Speaking of Burgers – the Big Mac Index

I have a degree in Economics from the University of New England, in Armidale, New South Wales, Australia. I read for that degree when Friedman’s Monetarism and Reaganomics was all the rage and Keynesian economics was generally confined to those academics that had a true grasp of societal greed and the flawed assumptions Friedman based his theories on, not to mention that after periods of tight monetary control, generally inflation boomed.

So, what has economics got to do with burgers. Nothing really other than I started looking at cheeseburgers locally and that led me to think of the Big Mac Index. What started out as a joke has become a standard for measuring the purchasing power of different currencies against a very standard basket of goods, in this case, McDonald’s Big Mac.

Most of us of an age will remember the Big Mac rhyme, “two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame-seed bun”. McDonald’s (Maccas in Australia, McDo’s in the Philippines) opened their first Australian restaurant in 1971, the year before I finished high school. For those curious, it was opened in Yagoona, a suburb of Sydney.

The rhyme came out on television and radio advertisements in 1974, when inflation was rampant, petrol prices were rising and Gough Whitlam was Prime Minister of Australia. It was a happy, catchy jingle.

I digress. So no matter where you are in the world,. a McDonald’s Big Mac is made with the same ingredients and the same way. McDonald’s does not just sell burgers. They have one of the best quality systems anywhere and so not only are the ingredients the same, the way they are produced, prepared, the amount of power used used on same machines for cooking, the whole kit and kaboodle, is standard everywhere. This means that a direct currency comparison can be made by using the cost to consumers of the Big Mac.

Comparing USD against PHP – raw data – suggesting the peso in undervalued against the USD (or, the USD is overvalued)

In 1986 the Economist published the Big Mac index. It was based on the theory* of purchasing-power parity, the theory suggesting that in the long-run, exchange rates should settle at a rate that provides parity between any two currencies for the cost of the Big Mac. As the Economist notes:

Burgernomics was never intended as a precise gauge of currency misalignment, merely a tool to make exchange-rate theory more digestible. Yet the Big Mac index has become a global standard, included in several economic textbooks and the subject of dozens of academic studies. For those who take their fast food more seriously, we also calculate a gourmet version of the index.

I am not thinking of applying an Angeles cheeseburger index … but then again 🙂

You can check the Economist index at The Economist Big Mac Index.

* “All theory depends on assumptions which are not quite true. That is what makes it theory” … Robert Solow in 1956

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Angeles Burgers

Note: I have moved these ratings to a more static location here and will add further burger reviews there – click on Cheeseburgers to see the full display and Cheeseburgers of Angeles City

I decided that I really should get back to cheeseburgers as, after all, that is mentioned in the title banner of Thomo’s Hole, and those that know me, know that I am partial to a good burger, especially if accompanied by a beer and a suitable sporting contest on a big screen!

You can tell a lot about a restaurant/pub/café/diner/food truck by the quality of the burger. In the interests of science then I plan to resurrect a task I once undertook in Mongolia, and that was the assessment of the local burgers.

As this is my assessment, I will note price as cheap, average and expensive and rate the burger out of 10 flavour-wise … or at least how my taste buds respond to it.

The burgers being sampled will be a standard cheeseburger – be that a menu item or a request for a burger with cheese added. Nothing special or additional and no comment on the chips or fries that come with it, or indeed if it is served with no fries.

The construction will be assessed (from the bottom up, bun, lettuce, tomato, beef patty (if it ain’t beef, it’s a sandwich), onion if caramelised, cheese, onion if raw, bun. That is a standard Mark I Cheeseburger. Pickles are an add-on, beetroot is mandatory … however, as I am not in Australia I will give that a miss. The bun should be robust enough to hold together until the last mouthful, retaining as much burger juice as possible and while the burger may be delivered to the table deconstructed, it should not require deconstructing or the use of utensils other than fingers for eating. Lastly, accompaniment should be a cold beer.


The burger from Tequila Reef
7/10 — $$

Tequila Reef

Tequila Reef is a Mexican themed restaurant and bar near Angeles main entertainment area. It is popular with both local and expats, in part because of its tasty food at reasonable prices.

The Burger was ordered and cheese requested. The burger itself was constructed well with a substantial, well seasoned patty. American cheese. tomato and pickles on the burger with a slice of raw onion and lettuce on the side. Crinkle cut chips also accompanied the burger. The lettuce and onion was added (and pickles removed) to the burger. While the burger was well seasoned it had been cooked to well done and was a little dry. This dryness was quickly fixed with some cold beer. The burger could be handled with one hand. Overall, the burger is about a 7/10 on my assessment and its pricing is in the 300 to 400 peso range so $$. A nice burger, reasonable priced before heading out for further entertainment and drinking.

