AHT: Los Angeles

Burger reviews in the Los Angeles area.

The Bubble Bursts at Burger Kitchen in Los Angeles

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[Photographs: Damon Gambuto]

The Burger Kitchen

8048 W 3rd St., Los Angeles, CA 90048 (map); 323-944-0503
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: This restaurant as investment product gets a junk rating
Want Fries with That? No thanks! Frozen doesn't necessarily mean bad, but these spuds are major duds
Prices: Burger Delicious, $9; fries, $3.50; mac 'n cheese, $1.50
Notes: Nothing much to note other than save your money by grilling a burger up at home. I'd bet yours are at least as good

UPDATE: We've been informed by the owner of Burger Kitchen that they have changed both their menu and their chefs several times since this review was written. As such, it may not be an accurate portrayal of the restaurant in its current state.

In my life I've found myself beleaguered by bubbles. As a boy I collected baseball cards with obsessive care and the notion that one day I'd cash them in for a private island and a lifetime of season tickets. Of course, that was just a boy's expansive imagination reflected in an expanding trading card bubble . Then, as I finished up college, the internet bubble inflated at breakneck speeds and somehow I managed to decline all of the job offers that would have been worth millions. More recently, the housing bubble has come to define our economy and while I didn't get stung as badly as so many homeowners, that is merely because I didn't have the sense of adult responsibility to actually be a homeowner in the first place.

Now I am find myself in the midst of a burger bubble. The ascendant sandwich has re-captured America's imagination and with it have come all manner of burger-themed businesses. One of the newest to pop up here in Los Angeles is Burger Kitchen. The owners have taken up residence in a bygone Indian restaurant that fell victim to the waning economy. This new entrant is a father-son operation that has grand plans of quick expansion should it catch on. I stopped by to see if there is a future in this burger business.

The Burger Kitchen's father-son team are Alan Saffron and Daniel Saffron. They've had notions of teaming up on a restaurant project for years (Alan once owned a steakhouse in his native Australia), but didn't go for it until this most recent venture. They decided on a high-end burger restaurant because it seemed to make good business sense. They already have plans to open four more locations if this first one works. Alas, that turns out to be a rather large "if."

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I ordered the Burger Delicious, a grilled eight-ounce patty with green leaf lettuce, tomato, grilled onions, pickles, and chipotle ketchup. The self-promoting name is part of a larger gimmick in burger nomenclature that has become de rigueur at this new breed of burger restaurant. At Burger Kitchen you can order a Buzz Burger, The Eiffel Tower, The Godfather, a Hawaiian Surfer Dude, etc. (you get the idea). In all they offer 22 different burgers.

Mine arrived with looking like a bit of a joke. The brioche-style bun I selected seemed as big as my (not-so-small) head. It looked like a popover that was trying to consume the burger. Of course, that's my job, which I began forthwith.

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As expected, the bun-to-beef ratio was out of whack to due to that enormous bun. I tried the patty on its own to get a measure of its flavor and found it just good. The beef was perfectly fine, but the char had the taste of backyard burger. There's nothing particularly bad about that—it just seemed decidedly ordinary considering the price tag. The veggies were fine, but the real problem was the balance. The bun made the patty and its toppings hard to discern. It's not simply the size—I've run into big buns that match a powerful and juicy patty (see 25 Degrees)—it was that the breadiness of the bun seemed to overwhelm the rest of the ingredients.

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I sampled the fries and an order of mac 'n cheese as well. The fries were frightfully bad. They claimed that they were twice fried, but they had a cardboard texture and out-of-place dusting of seasoning. The mac 'n cheese was good, but tasted like little more than the name: There was macaroni and cheese, and that's about it, like something you'd make at home when you aren't up for a real recipe.

This is the problem generally with Burger Kitchen. It just doesn't have the practice or polish of a professional restaurant. Rather, it's as though some professionals decided they wanted to get into the restaurant business, as though creating a successful restaurant was simply about spotting trends and cashing in. In this case the folks behind Burger Kitchen might have found themselves on the losing end of a bubble economy.

UPDATE: We've been informed by the owner of Burger Kitchen that they have changed both their menu and their chefs several times since this review was written. As such, it may not be an accurate portrayal of the restaurant in its current state.

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