Wednesday, April 15, 2015

925 Bistro & Lounge (closed): 4.6/5

925 Bistro Burger
Score: 4.4
Platter: $18

Jalapeño Muenster Burger
Score: 4.8
Platter: $14

At 925 Bistro and Lounge they know food and it shows. The love child of KelMar Meats and KelMar Bakery opened in November 2014 sharing the address at 925 Headmaster Row. Kelly and MaryAnn (do you see what they did there?) lived the life as food producers farming near Brandon. Now they live within walking distance of their shops and restaurant so they still “keep it in the yard.”

A restaurant attached to a butcher shop is pretty much a dream come true for me. The charcutier preparing the KelMar Meat's sausage and terrines is 73, with 50 years experience in a north end meat shop. I had the butcher’s cut prime rib on a previous visit. Savoring it was a transcendental experience that lasted for all 16 ozs. The beef is slow smoked to 128 F - because Kelly tells me that's the perfect temp - 130 F is too high.

The restaurant is truly a family business. Daughter Stephanie served our group and her husband John stood up a canoe with the jazz band at 8:00 pm. Hockey was on and Kelly and MaryAnn were enjoying the game seated at the bar. On Jets game nights they offer free samples and we were treated to grilled farmers sausage and shooters of fish chowder. Chef Paul delivered the appetizers himself and made sure we realized that all patrons get the royal treatment – not just us.

Shaw TV did a spot on Burger Club for go!Winnipeg and Kevin Hirschfield arranged to interview us just before supper. Wednesday’s are popular at 925 Bistro and it took a little juggling to find a place for the big camera that wouldn't disturb other patrons. Les wore a mic to capture his live burger enjoyment and Melyssa shot video of us in action. It was a lot of fun - you can view the segment here.

KelMar loves meat and Chef Paul knows how to cook a burger. The patties are freshly ground from 60% chuck and 40% brisket beef cuts. Chuck is flavourful, and looses its toughness when ground, so is an excellent choice for a burger. Brisket adds texture to the patty. I'm guessing 15-20% fat; they were juicy without being fatty, and tantalized the taste buds. Burgers are double and they're huge. You can take $2 off if you’d like a single, or add $2 for a triple if you've got a rugby player’s appetite.

The beef was not over handled and had a soft texture. The patties had a good brown crust and complex flavour from the hot grill. They were cooked to well done - no pink - but not dried out. Two thinner patties have twice the crust and always win over one large "home-style" burger. They were simple patties, done right. The best burgers start with a flavourful patty while toppings add the fun.

The burgers were presented bun-open with an x-marks-the-spot of bacon and a bamboo spear. My Muenster Jalapeno burger was topped with a little pile of peppers. The stack had a very pleasant Jalapeno flavour and a little heat without the spice dominating. The zip came from the bacon, cheese and sauce. People expecting to break out in a sweat from a spicy burger had a cooler experience. The bacon is made in-house and smoked and seasoned with Jalapeno. It's thick cut and absolutely delicious. Lettuce and tomatoes were both fresh and bright. I asked for my red onion to be fried, but it normally comes raw.

The sandwich was wrapped in a KelMar bakery Kaiser bun. 925 Bistro is one of very few restaurants that bake their own buns. The fresh bun tasted great, and I think the burger:bun ratio was good, but the Kaiser wasn't quite up to the task of managing the big double burger and came apart at the seams. Russ used the proper burger handling technique but discovered once you start, you can't let go. “I used the grip but when I put it down I was faced with a burger avalanche.”

Les rhymed “The Muenster was a monster in both size and taste; lip smacking, finger licken' good!” Geoff echoed with “The burger itself comes with two 1/4 lb. patties, with the option to add a third. It looks fantastic, but definitely a wider load - that third patty would be sheer folly to attempt. The assorted toppings are quite juicy and the bottom bun didn't quite have it in it to stay intact. The staff brought us plates of complimentary farmer sausage - top notch!  My Mennonite taste buds were pleased.

Karen had the flagship burger, but a single and without the Tabasco poached egg. “I am in love with 925 Bistro Burger. The juicy patty had excellent grill flavour and wonderful soft texture with tasty bacon on top. The bun was sized nicely to the burger.” Dani wrote “This is a very beautiful burger; full points for presentation. The sweet and spicy sauce on the bacon gave it a nice, flavourful balance.” Esther caught the spirit of it with “Holy hell! That was good! It was a delightful mess.”

The Caesar salad was delicious - fresh and crispy and came with candied bacon. Karen commented that the fries could have been crispier. I quite enjoyed the ones I stole off her plate – I like being able to stick a fork in and getting a mass of fries in one mouthful. The desserts are from the bakery next door, so you know they're going to be a treat! A couple of Warm Turtle Brownie’s were shared around – they were beautiful, plentiful and rich.

You can buy fresh, ready to BBQ, burger patties from KelMar meats, or you can have one for lunch from the BBQ cart out front. When we were done, Kelly and MaryAnn opened up the butcher shop so a few of us could take home some meaty treats.  How cool is that!

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