Thursday, February 26, 2015

Deer + Almond: 4.4/5

Royale with Cheese
Score: 4.4
Platter: $10

Art meets food in the little diner on the corner of Princess and McDermot and Mandel Hitzer is the creative tour de force in the kitchen.

Photos 1-6: Mandel Hitzer
There’s only one beef burger on the menu and it doesn't have any options. The sandwich first appeared for #LeBurgerWeek 2013 as a parody of the Big Mac, complete with special sauce and three-part sesame seed bun, but eventually the troublesome middle bun disappeared and the two patties merged into one thick layer of beef. It’s the ‘Royale with Cheese’, an artistic interpretation of Pulp Fiction's Quarter Pounder with Cheese, but it's still ‘Le Big Mac’ at heart.

Mandel is a self proclaimed “burger connoisseur who has travelled the world tasting burgers to come up with the perfect recipe." He uses a selection of beef cuts and just the right amount of fat to produce the succulent and flavourful patty. “The patty should stand on its own.” Our last few Burger Club outings have had prefab patties and it was like coming home to have lovingly crafted ground round once again.

Mandel knows the importance of a good bun and Deer + Almond are almost unique in that they bake their own. Mandel looked like a proud parent when he gazed at the bun and said “Behold its pillowy soft, shiny, seedy goodness. Once you make your own you can't go back.”

"Are you ready for a burger? We're just waiting for A&W" Mandel joked. He took my camera into the kitchen and returned it with a photo essay of burger love. We preordered, and our sixteen meals came out quite quickly. Brian started cutting his burger in half and Mandel exclaimed “You're compromising the structural integrity! Holding a messy burger together is part of the experience.” There's a training video for that.

Karen critiqued “The Royale was a delicious mess of love. The bun is the first thing you bite into - it should be the very best quality - and it was! Could taste all the ingredients and the special sauce rocked my world.” A number of our group raved about the sauce – Stephanie scribbled “OMG so good! The secret special sauce made the burger.”

Most diners really enjoyed the bun, but a couple thought the fresh bread a little doughy for the patty. The processed ‘American Cheese’ was exactly what it was supposed to be on the Royale – and I enjoyed it - but one or two could have done without the direct analogy.

Chris wrote “the burger was juicy, and very nice to taste a homemade bun. I found it drippy, but the sauce was very flavourful and helped to really punch it up.” Isabel commented “Little bit of spice was nice. Liked the cheese/sauce/burger combination. Kinda tasted like a Big Mac but way mo better. Bun was tasty - liked the seeds.”

Mandel asked what could make the burger even better and the only comment was the beef resembled a ball more than a patty. It's quite thick which allows chef to leave it pink in the middle – tender and juicy, and very flavourful.

You won't find fries at Deer + Almond, but you will find gourmet soups and salads – different delicious creations every visit. The teardrop shaped soup bowl - or salad - and the sandwich were served on a large, round plate that had the effect of making the burger look small.

All in all we had a great time at Deer + Almond and Burger Club put the ‘Royale with Cheese’ in our Top 10; a 5-star burger! At only $10 including the side, it was quite a good deal for a steakhouse patty and ranked #3 in value. Deer + Almond made our Top 5 for service so very good numbers all around! Peter was a quick and attentive server, and Graham cleared the restaurant and stood on furniture to take our group photo.

Nelson inspected the facilities and noted "the bathrooms are unlabeled. Good luck determining the correct one on the first guess.” He added “They should really have a portrait of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson on the wall.”

'The Burger': Les Brandt
Mandel found a kindred spirit in Les who wrote a poem about the burger and followed it up a few days later with a watercolour tribute.

Photo: NB

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