Birthday Dinner – or the $42++ Burger

The Original db Burger - made with braised short ribs and foie gras
The Original db Burger – made with braised short ribs and foie gras

This is it – the signature burger. It was my birthday and the Lady had decided to take me to db bistro moderne in Marina Bay Sands. The restaurant is one of a chain run by chef Daniel Boulud, a French restaurateur with restaurants in New York City, Palm Beach, Miami, Montreal, Toronto, London, Beijing, and Singapore. His restaurant in New York City, Daniel, is a Michelin 3-star restaurant.

The Lady knows I have a passion for a good burger. As I once said to the executive chef at the Renaissance Hotel in Seoul back in the early 1990s, “anyone can cook a reasonable duck l’orange, but it takes a master chef to produce a brilliant cheeseburger”. I should note that he then proceeded to cook possibly the best cheeseburger I have ever had!

The Original db Burger was not that burger!

Overall the burger was nice, the mix of foie gras and good quality meat provide a nice flavour combination but I think my issue with this burger is that attempt to make it 3-Michelin star standard – something a burger, no matter how nice, should ever be. The attempt to keep height in the meal meant the meat patty was very thick (and yes, that is partly to contain the foie gras) and that thickness makes the patty difficult to cook evenly. That thickness is a problem as I like my burgers well done so where the  centre was cooked, the outside was almost burnt.

The chips (OK, pommes frites) were nice enough but were over salted – more on that later.

The burger is served on a very large plate and the serving makes it a little reminiscent of the old days of nouveau cuisine where the meals were pretty but left you looking for a cheeseburger on the way home. $42++ ((all pricing is in Singaproe dollars here)) for the burger though? Way overpriced for what it was. The restaurant may see itself as an exclusive, fine dining establishment but there are a few cracks there too – more on that later. I was glad to have had an onion soup to start with otherwise I may have been looking at the golden arches on the way home.

The Baked Alaska flambéing away!
The Baked Alaska flambéing away!

The  Lady decided to have a set menu and her choices were a seafood pasta followed by two types of beef – one I think was a sirloin cut, the other was from the flank. She had selected the Baked Alaska for desert. I tried her entrée as she was not happy with it. It was a seafood pasta in a butter sauce. The sauce was so salty. The whole dish had been over-seasoned. Serving a butter sauce (in itself a little salty) over a pasta that I am sure was cooked in salted water with seafood cooked in the butter (and I am guessing salted some more) would have been lovely except for all the salt. The Lady is used to salt and salts her cooking well but this was just too much salt.

In fact, the over-seasoning seemed to attack both the burger and her main course as well as it was quite salty. Now I know that many places like salty food to encourage the patron to drink more but this is a classy restaurant – surely they are above that? Her main course was so memorable that neither of us can really remember it 24 hours later.

The saviour food-wise for the evening was the Baked Alaska. It was a 9/10 dish. It even looks good up there.

Apart from the food, there were other disappointments too. The tables are small. That’s nice, you can be close to your dinner companion and it feels a little intimate. This mood is destroyed almost immediately by the noise of the restaurant. It is a very noisy restaurant. The décor seems to just echo sound. The maître d’ was excellent as was the wine waiter (or perhaps sommelier).

The serving staff were a little too attentive for my liking except when they needed to be. I mentioned the small table. The plates are huge so two plates and a condiment tray across the table and the plates are starting to hang off the edge. I am eating a burger which entails some finger work to be eaten properly so it was not totally unexpected when I knocked my knife off the table. Attentive waiter number one rushes over and picks the knife up and says they will bring another one. It never arrived. That didn’t matter so much as I knocked the fork off as well about 5 minutes later. That I retrieved myself and again, it was never replaced.

Overall, it is an interesting place and we are glad we have eaten there. After $42++ for the signature burger, I have a renewed respect for the $3.85 Mos Cheeseburger!

The Bergs Cheeseburger

2012-12-05 13.39.23 I ate at Bergs Burgers the other day – the Bergs Cheeseburger was the fare of the day. The burger costs $13.00 and for a few dollars extra you can add a soft drink and a few chips.

One of the nice things with the Berg’s burger is that you are asked whether you want Swiss, Blue or Edam cheese. For my burger I took Edam.

Berg’s serve their burger in a paper bag and what more could you ask – perhaps the best way to serve a burger and no washing up afterwards.

The meat in the burger is well ground beef and very tasty. It is lightly seasoned. Where Berg’s do well is with the construction of the burger. The meat patty is juicy to the end and the bun is tough enough to take that juice until perhaps the last two or three mouthfuls. It doesn’t fall apart.

The burger itself is constructed with lettuce, tomato, onion (I’m missing my beetroot) and added to the burger is an aioli that is rich in garlic – so perhaps not the best burger for lunch. A beer is also available at Berg’s. They are located at two locations in Singapore. I ate at the one at Far East Square, 137 Amoy St, #01-01 Far East Square.

