Thursday, May 13, 2010

Celebrating Burger Month @ Rustic Canyon

Apparently May is National Burger Month. Not sure if it's legit because I can't seem to find anything official online- no information about what the history is and how it came about. Perhaps it was concocted by the beef or fast food industry. In any case, it's a good excuse to eat a burger. Unfortunately, I'm not more of a burger lover. I've tried the burgers at Umami, Bowery, Comme Ca, Tommy's, Brentwood Tavern (love love love their pork burger) among others, but (don't scoff) my heart still belongs to Micky D's cheeseburger. Yeah.. puke you say, yummy I say. There's something so comforting about that teeny tiny cheeseburger that conjures up memories of my childhood. It was the ungettable at my household. Somehow grandpa would never let us order the cheeseburgers, we were only allowed the filet-o-fish. Dunno why. But I digress.. So yes, restaurant burgers don't really do it for me, but my dear friend Diana was on a burger rampage. After reading the thoroughly researched entry about best burgers in LA by food blogger exilekiss, we decided to hit up Rustic Canyon so that Diana could get her burger fix while I would still be able to order a nice, regular non-burger meal. Unfortunately we weren't there for Burger and Beer Mondays when Chef Evan Funke offers up two new burgers (in addition to the restaurant's signature burger) paired with craft beers.

Similar to it's menu, the decor at Rustic Canyon is simple and clean, with wooden tables and chairs, and wide windows that overlook Wilshire Blvd.

Rustic Canyon Wine Bar is located in Santa Monica and prides itself with a seasonal, changing Farmer's Market inspired menu, made with ingredients from sustainable farms. In addition to wine and beer, the restaurant also offers various sparkling cocktails.

A bowl of olives was set down. Wish they offered a bread basket instead. After all, owner Josh Loeb also owns nearby Huckleberry Cafe with his James Beard nominated Pastry Chef wife, Zoe Nathan. Perhaps they could have thrown in some of Huckleberry's freshly baked cornbread into the mix. One could only wish.

We ordered a round of drinks of Prosecco, Terlano Pinot Bianco and Red Seal Ale.

Crispy white polenta with wild Oregon morels, sunny side up egg and Parmigiano-Reggiano
I thought this was the winner of the night. The polenta had a crispy crust but was soft and semi-creamy inside. The runny yolk held everything together. The mushrooms were well seasoned and worked well with the salty cheese that was sprinkled all over the plate. I thought all the components worked well together for a perfect rich and salty bite.

Mussels with garlic, chili, tomato, lemon and basil
This was from the starter menu but was a decent size especially after you're done consuming the deliciously thick slices of toasted buttered bread. The mussels were perfectly cooked which can be a feat at most restaurants. I enjoyed the sauce which had a taste similar to romesco sauce. It was a nice departure from the traditional white wine or cream based sauce.

Mandilli Pesto Rosso pasta with crushed almonds and pecorino
Beware, pastas are primi dishes so they are a rather small serving. We had expected the luscious greenness of pesto but our waiter advised us that pesto is really a technique that involves crushing oil with garlic, pine nuts and traditionally basil, but in this case, they used roasted tomatoes instead. I didn't think there was anything special about this dish. It tasted almost like an ala vodka dish to me. Although the pasta was fresh, it didn't appear to be the correct choice as it was too soft and congealed with the sauce.

Ninman Ranch burger with sharp cheddar, onion fondue, bread and butter pickles and herb remoulade, served with handcut fries
The burger was supposed to be cooked medium rare but it was bordering medium. The patty itself seemed to be seasoned on the outside and was not all that flavorful inside. Perhaps they felt that a lightly seasoned patty would work better with the condiments. The onion fondue and pickles were a nice addition. The latter added a combination of sweet and tart to the burger. I also enjoyed the brioche bun which tasted fresh, was buttery and really held its own and didn't get mushy from the remoulade. The fries were just alright. They tasted a little starchy, perhaps they weren't soaked long enough. When there's half an order of fries left on the plate, you know there is a problem.

Sprouting broccoli with garlic, chili and lemon
This was a good side to pair with our heavier dishes. Pretty tasty too.

Hot cinnamon donut with Vahlrona hot chocolate
You gotta wait 15 minutes for this as they fry it up fresh for you. Many reviewers raved about this and it did not disappoint. The donuts were fluffy and soft, and tasted almost like a churros. The warm, decadent hot chocolate slowly absorbed into the donut. A great end to the meal.

Overall, the food was good but the burger did not live up to its hype, IMO. I suppose it's all a personal preference but I think ultimately, the under seasoned and slightly overcooked patty knocked this burger off our list. The polenta however made up for everything. Oh if I could get another bite of that crispy, creamy goodness with runny egg yolk. How about we make June National Crispy Polenta Month!

Hits: polenta, mussels, donuts
Misses: burger and pasta were mediocre
Rating: ***

Rustic Canyon Wine Bar & Seasonal Kitchen
1119 Wilshire Blvd.,
Santa Monica, CA 90401


Diana said...

Aw shucks! I LOVED the burger at Rustic Canyon! It was actually my first cheeseburger and I couldn't have been happier with it! Sorry you didn't have the same joyous experience.

SinoSoul said...

I was miffed about my "ragu" burger last time around, but had a much better time the first 2 visits. It really depends on the topping, since they go light on the burger seasoning itself. Next time, I'm just gonna stick to the "breakfast" burger with bacon / eggs. That's usually my stand by at the Compton burger stands anywho.

stuffycheaks said...

Diana - Yes! I remember reading about your 1st CB experience. The burger wasn't bad per se, but didn't think it was memorable

SinoSoul - if they had the breakfast burger, i am SOOOO there!