13539 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks CA 91423 (map); 818-906-7427; boneyardbistro.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: The burgers here can get overdressed, but the beautiful patties and expert cooking make them worth the trip
Want Fries with That? Yes; the crispy skinny cuts come in a huge portion so only one person in your group need order them
Prices: "Burger...'Nuff Said", $14; The Classic w/foie gras and fries, $28.50
It won't surprise regular readers here that when I hear about a burger topped with something like foie gras I find myself shaking my head and then dutifully devouring yet another over-the-top burger creation that will inspire few kind words. I'm all for extravagance and creativity, but a topping like foie gras (or truffles or caviar) just feels like a chef trying to bribe me. There isn't anything about the ingredient itself that initiates my burger curiosity (beyond my inherent burger curiosity).
Such was the case when a friend invited me along for a taste of the foie gras-topped patty at Boneyard Bistro in Sherman Oaks here in Los Angeles. I gave a desultory "sure" and started planning my panning of a restaurant who should have left well-enough alone. But then I tasted chef Aaron Robins' burgers and found myself in the midst a burger surprise.
There are many burger options at Boneyard, but they all share the same kind of patty and bun. In the first case, you'll be pleased by their wagyu from family-owned, sustainable Snake River Farms. The wagyu has the flavorful bite of Angus but with more fat. The well seasoned patties come in your choice of five or eight ounces and feature a beautiful medium coarse grind.
The brioche bun is fine, but nothing special, and it's too much bread for either the five- or eight-ounce patty. This is a familiar mistake in the premium burger category. Too often chefs reach for the shiny, bulbous brioche bun to go with their premium patties. It's an understandable impulse. The buns are unquestionably attractive on the plate and they have a more layered flavor than a traditional bun, but the characteristic sweetness and crumbly texture just aren't suited to a burger. Such is the case here at Boneyard; luckily the bun isn't the whole story.
As a base for the foie gras, I opted for a five-ounce patty and Boneyard's "Classic" burger construction topped with bacon, your choice of cheese—I went with aged cheddar—and a housemade smoked onion aioli. The foie is from award-winning producer Hudson Valley.
It sounded like fat on top of fat, but Boneyard's version actually demonstrated impressive balance. The patty was beautifully seared, as was the foie, and the bacon and cheese played off them both nicely. Foie gras at its best (which many think Hudson's is) has an earthy fattiness that enchants people. I don't know that I'd go that far, but certainly I found myself going in for more.
To get a better sense of the burger without the foie gras' appeal, I also tried a basic, unadulterated eight-ounce burger, or in Boneyard parlance, "Burger...'Nuff Said," It's just bun and beef with a little rabbit food on the side, should you choose to add it. In a word, don't. This patty is so rich, full-flavored, and beautifully cooked that it deserves a stage unto itself (at least for a few bites). The salty crust was as impressive as I've come across in a good long while, and even the brioche bun wasn't a major distraction with eight ounces of this satisfying beef.
I decided to try a few of Boneyard's sides including their entry into the food porn pantry: Kobe beef chili-filled doughnuts with cheddar, pickles, and onions.
As you'd guess the chili is unrecognizably "Kobe" and the pickle a bridge too far, but the doughnut showed promise. A savory filling in these little pastries really works. I might prefer a little braised short rib, but I was intrigued enough to eat more than one.
The fries too made a solid showing. The regular potato fries didn't amaze, but they had nicely blistered skins and were served in heaping portion. The sweet potato version (not usually a treat to me) were a very solid version.
Boneyard misses the mark on a few counts, but on a couple it gets things very right. Their beef is excellent and the char on the patties is something to behold. The foie gras burger is interesting, but being that it comes in at over $28 with fries, I can't see myself ordering it again. That said, a straight-up beef and bun affair, while also not cheap at $14, makes an argument for spending a little extra for the good stuff.