The Pat LaFrieda Burger Tour
It's a little gutsy to say that one of the best lamb dishes in New York right now is a mere burger. But that's our burger culture in 2012, and more importantly, that's just how good the lamb burger is at April Broomfield's The Breslin. If you've missed our breathless recounts of this lamb-y beauty, say hello. When we decided to include a lamb burger on the last stop of our Pat LaFrieda burger tour, this one was the obvious choice.
Like the other burgers we've visited on this tour, The Breslin's lamb burger is a meaty, juicy monster, but not a grease bomb. It's a hefty eight-ouncer, and the insanely good fries that go with it aren't going to down themselves, but eating this thing is a little like tasting triumph. It's a mix of considered ingredients, careful prep, and tightly controlled technique—and it makes one of the absolute best burgers in New York, lamb or otherwise. The Breslin serves between 1,200 and 1,300 of them a week. Pat (now on Food Network's Meat Men) and chef Peter Cho showed us what goes into making it.
The burger begins with careful, deliberate meat sourcing. "The beauty of American lamb is that it's sweet and mild," Pat explained. "It's fresh, a few days old, not weeks or months old and frozen like Australian and New Zealand lamb." As far as Pat's concerned, American lamb has amazing flavor that doesn't hit you over the head with gaminess. This is, after all, a burger, not mutton stew.
The pre-formed patties from LaFrieda Meats, made without spices or fillings of any kind, are grilled and topped with a thin slice of tangy French feta and paper-thin slices of red onion—no substitutions. That's not to say the kitchen won't work to make you happy—if you really, really want a well done burger, they'll make it happen—but like all of Bloomfield's cooking, there's something of an implicit plea for you to try something her way first to see how good it can be. She's right.
The burger is tested every night to make sure it's right on target. Chef Bloomfield isn't shy about calling Pat to let him know that the meat to fat ratio is a little off, and since he delivers meat so frequently to The Breslin, it's easy to make adjustments to the blend. The test burger at the beginning of service is an important ritual to Peter, who's worked with Bloomfield for seven years. Though he's also worked at the Spotted Pig (and worked with their burger), this is his favorite in the city. Before service, he cuts off about a quarter to make sure it's up to snuff, then dives into the hot open kitchen for the next shift. The Breslin isn't a burger joint, but this burger makes it tick.