Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Chaise Cafe: 4/5

The Frenchman Burger
Platter: $13
Score: 4.2

The Behemoth Burger
Platter: $15
Score: 3.8

The Super Burger
Platter: $16
Score: 4.2

Chaise Café knows how to show Burger Club a good time! It all started with an e-mail from Chef Sopel that said simply “My grill holds lots of burgers.” The Chaise Café’s regular menu includes three burgers -  their popular veggie burger, a grilled chicken burger, and the Frenchman. Now these all sound great, but at Burger Club burgers are made of beef so Chef Sopel created a special “Burger Club Menu.” In addition to the Frenchman we could choose from the Behemoth and the Super burger.

Chaise Café is a stylish new restaurant in the French quarter that opened in the spring. April commented “The décor is really nice - great lighting and ambient music.” Bess added “Very classy décor! The jazz added a touch of sophistication to the meal.“ There were 18 of us dining and they were ready for us. We were setup in the private room upstairs and it was nice to be able to put all our heavy winter coats on the couches in the adjacent lounge. The lounge was also a nice space for conversation before and after the burgers arrived. Our tables were already set with side plates, linen serviettes, cutlery and waters. Our waitress, Jamie, was great. She really made it all a pleasurable dining experience. Robin summarized nicely with “Great local restaurant and loved the personal service - chef came up to chat!”

We usually dine early and this week we pre-ordered to save time in the hope we’d continue to have jobs to go back to. Chaise asked when we’d like our food on the table and I said 11:45. Well, the meals started arriving at 11:48 and we all had out burgers by 11:51. This was all the more impressive as Chaise had a full dining room downstairs as well. The meals were beautifully presented on square dishes with a closed burger and the plate rounded out with salad, fries, dip  and a quarter dill pickle.

The burgers seemed to give everyone plenty to think about – people write their reviews in tiny illegible script on the back of little rating slips, and this week I had to squint at over 950 words to transcribe onto the official Burger Club spreadsheet.

Chaise makes everything in-house including the bacon, and a lot of bacon was smoked in preparation for Burger Club. They also have their own baker and created a new “bun” to try out on us. It was a large flat pan of soft multi-grain bread carved up to fit the burger and it was very good!

At least half the group wanted to try more than one burger so several diners paired up with a “burger buddy.” Of course I wanted to try the new burger creations and Karen and I shared a Super and a Behemoth. Brett used a different selection criteria: “I thought we had to order based on nationality, super powers or body size … so I ordered the Behemoth.”

The Super Burger was “made with AAA Hanger steak ground and spiced in house, the burger stuffed with haloumi cheese, seared and fried in bacon drippings, topped with bacon and all the groceries.” It was snuggled between two slices of the flatbread. I quite enjoyed the flavour of the patty, the beef was rich, but lightly seasoned. Like any good steak chef, the kitchen seemed loath to overcook a fine cut of beef so it was prepared very moist and soft. Some diners commented they would have preferred a firmer textured patty. Esther observed “Everything looked great until I actually tried to eat the burger then it disintegrated on me.“ Nelson liked it: “The Super melted in my mouth. “ Dani commented “The meat was beautifully moist and tasty. Nicely spiced. I'm amazed it's all staying in one piece and not falling apart.“
The nugget of Haloumi cheese in the stuffed burger presented a firmer texture than the surrounding patty. It added some nice saltiness. I quite enjoyed the slightly sweet, soft leathery bacon. It was one more flavour and texture for the party in my mouth! The bun to burger ratio was good and as the Super burger had a steak knife impaled in it, I cut mine in half so had pretty good success keeping it all together. The softness of the bun matched the patty and didn’t present any incompatible stratum issues. The always eloquent Scott wrote “Taste was very balanced. All floors of my "burger tower" could be identified. The first bite was as good as the last. I was 4 bites in when I found the gooey cheese tucked inside. It was gratifying to have the line of cheese going from the burger to my lips. It had the excitement of pizza, with the taste of a burger!

My tomato was very ripe and the greens, both on the burger and in the salad, were fresh and tender. Chaise Café is known for its in-house flavoured Balsamic vinegars and the salad dressing was blueberry, honey, chili flake and Dijon.  It was delicious and had the occasional nice kick. Les agreed “Tasty salad.” The fries came with a garlic/basil aioli dipping sauce on the side. Bess commented “Frites were delicious! Loved the dipping sauce.”

The other burger I tried was the Behemoth, made “with beer sautéed onions and mushrooms between two grilled cheese sandwiches, the grilled cheeses have smoked provolone, jalapenos, and bacon in them.” Many of us had a similar creation at Rudy’s back in August 2012 and found ourselves comparing the two. For me the Behemoth was all about the grilled cheeses. They were squished crispy-good and filled with provolone - the cheese flavour stood out. There was also plenty of yummy bacon and the occasional bite of a pleasantly spicy Jalapeno pepper. The amount of bread wasn’t excessive (as was the common complaint at Rudy’s) but it still trumped the burger patty. Some thought the patty could use more seasoning to compete, others thought it was perfectly seasoned.
The grilled bread crusts were fairly hard and a few of our group thought it would be better with the crust removed.  April wrote “Behemoth was tasty. I liked the Jalapeño cheese; however the bread was a little too toasty/crispy.” Russ noted “Yummy burger. Once you get through to it.“ Most burgerers today ordered the Behemoth, I think because it’s hard to get past the allure of a burger between two grilled cheeses even though you know it’s going to be a lot of bread! The patty was firmer than the Super so stood up to the pressure plates of bacon-grilled bread. My Behemoth was topped with a big delicious slab of Shitake mushroom and that was a little bit of heaven for me. The fried onions were delicious and added moisture. This week it was Russ’s turn to unhinge his jaw to devour the Behemoth! As big as it sounds though, I finished mine and I think most people did. Karen said “Great size servings.”

Several people had the Frenchman: “Our spicy beef burger with arugula, cheese curds and a fried egg on top.” Stan had this to say: “Everything was perfect for me! The burger patty was done just right and had a very nice flavour. I especially liked the "bun". All the other components were just right! I wasn't sure how I'd like the egg on top, but it really worked for me.” Bess commented “The Frenchman burger was messily delicious with a mix of subtle flavours.” Mike liked his Frenchman: “That's some fancy burger. Patty was extremely flavourful, I'm still wondering what spices were in that patty.” Robin’s experience was “The yolk made this burger. Patty was a bit dry and the bun crumbled after first bite.” Robin has the pulse of dining in Winnipeg and writes the Peg City Grub blog. You can read her review of Burger Club’s visit to Chaise Café here.

As usual, I was running around taking pictures of burgers and Esther asked me “How many pictures on your camera are of burgers?” All of them - there’re no baby pictures on my camera!

When it came time to pay, that all went smoothly too. Chaise already had the separate bills broken out and printed at the till, and I don’t think there were any mistakes. The pastry cooler might have caught a few people on the way out though – it’s hard to resist!

Chaise Café really is the whole package. It’s a beautiful setting. Staff are clearly enjoying themselves and it shows – the service can’t be beat. They pay attention to the details from table settings to delivering a pre-order on time to refilling drinks and making sure everyone’s happy with their meals. Where many restaurants look elsewhere for their baking, Chaise has a very talented baker. I’m a fan!

This week the question of record keeping came up. If there was an audit of the Burger Club results, could I produce the original review slips and ratings? Yes, yes I can. I have a highly secure envelope (it has a little string to hold it shut) that now contains more than 700 tiny little pieces of paper.

April baked some cookies for a Movember fundraiser and some people tried theirs on. I ate mine.

Chaise Cafe on Urbanspoon

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