This morning, I ran to reverse the damage and abuse from my relationship with butter. Last night, that involved a giant ribeye steak smothered in butter, sizzling on a 500 degree plate (brownie points to anyone who can guess where I was). Last week, it involved one of the top ranked burgers in New York City at the revered Minetta Tavern. I’m going to focus on the latter.
On paper, the Black Label Burger is everything an omnivore could ever dream of. Serious Eats did a fantastic article, dissecting the thought and process behind the Black Label. Here are some key points:
- The beef is a combination of prime dry aged ribeye, skirt steak, and brisket from Creekstone Farms, KENTUCKY (whoa, right?). Although the burger goes for a whopping $26, it’s pretty cheap when you compare it to the ribeye entree (the same cut that goes into the burger) which goes for $90 at the restaurant. And why prime? Because the natural marbling requires less external fat
- The bun is a peppered brioche from the famous Balthazar Bakery just avenues across. The brioche is baked a day in advance so that it can harden slightly overnight. It’s not your typical sweet, buttery brioche. If a Kaiser roll could ever be in a brioche form, this would be it.
- The toppings include lettuce, tomato, and sautéed onions. That’s right, no cheese. You can order it with cheese (free of charge too!) but it’s not recommended. I agree, the burger is seasoned and salted enough on its own. But the onions are amazing. Sauteed to the brink of caramelizing, they provide this delicate sweetness.
- Butter: Didn’t think I was going to forget this one now eh? Basically, they slather clarified butter all over the surface of the beef while on the grill. And no, clarified butter is not just melted butter. It’s melted butter sans milk solids, whatever that means.
You’ll be surprised to hear that I was not impressed. A big factor is the price. For $26, I could have gotten 5 Shake Shack burgers, 1.5 Spotted Big Burgers, or made 10 of my own. I honestly thought that the burgers Esther and I made last week were better.
I think what really killed the burger was the butter overload. My first bite felt like I was taking a bite out of a stick of butter, which is really gross. The burger was juicy and cooked perfectly. I think sans clarified butter, I would have enjoyed it a lot more. But honestly, I just didn’t feel it. Don’t get me wrong. It’s an incredibly rich burger and you can feel it every time the juice just oozes out with each bite. The meat is tender, almost like eating a medium-rare steak. But the flavor is too mild in my opinion. Maybe it’s because I was supposed to appreciate the “natural beef” flavor like you do at a steakhouse, but nope. I thought the Spotted Pig offered a better burger despite it being over salted. So yes, one thing this burger could have used more of is salt! The brioche bun was also a bit disappointing as the juices still rendered the bottom bun soggy. Despite it being brioche and all, I couldn’t find anything special about it (usually, I think burgers with brioche buns are just absolutely out of this world!)
Overall, an above average burger for a way above average price. I think this fellow food blogger but it best when he said (comparing the Black Label to the original Minetta Burger)
Ounce for ounce, penny for penny, the Minetta Burger destroys its super-uber-gourmet counterpart. Furthermore, and I don’t think I’m being unreasonable here, If I’m going to spend $26 on a hamburger, it had better change my life in some way shape or form, otherwise I just feel stupid and cheated.
On the bright side, the fries are delicious…
(Nothing like an Old Speckled Hen to wash down a burger)
Chocolate Dacquoise: Rich chocolate ganache layered with hazelnut meringue ($9)
We did end up ordering dessert, a Chocolate Dacquoise. Let me tell you, this was phenomenal. It was like dissecting a truffle. The top part is this bitter chocolate that crumbles at the touch of the fork yet retains this crunch at the bite. Then there’s a layer of meringue and then a rich, dense ganache, and another layer of meringue. It may not look 100% perfect, but it tasted 100% perfect.
Go for the cake. For sure. Oh, and to meet the Maître d‘, Robert. He’s pretty cool.