AHT: Los Angeles

Burger reviews in the Los Angeles area.

Los Angeles: The Pikey Burger Is a Disappointment

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[Photographs: Damon Gambuto]

The Pikey

617 W Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90046 (map); 323-850-5400; thepikeyla.com
Cooking Method: Char-grilled
Short Order: A creative chef makes a surprisingly uninspired burger
Want Fries with That? Yes! These thrice-cooked fries are excellent
Price: Char-Grilled Beef Burger (w/fries), $14 at lunch, $15 at brunch and dinner

The term "pikey" has an interesting history. It was, for may years, the pejorative used for all of the various interlopers who made their way onto English soil. Then in the 20th century it became the favored epithet hurled at the the Irish Traveller community. For Americans, it would be tantamount to the word "gypsy." Today, pikey describes a certain devil-may-care attitude and distinct style of dress. Welcome to The Pikey, Hollywood style.

The interior of this one-year-old gastropub/watering hole on Sunset Boulevard is an achievement in art direction. It's decorated with large scale photos of Teddy Boys (pikey-types), which seem to be there to tease a little sense of history from the gleaming newness. (I'll leave it to you to determine how you feel about this history.) Even though expensive restaurateuring may not always result in burger greatness, one would expect chef Ralph Johnson—imported from the American Queen of gastropubbery and famous New York City burger destination The Spotted Pig—to deliver an epic burger. But one, or at least this one, would be wrong.

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The Pikey Burger ($14 at lunch, $15 at brunch and dinner) is described on the menu quite simply as a char-grilled beef burger with Bandaged Cheddar, tomato, Worcestershire aioli, and chips. Yet somehow it's so much less than that. This reworking of the traditional burger was a disappointment. After a ridiculously long wait for my food during a not particularly busy lunch, the burger came along with an order of fish and chips and a romaine salad. Lest you think I'm being ungenerous with The Pikey, let me tell you that the latter two dishes were very good. The salad was served with a vinegary chicken that was spectacular. Of course, we're not here to talk chicken.

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The burger featured a sizable patty (roughly eight ounces) that had the sheen of an in-house grind and the cheddar was melted perfectly over it. The bun was challah, which is an interesting, if imperfect, choice. The whole thing looked rather beautiful. Sadly, its flavor didn't match its looks. The patty was clearly a higher-end grind that deserves some attention, but mine came out undercooked and underseasoned. A little time in an oven and a handful of salt would make this patty a star.

The Worcestershire aioli and cheddar (from Fiscalini) were tang on top of tang such that the beef got lost underneath it. The bun got a grilling of its own, which was nice, but the sweetness of the challah seemed out of place against the beef.

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What didn't disappoint were the fries. These fresh cut spuds were fried three times and were rich and full of flavor. I found myself making them the centerpiece of my meal.

This is what I imagine one should do at The Pikey—avoid the burger and direct your attention to the chicken, fries, and other offerings in general. It's unfortunate because it seems like Johnson has a deft hand with most of his food. The burger, with its sly twists on tradition, could use a reworking.

About the author: Damon is one of our roving burger reporters and food writers. When he's not eating more than is warranted or healthful (and then writing about it) he can be found writing and producing for television and film. You can contact him at seriouslydamon@gmail.com.

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