They offer a range of Burgers (including one of my favourites, the Budgie Smuggler).

I’d have to rate the Bergs Cheeseburger an 8.5/10 … maybe a 9! It is a very nice burger and it will be hard to find something better here I think.

The Dome Burger

2012-12-01 20.55.49Those that know me know that I am a man of simple tastes. No pheasant under glass, no duck l’orange, no foi gras for me, no sir. Give me a burger and I am gastronomically happy. I once told a friend of mine in Seoul, the then executive chef at the Seoul Renaissance Hotel, that you could always tell a great chef from the simple meals. Any cook can usually manage a complicated dish and give it a good showing but a truly great chef can take the simplest of meals and make them superb.

He then proceeded to cook me the best burger I had ever had up until that time.

Later, I spent some time in Mongolia and went on the hunt for the best cheeseburger in Ulaanbaatar. The echoes of that hunt can still be seen at Thomo’s Cheesburger Page.

I’ve been around Singapore for nearly two years now and have managed to eat a few burgers and commented on the odd one or two. Today I got to thinking that perhaps I should start the review again so here it is, the first of Thomo’s Singapore Burger tastings.

Before I start on the burger, I should note that a beer is the perfect accompaniment – a good, cold, fresh lager I think is best. Even better is if the burger and beer can be consumed whilst there is a football match being played although that is optional. I should also note that I am in the process of actually trying to shed a kilo or 10 so to that end, I am quitting drinking beer for a month (yes, skipping Christmas but back into it for New Year). Burgers are, of course, healthy, containing as they do carbohydrate, protein and vegetation.

The first burger to come under the microscope was from Saturday night. We had been to see Skyfall (thoroughly recommended – classic style Bond) and the Cathay Cineleisure was full of pre- and barely pubescent individuals so we started hoofing it around town after the movie. We ended up in the Dôme at Shaw House, 350 Orchard Road, Level 4 Isetan Scotts Shaw House, Singapore. I think the Dôme is actually a West Australian organisation but I am happy to be corrected on that.

The burger came and is illustrated in the photograph. Sesame seed bun,fried egg, beef patty, limp lettuce (although the salad served on the side was very crispy and fresh), slice of tomato and sides of chips and salad with some mayonnaise to dip the chips in. The cost for this is S $15.90 (plus service and tax) – about US $13.00.

The burger itself was very pleasant. There was nothing outstanding about it, it was a workmanlike effort. The beef patty was good quality, well seasoned and with a pleasant flavour. The bun held together for the whole burger but was not hard and the egg and tomato added some more layers to the overall flavour. I think it is a little overpriced at S $15.90 but I suspect part of that is paying for the Dôme experience itself.

Overall (and this burger becomes the Singapore benchmark), I’d rate this 7.5/10.

Another Stop, Another Works Burger

20111230-202732.jpgAfter the disappointments with the Coolongoolook Caltex servo we decided to try another location for a meal. We stopped the Rock which is south of Buladelah. There is a food court (a small one) in what was the Leyland Brothers folly. OK, food was cheap but not of the best quality.

I think I would rate the works burger about 6/10 … But I was hungry.

Next. Trip, the Caltex servo in Buladelah.

A New Works Burger

IMG_0402 Readers of Thomo’s Hole will know that Thomo is partial to the odd burger. In the past the burger of choice when travelling to mama’s was always the works burger at the Caltex servo at Coolongolook. That servo appears to have changed hands recently and the quantity and quality of food in the restaurant has diminished.

This trip we decided to try the Mobil servo at Bulahdelah after a recommendation from a bloke I met on a flight from Singapore to Sydney.

The burger was quite good and I’d certainly rate it a 7 or maybe 8 out of 10. The only downside was the tables and chairs. The chairs are fixed to the table which is fixed to the floor. Not so good for a gentleman of more fulsome figure – the empty part of belly being on top of the table and the remaining paunch tucked away Nader under the table. 1 out of 10 for the tables.

Map picture

That Was a Hot One

It was a beer night so coming home I felt pretty good although a little hungry. We were drinking at a Belgian bar so it was beer and chip only earlier. I figured that a hot chilli type soup would go down a treat and help ensure I felt pretty good the next morning. Leastwise it had always worked that way when I worked on Korea.

I stopped at the local hawker stalls here and found a boiled beef soup. It was beautiful, just what the doctor ordered but my goodness, it was a hot one. Even my top lip was sweating. Mind you, I feel great this morning.

Mr Yang’s Baseline

Today it was time for the annual Christmas lunch. Once a year we get together, eat way too much, recall old times, ponder if Richard is using hair colour to prevent the grey and generally have a good time. This year there were a few missing, from nothing more serious than they just couldn’t make it. Indraa was missed as was Glenn, Antoine and Dom to name just a few.

