Novemburger 2017 is the fourth iteration of the city’s fundraising burger “festival”. 76 restaurants are participating in Hamilton and Burlington this year by creating a signature burger, their Novemburger. Part of the sales of each burger is donated to the United Way.
As we conclude another year of festivities our staff decided to try some of the local offerings: two burgers you can get on campus, and one of the more expensive entries from Radius on James Street South.
Radius: The Mexican
If you are looking to pretend that you can spend $18 on a burger this Novemburger, Radius has a spicy option for you. The Mexican, a house made Mexican chorizo patty topped with tequila and butter-sautéed tiger shrimp, house-smoked bacon, fried green tomatoes, pickled onions, cilantro and avocado cream and melted Manchego cheese in between a toasted brioche bun came with an option of a house soup, salad or Tajin-dusted house cut Yukon shoestring fries.
The burger itself is definitely interesting. Individually, the ingredients were compelling; between the tequila and butter-sautéed tiger shrimp and the fried green tomatoes, there was an interesting palette of flavour.
However, the chorizo patty seemed to overpower the other flavours within the burger, which was disappointing to say the least. The ratio between the ingredients was also rather disappointing. The bottom of the burger saw two soggy, browned pieces of lettuce and the top was centered with two tiger shrimp, which took about four full bites to get to. The fried green tomato gave the burger a satisfying crunchy texture, which was unfortunately one of the only highlights of the burger. Overall, the Mexican missed the mark on flavour and ratio, which was pretty disappointing for its cost.
East Meets West Bistro: Chicken Harvest Burger
It’s nice to know that our own East Meets West Bistro is taking part in the Novemburger festivities, but after having their Chicken Harvest Burger, I wish I had gone somewhere downtown instead. Semantics is important here: I had their burger, I didn’t taste it.
The chicken patty was definitely the five ounces as advertised, but I couldn’t taste the sage, let alone the apple. I was excited at the prospect of having a break from the typical beef patty, but the chicken was disappointingly bland and dry.
The meat was topped with warm celery root slaw, which I had never seen on a burger before. The move was innovative; it was just the wrong move for this burger. The celery root slaw felt like a nod towards Russian cafeteria food. It’s inconclusive whether this is better or worse than campus food.
The meat and slaw were sandwiched between a brioche bun with a cranberry green peppercorn slaw on the bottom. My favourite part of the whole burger was the cranberry spread, it was a nice balance between sweet and sour.
For $9.75, my expectations weren’t too high, but it was still a bland disappointment.
The Phoenix: Bushido Prosciutto Burger
Full transparency: seeing this burger on the Novemburger 2018 website is what first motivated our burger adventures on campus. I am not even one for greasy kitchen experiments, but there was something intriguing about the Graduate Student Association bar and grill serving up the weirdest burger that Novemburger has ever seen.
The Bushido prosciutto burger is an unholy combination of misplaced and Japanese-inspired flavours and uncooked Italian ham. I can’t even rationalize this pairing. Is it because sushi and prosciutto involve uncooked meat? Is it because bushido and prosciutto sort of rhyme?
The clumsy association with a Japanese code of honour is one thing, but who thought that prosciutto was ever a complimentary ingredient to serve alongside teriyaki beef, sautéed Asian pear, bean sprouts and a sheet of dried seaweed? I was hoping to be pleasantly surprised but the burger was clumsy, the textures were off, and ingredients actively clashed and contradicted each other.
Dry seaweed has no business mingling with melted cheese, especially when served at room temperature. The final insult of the sandwich is the “sushi roll” adorned on the top. While we weren’t exactly eager to have salmon or tuna on top of that mess, we were disappointed to find that the piece was just stuffed with more, slimy prosciutto.
I want to believe that there are some genuinely good ideas behind this dish. Maybe the chef had a genuinely fantastic experience with a similar flavour combination in the past. Novemburger is often a good time to bring out some good experimental combinations. The Bushido burger isn’t one of them.