7494 Santa Monica Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90046 (map); 323-850-7258; saltscure.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: A high-end burger without much inspiration
Want Fries with That? Nope; like mom used to make (in the bad way)
Price: Burger (w/fries) $17
Salt's Cure is restaurant of a type here in Los Angeles: young (well-trained chefs), an obsessiveness about locally sourced ingredients, and a butchering fetish. It's a formula that has worked before and (he says hopefully) will continue to. The dynamic duo in this instance are chefs Chris Phelps and Zak Walters. Both come with some burger pedigree. They met at Hungry Cat (home to one of the only burgers worthy of a knife and fork) and they are obsessive about their proteins. As a partnership, Phelps and Walters got a lot of heat [praise?] over their burger at Storefront though I was the minority dissenter when it came to that one.
I arrived at Salt's Cure with renewed hope. It had seemed to me that the missteps at Storefront could have been born of the context. Storefront is a deli, not a restaurant space with a proper kitchen that afford a chef some proper space and tools to breath life into their burger dreams. Could it be that the quality components that were on display at Storefront would reconfigure into burger greatness at Salt's Cure?
I ordered the surprisingly pricey burger and fries on a recent Sunday with just this thought in my head. Once the sticker shock of the $17 plate of food subsided I allowed myself to take this burger on its merits. As it turned out, there are a number of them, though taken as a whole I'm not so sure they add up to a burger of note.
Let's start with the strongest component of this burger: the patty. Great beef, properly cooked will forgive a lot of sins of a burger and the Salt's Cure patty falls into that category. The grass-fed beef portioned into eight ounces was beautifully juicy and ground to a rough coarseness that was near perfect. That said, it was missing one major component that surprised me: salt. That's right, Salt's Cure under seasoned their patty. I think this might be a difference in palate between myself and the chefs as not even their bacon seemed to give off the proper hit of salt for my liking.
The bun was a new-school brioche. Certainly these aren't my favorite, but I can't claim that they undermine the burger the way a classic brioche would. The main problem is that this one didn't seem to match the beef in proper ratio. I found it a bit weighted toward the bread.
The rest of the toppings felt like a bit of an afterthought especially considering how obsessive this pair of chefs claims to be about their ingredients. I didn't see the lettuce and onion as components chosen for any reason other than the traditions of the burger. Similarly the cheese wasn't a flavor addition of any note and the beef didn't need extra fat. Finally, the much lauded bacon from Salt's Cure is a tasty preparation, but doesn't have a distinct, salty appeal to complement the burger. The flavor just sort of blended into the beef.
The fries were probably the most surprising part of the meal. These fresh cut spuds were prepared without the chef's finesse I had expected. They lacked crispness and, again, seasoning. It reminded me of the homemade fries I used to get as a boy that made me think no home pan could ever match the vaunted fryolator.
In the final analysis, to call the Salt's Cure burger anything short of good would be willfully overlooking the basic greatness of some of the component parts. The beef and bacon are so fresh, well constructed, and properly cooked that there just those two component parts make the burger a solid sandwich. That said, there's little else to recommend this cheffed up burger and that, considering the potential, seems to be a shame.