Each year, however, we have noted the proclivity for Mr Yang to engage in a personal battle with the Sydney Rock Oyster population of the local bays and estuaries. Each year it is a fierce battle and a close run result. We were missing one thing, however. We did not have a baseline. As Mr Yang is getting older does he require more oysters or less. More oysters to, er, maintain “vigorosity” or less oysters as he sleeps more now?

How could we tell? We had no baseline. Today, therefore, we paid attention and as the last oyster slid down Mr Yang’s throat we noted and recorded the number for posterity – and the baseline for next years Christmas lunch.


Meal 1 – Sunday Night – Veal and Three Veg

Today was a busy day. I had an assignment to write for a course I am doing, as well as washing on the line and wanted to get to Iron Cove for a long walk to eliminate as much as possible the effect of yesterday’s pavlova and baklava. Compounding this timetable was a Rugby League game on TV (the Tigers losing to the Sea Eagles), the Great (yawn) debate between Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and lastly the Masterchef Australia Grand Finale. This left me exactly a 30-minute window between the end of the football and the start of the debate.

So – simple, quick and not too expensive. Head in the fridge and out came the ingredients:

  1. Two Veal T-bones
  2. 4 rashers of bacon
  3. 4 Royal Blue Potatoes
  4. Two packets of Heinz “Steam Fresh” vegetables (yes, I know – this is probably cheating but we’ve given up throwing out lots of uneaten fresh vegetables so the packets of frozen vegetables provide a very good alternative for us).

So, this was easy as.

Peel potatoes, dice and add to a pan of cold water, bring to the boil then drain and mash with some butter and milk. Season with garlic granules and black pepper.

Season the steaks with some salt and pepper and add to a hot pan – turning the heat down to a medium to hot level. Fry until the cooked colour moves half way up the side of the steak then turn the steak. Cook for the same amount of time, then remove from the pan and let rest.

Stick the frozen vegetables in the microwave and nuke them for a couple of minutes. In the meantime, add the bacon to the pan the steaks were cooked in and cook them.

Serve with the bacon on top of the steak, mashed potato and vegetables to the side.

Total preparation and cooking time was about 25 minutes and the meal consisted of meat, potatoes and the equivalent of nearly two serves of vegetables. Boring and plain perhaps and because of that, only rating about a 6/10 but it certainly fitted all the parameters.

This Week’s Cooking Targets

I set myself a little target for food this week. It was simple really as I have a lot to do this week. I decided that the dinner parameters would be:

  1. Maximum of 5 separate ingredients (or added items)
  2. Maximum of 2 pots used for cooking (lazy and no dishwasher)
  3. Maximum of 30 minutes for preparation, cooking and serving (20 minutes preferred)
  4. Should contain several of the basic food groups and a serve or two of vegetables (er, moderately healthy)

Fortunately, I do not need to perpare for every day as I am out on Wednesday. Thursday is my birthday so a dinner out might also be in order. Therefore, the nights that need to be covered are tonight (Sunday), Monday, Tuesday and Friday.

As I progress through the week I will update the blog with the recipes and the results … and maybe the odd photograph as well.

First post will be Sunday’s dinner.

Sausage Stew

We got home tonight and madam noted, “I’m bloody hungry, how long before dinner?” After some negotiation we agreed that I would knock something up and serve in 30 minutes. This was at the same time as cooking some cupcakes.

So, it was like a combination of Ready, Steady, Cook and Masterchef. An invention test in 30 minutes.

Out came the following ingredients (and it is sort of embarrassing using so few but also rather satisfying to manage it with what was in the pantry):

  1. Four large sausages – this will work with long breakfast sausages as well – I had four organic beef sausage, gluten free in the fridge.
  2. A 500 ml tetra pak of Campbell’s Velish – a thick vegetable soup. Really, any of the flavours could be used however I just used the plain vegetable.
  3. Two onions and two cloves of garlic.
  4. A packet of frozen mixed vegetables – one of the small packets is fine. Equally you could subsitute corn and peas.

OK – simple as. Chop the garlic. The onion was halved then cut in slices. Cut the sausages to bite sized chunks.

Take a skillet, slurp a little olive oil into it, and toss in the garlic. When you get that nice garlic smell coming off the pan, add the onion. As the onion starts to go translucent, add the sausages and brown them in the pan. When they are browned, add the Velish and bring up to just short of boiling (well, when you get the first bubbles).

When the soup is hot, add the frozen vegetable and simmer the whole lot for about 10 minutes, stirring every so often.

I also made some mashed potatoes (if you don’t know how to cook them, Google it 😆  ). Serve the stew with some mashed potatoes.

For a variation (and for a quick cheat), when adding the frozen vegetables, you could add a spoon or two of Keen’s Curry Powder (add to taste) and have a Curried Sausage Stew. In this case, serve with rice rather than potatoes.

The score for the invention test was 7/10 … although the cupcakes scored 9  😆