Sloppy, drippy, salty, meaty, fruity, earthy and cheesy: Chris Nuttall-Smith takes on M:brgr’s $100 burger
I ate two Kobe beef patties for lunch yesterday, plus a couple slices of bacon, a wedge of foie gras, an ounce of gloopy brie, a slick of fig jam, a stack of really fabulous grilled pear slices, four asparagus spears, piave del vecchio cheese, garlic-roasted ham (effing delish), porcini mushrooms (I’m thinking they weren’t porcini, but that’s what the menu said), three white bread buns, an olive, and a side each of black truffle slices and honey truffle aïoli. All this cost me $100, plus tax and tip, and the burger—yes, it was a burger—was so tall that it took several tries and a near-miss nasal-labial injury to get an honest bite of the thing into my mouth.
The sandwich is the menu highlight at M:brgr Brgr Bar, the vowel-challenged Montreal-based outfit that opened its first Toronto store, at King and Spadina, two weeks ago. The “$100 brgr,” as it’s called, is the most expensive sandwich in the city. It’s one of the priciest single restaurant menu items in town.
Our waiter doesn’t believe my order at first. I ask for the $100 M:brgr, then he takes my friend’s order, and then the waiter asks me, again, what I’ll have. “The $100 M:brgr,” I tell him.
“Oh, I thought you were joking,” he says.
For a good 20 seconds after my burger arrives I just admire the thing: its height (a good eight inches), its smell (bacony sweetness, melting cheese, black truffles, honey), the way the drippings have begun to saturate the bottom bun—whereupon the manager appears, to ask if he can put it on a bigger plate. He walks my lunch into the kitchen and doesn’t return for three or four minutes. Now the burger is surrounded by fries (they’re OK, but totally unnecessary) and salad. If it were my restaurant, I’d want to serve my $100 burger hot, instead of lukewarm, which is what it is when the manager brings it back.
The burger part is resolutely average, the meat brownish grey and over-compressed and chewy. It doesn’t even approach the fresh-ground, hand-formed, cooked-to-medium greatness of Bymark’s $35 burger, or the $12 ones at The Burger’s Priest. I’ll take M:brgr’s word for it that the patties are Kobe beef. They taste like factory-formed beef patties. They’re juicy, but not epically so, and beefy, but only a bit.
But those pears, combined with the garlic-roasted ham, combined with the brie and the bacon and the fig jam, and the piave del vecchio slivers, which are as translucent as backlit onyx, and the mushrooms and the foie gras, which I’m trusting was there but I didn’t notice, are a sloppy, drippy, salty, meaty, fruity, earthy, cheesy, beautiful thing. Not $100 beautiful. Maybe $30 beautiful. They’d be aces on a $30 sandwich, without the beef.
But as I eat, I realize that the $100 M:brgr isn’t really about the burger or the toppings. It’s about the $100. It’s about the manager personally fiddling with the dish after it arrives, and the waiter looking at you like you must be a serious big shot, and the date who admiringly calls it “a fuck-you burger,” and the wicked-hot hostess who you’d swear smiles at you more brightly because you’re the guy who just spent $100 on a single dish on a dreary Monday at lunch. By any of those standards, it’s outstanding.
“Make sure to recommend that $100 burger to all your pals,” our waiter says after I pay the tab. “Sure,” I answer, then I head home to sleep it off.