Los Angeles: An Overcomplicated Burger at Bon Vivant Market & Cafe
3155 Glendale Blvd., Atwater Village CA 90039 (map); 323-284-8013; bonvivantmarketcafe.com
Cooking Method: Griddled
Short Order: A fusillade of ingredients make for a messy, overcomplicated burger
Want Fries with That? Yes; these medium-cut spuds taste better than they look
Price: Duck Egg Cheeseburger (w/fries), $15
Bon Vivant Market & Cafe is a relative newcomer to the stretch of Glendale Boulevard that is the beating heart of Atwater Village, one of Los Angeles' of-the-moment neighborhoods. It is, as its name suggests, a hybrid space that serves as a gourmet shop as well as a cafe. That said, it seems to take its identity as an eatery a little more seriously than the market side.
The soaring space was remodeled into a garish French country revival something-or-other space. Its scale and airiness make it comfortable, but the decor betrays an affinity for excess that you'll find in a lot of their food.
Take their duck egg cheeseburger ($15). Yes, even the name of their burger suggests extravagance. The addition of a fried egg to a burger is nothing new, but to make it a duck egg suggests an added devotion to decadence. The duck egg is larger and has a greater yolk-to-white ratio than your standard chicken egg. The duck egg's visual appeal is likely part of what motivated the choice. When my burger arrived open-faced the egg yolk stared back at me like a jaundiced cyclops.
The egg isn't all there is to the burger's excess. They top their eight-ounce patty with Serrano ham and Manchego cheese. Along with this you'll find tomato, baby arugula, pickles, and a hefty helping of aioli. This is all set atop a pretzel bun.
I found myself shaking my head at the proposition of putting this all down with a single bite, but, ever hopeful, I dug in. It is, as you'd guess, a mess of a meal to eat with your hands. The egg yolk breaks into an oozy puddle and the bottom bun turns into a heap of sogginess. Yet it isn't all entirely unappealing. I really like the intense saltiness of the Serrano ham against the tartness of the Manchego. They play well with the fried egg. The pretzel bun—at least the top portion that remained intact—has a great sponginess and yeasty appeal.
The rest of the toppings are one (two, three, four) too many. The flavors get muddled in the morass of fat and brine from the aioli and pickles. Lastly, and most notably, the patty is far too seasoned for a burger of so many ingredients. There's a nice sear on what tastes like quality beef, but it's all undermined by the addition of herbs and spices. While the texture isn't meatloaf, the flavor profile certainly is. This is almost never a good choice for a burger patty, but it's particularly out of place when there are already so many competing flavors.
The fries didn't excite me when the burger arrived. They look rather ordinary, the kind of spuds you'd find at a mid-level diner. Their looks turned out to be pleasantly deceiving. These medium-cut spuds deliver a nice, full flavor and are fried properly. I wouldn't rate them as great, but they're certainly a creditable french fry.
The ethos of the phrase "bon vivant" suggests an affinity for excess, a hedonistic impulse to pile pleasure on top of pleasure so that one doesn't miss out on all the delights life has to offer. Perhaps when it comes to burgers, Bon Vivant could stand a little "less is more."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.