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[Photographs: Damon Gambuto]

Dish

3939 Cross Creek Rd., Malibu, CA, 90265 (map)
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: A backyard barbecue burger gets a professional touch.
Want Fries with That? No fries to be had.
Prices: Sirloin burger, $6.50
Notes: This is a temporary set up so you'll have to act fast to catch it, but the restaurant version is due in a Beverly Hills location soon.

Having a friend and her delightful little boys visiting from Japan (more on them in future posts) for most of the month of August, I found myself visiting all manner of Los Angeles attractions that usually just buzz in the background of my daily life. Truth be told, I don't mind spending a little time to take in some of the tourist sites of my adopted city. I can remember my younger days as a New Yorker and exhorting my friends to explore some of the most touristy destinations, then reveling in the surprise at just how amazing they are. (When was the last time you were on Liberty Island at dusk?)

While I don't know if any of Los Angeles' attractions can rival the breathless awe of New York's monuments, taking a sunny day in Malibu is, well, awesome. Surf, sand, and sunshine are all free of charge, but my friend came to spend more than time in Southern California. Since I am indulgent by nature, I indulged her and headed to the Cross Creek shopping district. We quickly found ourselves awash in reality-show-worthy hyper-consumerism.

Walking over to the newly minted Malibu Lumber Yard (basically, a high-end mall), we pass by Paris Hilton. My friend titters with excitement as she gets what she is paying too much for at these celebrity-soaked haberdasheries: the satisfaction of a day spent believing (and buying) the hype. I can feel the choking sensation I first felt accompanying my mother to Bloomingdale's as a boy.

While my friend ducked into the various, well-heeled versions of stores you'd find at any other mall, I made my way over to a gentleman who'd set up shop in the middle of all this. What's that I see? A grill and a whiteboard menu? "Gourmet barbeque," it reads. Drowning in all this conspicuous consumption gets me thinking: burgers do share a geometry with the life preserver.

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The man manning the grill is an English ex-patriot named Peter Triplett who wields his spatula with a brio that seems out of sync with his tailgate-looking operation. His table looks to be little more than a dedicated dad's efforts at a holiday cookout, but the long hair and designer sunglasses make me think this guy isn't only cooking for the kids that loll about.

When I inquire about how he found himself here flipping burgers in Malibu he mentions that he and his wife are longtime London restaurant folk with ties to Marco Pierre White. He says his restaurant is due to open in Beverly Hills in the coming months, but in the meantime he is regularly performing his professional burger cookout called Dish a few days a week at the Malibu Lumber Yard. Certainly working with food's enfant terrible is some serious food bona fides, but the story rambles as I press him for more information. No matter, my burger is ready.

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Triplett prepares this patty with organic sirloin and it shows its quality straight away. The grill adds a nice char from its high heat, but Triplett pulls it off at just the right moment. The temperature is a delightful medium rare. The meat is not alone—Triplett mixes his patties with salt, pepper, chopped onion, and some other goodies he's not willing to reveal. The effect is that of a rich, savory mash just shy of meatloaf. Usually I find this sort of preparation overkill, but Triplett manages to toe the line nicely.

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The bun is labeled challah, but this special order that Triplett worked up from Bellwood Bakery doesn't have the heavy sweetness of the challah I grew up eating on the Lower East Side—and that's a good thing. It's a bready bun that, while lacking the sponginess I love from the commercial variety, is a nice match to the beef's heavy flavor. Triplett adds a little spicy mayo mixture for a hit of fat that finishes off this well balanced burger.

The coming holiday weekend sends my mind wandering to thoughts of the lazy, end-of-summer days spent gorging myself on backyard burgers and syrupy sweet fruit punch. I probably won't ever work up a barbecue of my own that I'd be comfortable calling gourmet, but Triplett's little operation reminds me that mixing ingredients into the blend is a nice way to change things up when preparing burger for a cookout. We'll see how this technique plays out when he opens his restaurant.

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