Current quest: finding the best burger in the city. It's a burger fight to the death. Eight burgers enter, one burger leaves.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Cage Match #2: Absinthe vs. Chez Lucien

Absinthe (1208 Wellington St. W) is one of those upscale, environmentally conscious restaurants using locally-sourced ingredients.  The server informed us that they send all their kitchen scraps to the farm to feed the pigs, and then they receive the pigs back in a tastier form.  We ordered their Benevolent Burger ($14), so named because a dollar from every burger sold is donated to Cornerstone Housing for women.  It consists of 8 ounces of hanger steak from Mariposa Farm, topped with sharp cheddar and double smoked bacon on a house made brioche bun.

The service was really good - the server didn't emanate any barely concealed scorn when we told him we'd be sharing the burger (and when I told him I'd just have water, ha!) and the kitchen actually divided the meal for us:

Together as one portion, the serving size would have been substantial, and really good value for $14, considering the quality of the ingredients used.  The fries were good - crispy and dusted with sea salt, as was the salad, which consisted of arugula with shaved Parmesan and lightly dressed in a tangy vinaigrette.  As for the burger itself, the first thing I noticed was that it was so big I'd have to dislocate my jaw to get a good bite in.  The patty was nice and juicy; Jon liked that it was charred on the outside.  I personally thought it was a little too salty, but I'm also not a huge fan of bacon, don't own a salt shaker and rarely add salt to anything. So, take that with a grain of...salt.

Jon's big thing was that they weren't more creative with their toppings, compared to, say, the Works and their myriad of choices.  He wanted something more unusual.  He conceded that Absinthe's burger overall is better than that at The Works, but because the toppings are so conventional it brought his score down.

Jon:  The Works is like a movie that doesn't have much of a plot but the cinematography is gorgeous.  Like Lost in Translation!
Me:  That movie was so slow I swear it started going backwards.  Or maybe that was Kingdom of Heaven? Anyhow, I'm not feeling your analogy.
Jon:   Whereas the Absinthe burger is like a movie with a great plot, but has less style.  Like....the Matrix trilogy.
Me:   The second movie was so bad I never bothered watching the third.  Like I read somewhere once, what was so great about Zion?  It was dark, and depressing, and full of sharp things that snag the one sweater you're allowed to wear.
Jon:   What got me was, the humans weren't able to save any colorful shirts?  The computers destroyed everything that wasn't oatmeal?

Final scores:

Jon:  (patty could have been still juicier, toppings not creative enough):  9/10
Me:  (too salty): 9/10

On to Chez Lucien (137 Murray St.), which I have always loved for its ambience.  Isn't it gorgeous?

We got their Bourgeois burger ($12) which was topped with pear, caramelized onions and brie.

Honestly, I thought the taste and texture were on par with the Works - a bit dry, a bit bland.  Jon liked that it was charred on the outside, but also didn't think the flavours were punchy enough.  Value wise, you get more bang for your buck here than at The Works - fries AND salad, for a $1.50 less, though I think the Absinthe burger, while $2 more than that at Chez Lucien, is a better value due to the higher quality of its ingredients (plus $1 goes to charity, so you can feel all smug and altruistic).

Final scores:

Jon:  7.5/10
Me:  7.5/10 Absinthe Cafe Resto Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. We've been to Chez Lucien and agree with your assessment! Come to Toronto and we'll show you guys our favourite burger. :)

  2. Yes, where was that again? You said Burger Priest wasn't that good, right?