess and presumably one has to travel here and here to personally try these brugers in order to make one’s own mind up.
ANYhow, G and I afforded ourselves the opportunity to try Richman’s numero uno burger by flying down to Los Angeles this weekend. That burger is the unami burger brought to you by the Unami Burger chain.
To prepare ourselves – foolishly – we first made a pitstop into the ubiquitous In-n-Out Burger chain and ordered up a meal from the ‘secret‘ online menu – a “3×3” and “Animal style fries”. The burger is good; the fries not so much and in true in-n-out style are wonderful going “in” your body and no so wonderful coming back “out” shortly thereafter, if you get my drift.
1) heading into In-n-Out; 2) ready to dig in
3) the triple triple; 4) and animal fries (I really disliked the thousand islands like sauce on top
And so we dash back to the hotel to, er, relieve ourselves. This trip out we’re staying – in full on Philippe Starck-style – at SLS Beverly Hills in a very nice studio suite decorated with all manner of the finest Italian furniture from Cassina. SLS is poshy-posh and full of beautiful plastic people – presumably ourselves included – and has been dubbed the W Hotel for grown-ups. The absence of vacant eyed club kids, posers and lasses with heels to here and more make-up then sense is refreshing. The SLS team are exceptional from our arrival on through and deliver service that is refined yet relaxed.
5) me in the convertible; 6) our room at SLS
7) me at Captain Kirk’s Star Trek chair – rather apropro as I was hanging out with Mr. Shatner a couple weeks ago … honest, I was; 8) the sitting area
9) the bathroom with the infamous large bottles of soap, shampoo and conditioner; 10) G heads out
Thence onwards another our meeting with Umami Burger. We order up their smashed fries (very good thanks to the double time in the deep fryer); two root beer floats (brilliant!); their namesake burger (so unctuous and juicy and damn, damn, fine) and a side of their housemade, exceptional, pickles. The pickles in particular I’m a huge fan of. The Japanese are fond of “tsukemono” (pickled things) and their pairing here with a Japanese inspired burger is inspired. Each item is uniquely pickled with subtlety different favours and I could have eaten plate after plate. Unami Burger however is not your typical fast food joint and be prepared to wait for a table inside.
11) arriving at Unami Burger; 12) here is the joint’s namesake
13) the oh-so-yummy pickle plate
Full of burgers we had wanted to try Orris (with thanks to CurryCurry) but the owners opted to close the restaurant on Sunday evening! We had heard great things about the tapas-inspired food (especially it’s modern take) at Bazaar, Chef Jose Andres restaurant at the SLS, and after a word with our concierge had a reservation. We have been so very fortunate to eat at many outstanding molecular styled restaurants globally – Aronia de Takazawa, L2O, Tapas Molecular Bar, even The Apron and Diva on the Met (with kudos to Chef Hamid Salimian) here in Vancouver – and Bazaar can be added to this fine list. Chef has done a great job of catering to the masses with a styling in the restaurant that is bizarre and does draw everyone from foodies like us, to business men, sets of cougars, first daters and yes, even families … with children. All were on hand on Sunday night and everyone seemed to be having a great time enjoying the food and the entertainment, which includes a roaming bar trolley that creates molecular cocktails (think lots of dry ice) table side and naughty decor – we moved to the lounge area for desserts and sat beside skimpy ladies panties laced in French with such wonderful phrases as: mangez-moi; léchez-moi, and my favourite, baisez-moi (which you shouldn’t load into any translator whilst at work I might add). We could only smile as Americans walked by in their French ignorance wondering what it all meant and neither G nor I volunteered translations when asked.
Dinner for two with about 10 tapas plates total, a bottle of Spanish cava, dessert, a cocktail, tax and tip will set you back about US$300.
14) olives – modern and traditional; 15) American caviar, crème fraîche, steamed buns and lemon air
16) Baby beets, citrus, pistachio, olive oil goat cheese; 17 ) Jicama wrapped guacamolé, micro cilantro, corn chips
18) Smoked yellowtail and crispy rice, yoghurt, grapes, capers, radish; 19) Cotton candy duck liver
20) Your life will change Dashi linguini with parmesan, quail egg, basil ; 21) Tuna ceviche and avocado roll with jicama, micro cilantro, coconut dressing
22) Croquetas de pollo or chicken béchamel fritters; 23) the cocktail trolley prepares a molecular drink
24) Wild mushroom rice Idiazábal cheese; 25) G’s “New Way” Dirty Martini: A Martini with olive spherification and olive brine air
26) we moved to the dessert bar room for dessert and espresso; 27) a square vanilla cupcake with wonderful whipping cream icing
28) these folks will greet you when walking into the hotel’s elevator