Gourmet burgers are nothing new, but in the hands of Chef Nadav Bashan they're something special. Bashan recently launched a Sunday Gourmet Burger Night at his eponymous bistro on Verdugo Road, and it's been all the rage.
A hand-ground filet mignon and beef short rib patty is cooked to medium-rare perfection, topped with slow-cooked onions, garlic aioli and Hook's sharp cheddar, and served on a toasted brioche bun. The finished product looks exactly like the photo on the website — tall, juicy and glamorous. Extras, such as apple-wood bacon, free-range fried egg, avocado or Saint Agur bleu cheese, are available for a price. I think they're unnecessary and, as in the case of the egg and avocado, unwanted because they throw off the beautiful balance of the curated burger.
I did dearly love the burger and the slaw that came alongside, but what really floated my boat were the supplements we tagged onto the meal. I'm ashamed to say, I'd never been to Bashan before. I knew people raved about it. Now I understand what all the fuss is about. Bashan has a unique sensibility. There's a juxtaposition of temperatures and textures that keeps things interesting. It was a hot night so temperature was on my mind, but I was keenly aware of perfectly chilled Chardonnay, warm-to-the-lips Cabernet, chilled amuse bouche, warm risotto.
Flavors, on the other hand, were not standing in contrast to one another but melded into a soothing calmness. When the amuse bouche arrived, a slipper of endive with salmon roe, micro cilantro and mango puree, I was afraid my finicky dining partner might hate it. Not everyone enjoys salmon roe. She loved the harmony, calling it divine. I relaxed and thoroughly savored my mouthful.
Our excellent waiter, Bryce, suggested lobster risotto as an appetizer. I'm dreaming of it still. "Heaven on earth" was our collective sigh. Aged Acquerello Carnaroli risotto, given time to cook to a creamy warmth, has generous chunks of delicate Maine lobster, toothy English peas and chervil. The piece de resistance was the swirl of what they call "lobster jus" but what I call a deep lobster reduction evoking the taste of fine maple syrup from the sea.
Our burgers came next, albeit on the slow side. We didn't mind. The ambience is inviting with good acoustics (muffled but vigorous conversation), excellent lighting (candlelight and pretty overheads), and prudently placed cloth covered dividers between bistro tables for privacy. Bryce and other staff move stealthily around the small dining room, always there when you need them.
The crowd at Bashan is sophisticated, mainly couples and small groups. It may not be the place for a large group unless you plan ahead. In all cases, reservations are highly recommended.
We couldn't resist dessert, a creation that ranked equal with the risotto. Cool, gelatinous and creamy buttermilk panna cotta is topped with one of the most unique and sublime syrups I've ever had, kalamata olive caramel. Intertwined are swirls of pomegranate granita, tart and sweet with ice crystals that crunch between your teeth. Altogether a Debussy symphony — smooth, mellifluous and comforting.
I recommend Bashan for its Sunday burger night. However, it is pricey ($18+). I think your money may be better spent on a Friday night, enjoying delicacies off the regular menu. Or put yourself in Chef's hands with one of his 5- or 7-course tasting menus, with or without wine pairings ($65 to $120). Any way you stack it, you can't lose.
Where: 3459 N. Verdugo Road, Montrose
When: Sunday evenings; restaurant open Saturday to Sunday
Prices: Burgers $18 and up; appetizers, $11 to $19; entrees, $27 to $36
More info: (818) 541-1532, bashanrestaurant.com
LISA DUPUY has written about area restaurants since 2008. Send her the name of your favorite diner at LDupuy@aol.com.