Flavour 7/10, price $$

The Envy Burger
8/10 — $$$


The Envy Burger is found in the Envy Sports Bar on Fields Avenue. It is right across the road from Phillies, one of the local landmarks. The burger is large and is served with French fries (I guess you pay a little extra for the nice basket) The burger is well constructed with, from the bottom up, bun, lettuce, tomato, patty, pickles, onion rings, cheese and bun.

The patty is nicely juicy and I guess they are using an 80/20 meat to fat mix. It is well seasoned and nicely caramelised. The onion in the form of onion rings is a nice variation on the standard burger. The bun holds together well. My main criticism with this burger is that you would need to be able to dislocate your jaw to get it in so you need to deconstruct it to eat. This is a recommended burger however, if you are in Angeles City.

For flavour, 8/10 but price is $$$.

Moon’s Bar
5/10 — $

Moon’s Bar

The cheeseburger to the right comes from my local pub near where I am currently living – Moon’s Bar. The burger comes solo (no fries) and is well constructed. From the bottom up, bun, lettuce, patty, cheese, tomato, cucumber, raw onion, sesame seed bun top.

Firstly! Who put cucumber on a burger? It was removed!

The patty was kind of odd. It looked like a chicken patty and also looked and tasted like it has been deep fried, or at least friend in a lot of oil. Apart from that and allowing for the cucumber, for the price it was reasonable – it was under 300 pesos. It was not one of my favourite burgers although I may try one more from there and see if there is a change in the patty. On the plus side, that pub does make a nice potato scallop (a typical fried food from New South Wales in Australia). Rating is 5/10 for flavour but price is $.

Paradise Burger
7/10 — $$


Paradise is a new sports bar down the McDonald’s end of Walking Street, having replaced the previous sports bar. Paradise is also a good kicking off joint for some pub crawling.

The burger has been well constructed with bun, lettuce, patty, tomato, onion, cucumber, cheese and bun. It was served with French fries. Off with the cucumber first.

Patty is well seasoned and remained juicy to the end. It can be squashed enough to eat without deconstructing.

Rating is 7/10 for flavour and $$ for price.

6/10 — $$


Insomnia is a new “resto-bar” that has opened during the pandemic. Previously it was an “entertainment” bar but those types of bars that made Fields Avenue and Walking Street famous as a red-light district have all been closed. As a result, a number of them have reinvented themselves and opened as sports bars or resto-bars. The main requirement from City Hall and/or the barangay to get a license again is that they should be showing sports (eat your heart out Singapore friends), must serve food and should not have “entertainers”.

Insomnia was one such bar and it has recently opened as a resto-bar. The burger, kind of blue in the image due to the lighting in the bar, was surprisingly good and a great way to start Wednesday night’s beer night.

The burger was served with crinkle cut fries and consisted of bun, sad piece of lettuce, patty, caramelised onion, cheese, pickles, tomato and sesame seed bun. The patty was not seasoned much but basically just meat. The meat did remain juicy until then last mouthful and the burger could be be managed with fingers only.

Flavour I reckon is about a 6/10 but price is at the low end of $$ so reasonable value, paired with an ice cold Heineken.

The Future

If only for the craic, as the Irish say, I will update this post from time to time, as I have a burger from a new location around Pampanga (the province that Angeles City is in). I will also likely move this from a post into a series of pages for a more static home. However, first things first – beer night is tomorrow night this week and perhaps it is time for the next Cheeseburger!

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The New Harbour Cheeseburger

The New Harbour CHeeseburger
The New Harbour Cheeseburger

On the way back from the wargame last night, the topic of dinner came up. The lady was looking for Korean first or mussels second. Our favourite Korean restaurant was full so mussels were then Plan B. We stopped into the New Harbour Cafe and Bar on Tanjong Pagar Road where I had a chance to savour a cheeseburger.

The New Harbour is a big cheeseburger with minimal inclusions – a piece of limp lettuce, a slice of tomato and a slice of cucumber. The beef patty however is reasonably seasoned and more importantly, big. The cheese is melted to the patty and the bun is strong enough to last the burger through.

The burger itself is fine and filling but not great. It weighs in at about $16.00 and on the modified Thomo Cheeseburger scale, I’d rate it a 6/10.

I really must put the scale up here at some point in the future.

Food Garage Cheeseburger

The Food Garage Cheeseburger
The Food Garage Cheeseburger

I’ve been on a diet. Yep, Thomo has been trimming down. My first target is to be overweight and in this I am being slowly successful. I only have about 300 grams to go to be overweight.

