Burger Reviewed: The Cheeseburger
Venue: Octopus Restaurant & Wine-Bar, Nai Yang Beach, Thailand
Date: 30 January 2013
Today marked yet another first for the Burger Friday crew, our first international review. Yes, Burger Friday has gone global. Our destination, a somewhat secretive cove - Nai Yang Beach - about an hour tuk-tuk ride from the Phuket shopping district in Patong. With an array of beach front restaurants to choose from, we settled on the Octopus Restaurant & Winebar for no particular reason other than the shops logo (a ninja octopus) drew a stark similarity to a childhood icon - Mr Miagi. Needless to say, the view from our table was straight off a postcard with the crystal clear water, white sandy beach and a shoreline scattered with traditional Thai fishing boats (the photo doesn't do this justice). It is the ideal location save for the octogenerians wearing their Trevor Hendy inspired speedos which do nothing for the imagination; not that I wish to be ageist, but skin tight Lycra on skin that is not tight isn't the best appetiser.
Before getting into the specifics of the burger I wanted to touch on something which to date has gone undocumented in this blog - the burger reviewer psyche. I for one, try to adopt the mantra made famous in cricketing parlance of judging each individual delivery on its merits. To that end, do not let any preconceptions or, if you have been fortunate enough to have visited a venue on a previous occasion, any history influence your judgment. Treat each burger on its merits. Sure, this has its limitations but our mantra has been and continues to be to judge the burger on that day. You can absolutely draw on those past experiences when writing the blog but it shouldn't sway your rating.
Today, ashamedly, I entered a burger review expecting the worst - thinking that a burger may just be stretching the Thai culinary repertoire a little bit too far - but, to my delight, I was met with something that would hold its own against many of the burgers we have had the pleasure of reviewing. The type of embarrassment I felt is that which Jennifer Hawkins would've experienced when she infamously tripped on her dress only to give the public a snapshot of her derrière; yep, its hard to be too ashamed when the alternative is that much better.
To be fair, the description didn't do the burger any favors in ridding this preconception - grilled minced beef, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and capsicum. There were no illusions of aged and dried wagyu rump here. I was expecting a thawed and lifeless pattie, but this was handmade, seasoned and came with a dash of chilli. It was smaller pattie than usual - think McDonalds cheeseburger (the stereotypical benchmark) and add a couple of millimeters of thickness - but was complemented perfectly by melted cheese. Although cooked to a thorough medium well, I can't fault this too much as I would hate to think of the consequences if undercooked.
Interestingly, the Octopus employed a technique which I am going to dub the Lego burger. The Lego burger is not unprecedented in Burger Friday circles, with the reputable and highly regarded Rockpool and Trunk burgers both adopting the technique, where the diner is asked to assemble the ingredients into the burger. You're given a handful of ingredients and can stack them if and as you please. In this instance, it was merely the choice of Heinz tomato sauce or Kraft barbeque sauce. I went the BBQ and while it lacked the authenticity of homemade sauce or relish, it did ensure that my burger was adequately sauced. I'm not sure if this trend towards the Lego burger is the sophistication of the humble burger or mere laziness on the chef's part, but given the burger arrived on a table quicker than an Anthony Mundine racist slur after a deserved loss I may just put this one down to efficiency.
The concept of the Lego burger is the perfect segue into a term which is thrown around rather loosely in the Burger Friday vernacular - the "X-Factor" - something which many burgers have fallen down for in the past. In its simplest form the X-Factor is what makes the burger unique and the Octopus burger certainly has that. It gave us not one, but three shades of capsicum: red, yellow and green. Surprisingly, this gave the burger a crunchy texture and something that we may see take off in the land girt by sea.
I am sad to report however that beer battered chips have yet to reach the shores of Siam (the former name of Thailand - jot that down for your next Herald Sun quiz). Apparently salt on your chips is also a western phenomenon; fortunately, there was some Heinz tomato sauce to save the day. An easy fix really - a bit of seasoning and I'd be happy to spare a few milliliters out of 640ml Chang to baste them in.
Another nonchalant aspect of this burger was the bun. It was not so much that it did anything particularly wrong, it was toasted, reasonably fresh (perhaps this was masked by the toasting) and also had a sprinkle of sesame seeds. However, given the push towards more exotic types of buns, it was a bit like getting a good footy sticker only for your mate to be parading his most recent shiny club logo - as an aside, 3 plain for a logo was always the going rate in my day. Back to the bun, it was good but there is better out there.
In naming this burger, it would be remiss of me not to liken it to one of Thailand's greatest athletes - Paradon Srichaphan. While Paradon was never able to triumph on the world stage (never getting past the fourth round of a major), his career high ITP ranking of #9 suggests that he was a more than serviceable player. Similarly, this burger is not going to be memorable on a world stage but it was a serviceable companion to the ice-cold Chang. More to the point, both the burger and Paradon are accompanied by arguably the best backdrop the Burger Friday crew has seen - Paradon is now married to Miss World 2005 Natalie Glebova (you can add that to your showbag of useless knowledge) and, equally, you'll struggle to find many more picturesque beaches than Nai Yang.
At 280 baht (roughly AUD9.5, or perhaps it is more appropriate to now adopt the global currency - USD10), you will be hard-pressed to find better value. A burger, fries and pint of Chang for under 10 bucks - not to mention the view. Winning at life.