When you have tried all the burgers in the neighborhood, there is nothing else to look forward than meal time, right? That was what we felt when we decided to start the Off-Menu Gourmand Club in the Fort. We wanted to get the excitement from expecting a dish.
However, finding a restaurant willing to offer an off-menu item is not that easy. Restaurant chains are big bureaucracies. They do not offer anything without going through a lot of procedures. For independent restaurants, the chef has to be confident enough to offer something not tested before.
We were lucky that the chef of Grind Bistro and Cafe at The Net Park was up to the challenge.
Photo: Mystery burger number one is a brioche burger with gorgonzola cheese, shiitake mushroom, and soy ketchup
We contacted a few restaurants that are known for their burgers ahead of time and gave an all-in budget of P500 per head. We were very happy that Grind Bistro and Cafe accepted our challenge so that the Off Menu Gourmand Club could have our first gathering,
There were only three of us at the restaurant on November 28, 2017, but that did not take away the excitement of trying something new and unique, as in no one else who had walked into that restaurant had ever tried it!
That night, Chef Steven Carl offered us two burgers, a brioche burger with gorgonzola cheese and shiitake mushroom, seasoned with soy ketchup. The other was an open-faced rye bread sandwich that has pastrami slices on a beef patty, with sauteed onion, melted gouda cheese, and mustard aioli. We ordered both for sharing and never looked back.
The brioche, which is a sweet and buttery bread, was firm but not hard, and not too sweet. All the ingredients inside the burger had the flavor that they were supposed to have, and yet they worked very well together. The beef patty was succulent, the mushroom slices were umami, and the gorgonzola cheese was mild yet had the distinct flavor of blue cheese. It was blue cheese without the aggressiveness of ordinary blue cheese that often turn some people off. The soy ketchup was not too salty. It added just the right amount of saltiness to the whole burger.
It was a satisfying burger that had tons of flavor, all balanced and worked well together. For those of us who liked to keep our hands dry after eating a burger, we were even happier since this fantastic beast was juicy but not drippy.
Photo above: Open-faced rye bread pastrami sandwich; inset: Chef Steven Carl
The star of the open-faced rye bread pastrami sandwich had to be the pastrami. It was slices of well-cooked high-grade beef that piled on top of a thick beef patty. In a hurry to try it, unfortunately, we did not take a very good photo of the sandwich. Just believe us when we say that it was the best pastrami burger that we ever had.
Someone asked me, isn't pastrami the same as corned beef? Lucky for us who live in the era of the internet. We googled and found the answer right away. Both pastrami and corned beef were beef marinated in brine, but corned beef is cooked by boiling the meat while pastrami is made by smoking the beef after brining. This pastrami cooked by Chef Steven must have used very high-quality beef since it was very tender and succulent and with the right amount of saltiness and smoky flavor.
The smokiness of the pastrami went well with the beef patty. The melt gouda was very mild, probably to give way to the beef flavor in the sandwich. But when we looked up the internet for Gouda cheese, we learned that this cheese had an advantage over other cheeses, even though it is very subdued in the taste department. Gouda contains Vitamin K2, which has anti-aging properties. So while we were eating a burger, we were slowing down aging!
Our bill for the three burgers came to P1,650, a little bit above our budget, but we were super happy with the food and service we got from Grind Bistro. Bravo, Chef Steven!