The diet has been to quit alcohol (with the exception of the very occasional shandy) and eat at least one cheeseburger a week.

Today, for lunch, I needed to head to Chinatown Point here to grab some stuff from the Daiso (the $2 store) and thought I would lunch there. There seemed to be at a table free at Food Garage so I wandered in. There was a cheeseburger there for $14.50 so burger it was.

Meat patty was well cooked but still juicy. Sesame seed bun, a reasonable cheese, ketchup, two types of shredded cabbage, onion and tomato.

A generous burger for the price and good overall flavour. I’d have to call this at about 7/10. Certainly good quality for the money.

The Gun Bar Burger

The Gun Bar Burger - sweet!
The Gun Bar Burger – sweet!

Anthony decided to experiment on Saturday before the French-Indian Wars Big Battle and in an effort to become more acquainted with his barbecue, decided to experiment with a burger. This was partly because of my previous burger posts and partly because he also likes a good burger.

Now, where there is a barbecue involved and the end result is a burger, Thomo is happy to be experimented on. Given the pursuit for the perfect burger in Singapore (and other locations as well it seems), the first bite of any burger needs to be reported on!

A hand-made beef patty lightly seasoned and pressed with care provided the core component of the burger. Taking flavour from the barbecue enriched the flavour. The cheese added to this burger was Brie which provides a nice depth of flavour to the burger. Add tomato, lettuce and onion and the burger provided an excellent meal – and certainly sustenance enough for me to fight the dastardly British to a standstill in North America!

Overall, I reckon this was the standard of a good burger – 7.5/10. Future burgers will need to work hard to taste better.

A Jakarta Burger

The Park Lane Cheeseburger
The Park Lane Cheeseburger

I had a burger today and decided that I should include travelling burgers as well as just those in Singapore.

This then is the first of the Jakarta burgers.

I had it at the Park Lane – an older 5-star hotel. The burger I would rate as a 4/10 2/10 [it was noted to me by Dr Dan that 4/10 was just below average whereas 2 or 3 out of 10 was awful – leaving 0 and 1 out of 10 for the absolutely dreadful]. It was kind of dry and the beef bacon was chewy and did not have a good texture. The patty was beef but had just the minimum of seasoning and little in the way of extra flavour.

There was something that looked like a peppery thousand Island dressing so I asked for tomato ketchup. The tomato, and lettuce was limp – the tomato looked like it has been sliced yesterday and left out of the fridge. The onion still had one layer of skin around the outside. I avoided the pickle altogether and never noticed the mushrooms under the cheese until just now, looking at the picture again.

Overall, this is perhaps the worst burger I have had in the last 12 months with the possible exception of one at the Bull and Bear in Singapore where the centre of the meat patty was a lump, as if minced meat had been minced then squeezed together and frozen then not properly thawed.

Today’s burger was enough to turn me vegetarian – quick, give me a salad!

Cheeseburger – &MADE by Bruno Menard

2013-08-18 19.57.16We had just come back from lunch at the Taphouse and had spent a couple of hours chatting and taking over coffee. We were hungry again and as we were near Scott’s Plaza we decided that we would try what looked like a French Bistro.

They made burgers.

They made other stuff as well, like a steak but all Thomo noticed was that they made burgers.

I had a burger.

You may remember that the lady took me to db bistro moderne in Marina Bay Sands, a restaurant by chef Daniel Boulud, another Michelin Starred chef where I had for a Birthday Dinner – the $42 Burger. I was not so complimentary on that burger. However, chef Bruno Menard’s burger was the business.

For a start, the cost was $19 which compared very favourably with the $42 at db bistro moderne.The burger itself was well cooked and the presentation, whilst simple, was appealing. I was hungry and managed to demolish the chips before I managed to remember to take a photo.

The burger itself consists of a beef patty made with dry aged beef, caramelized onion, French Comte cheese, and a caper and garlic mayonnaise. It is served with a tomato relish.

The burger was delicious. The patty was juicy still and the bread was a treat. I would certainly rate this burger up there with the ones at Two Blur Guys in Tanjong Pagar ((I’m sure I reviewed those burgers here somewhere before but I’ll be dashed if U can see the review)).

In any case, I reckon the B  Burger is worth

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 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.

Burgers and Beer – does it get better than this?

I’ve just had to take my second business trip to Singapore this month. Whilst it is a little frustrating being away from the toy soldiers (I had a mind to do some painting), I can’t complain. During the evening, it’s 29 degrees and I’m enjoying a Burger and some Beer. Heaven.

Back home on the weekend and a big day planned painting, alas, no burger and beer that day.