Life of the patty

(The Philippine Star) - December 8, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - What makes the perfect hamburger? For leading food writer Jeffrey Steingarten, it is this: “That the meat patty be profoundly beefy in flavor, mouthwateringly browned on the outside, and succulent (a combination of juicy and tender) on the inside. The bread or bun should not interfere with any of these virtues. It should be soft, mild, and unassertive; its job is to absorb every last drop of savory juice trickling from the meat while keeping the burger more or less in one piece and your hands dry.” That definition, immortalized in the October 2007 issue of Vogue, is as simple and good a definition as will ever be articulated.

With this in mind, I pull up to the table at BurgerBar three days before it officially opens. Perched atop the soon-to-open NamNam, a Filipino restaurant in the spot previously occupied by Masas in Greenbelt 2, the joint should hit people’s pleasure buttons instantly. There’s the cheery atmosphere, the star of which is a mixed-media piece that uses old record sleeves as its base. “It all started with having to crate-dig for old records, then putting them together on the wooden panels,” says artist AJ Dimarucot of the 72 vinyl discs that he assembled and painted. Then there’s the food, all-time favorites with a slightly more grown-up attitude.

“We always felt that there was no spot in Manila to actually go when craving a great burger which allowed you to sit, relax and throw back some beers, cocktails or a nice glass of wine,” shares Abba Napa, who, along with partners Jon Syjuco and Eliza Antonino, masterminded the first and only full-service burger restaurant in the Philippines. “As luck would have it, Eliza had a great spot in Greenbelt that allowed us to do just that. And Jon’s first ever entrepreneurial venture was a burger joint in Cebu, so he was more than happy to relive the moment.”

The menu, more or less the sum of countless cows from places near and far, introduces the concept of custom-made beef blends, all house-made patties freshly ground on site and seared to order. There’s the Beef Bomb, chuck and short rib; the Steak Cut, sirloin and chuck; the Big Game, hanger and brisket; and the House Blend, a straightforward, meaty, juicy classic. Grinding a mix of meats may seem fussy, but that’s what makes BurgerBar’s offerings special. The difference in flavor and texture is as noticeable as that of black pepper from a plastic shaker and stuff cranked out of a mill.  

BurgerBar also advocates the double patty, “the essence of the house burger at ‘Cue,” says Abba of the bestseller at the group’s modern barbecue restaurant at Bonifacio Global City. From classics such as the cheeseburger (P195) to the more dressed-up Tributes such as the Hangover Burger — onion-griddled Big Game Blend of hangar and brisket, with yellow cheddar, crisp prosciutto, a fried egg, arugula, barbecue sauce and aioli — there’s surely something that will make you sing from the rooftops. “You’re the boss of your own burger, so you can feel free to customize and mix and match ingredients any way you wish.”

My mood brightened considerably after I consumed my Bar Burger (P395, single patty P290), a happy chorus of prosciutto, gorgonzola, watercress, crisp onion rings and sriracha aioli on BurgerBar’s own brioche bun. I’m already plotting my return to feast on either the Falafel Burger (P195), the Lamb Burger (P385) — built with feta cheese, harissa, and pickled red onions — or both. It will definitely be more than a mouthful, but to summon Jeffrey Steingarten’s mad-scientist mind, it’s “not too much to ask from life.”

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BurgerBar, Greenbelt 2, Makati City; tel. no. 625-2792, 0917-539-9661; Open from 12 p.m. to 1 a.m. (Sunday to Wednesday); 12 p.m. to 2 a.m. (Thursday to Saturday); Facebook.com/burgerbarph; Twitter: @burgerbarph.

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