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What Makes the Shake Shack Burger Taste So Gooooood?

12 Feb

In the summer of 2008 just after I had graduated from college and moved back to New York, Cousin M moved from Karachi to NYC. In Karachi, she used to rave about the burger from Mr. Burger in Boat Basin, which she liked to call a desi burger – a cross between a spicy bun kebab and your regular fast food burger. Cousin M always knew what would appeal to our palates and she was the Encyclopedia of Karachi Dining as far as we were concerned.

Meanwhile in another part of the world, a roadside burger joint Shake Shack opened its windows in 2004 in Madison Square Park, NYC. But of course, it took Cousin M’s arrival in New York and her continuing tradition of knowing exactly what we would love that I discovered the Shack Burger. Having passed by Madison Square Park regularly, I was discouraged by the impossibly long line of burger enthusiasts inching gradually towards what seemed like the finish line aka the orders window. Now that I have stood in the line countless times, I can assure you it makes for great moments of overhearing celeb gossip and striking up conversation with others who are wondering exactly what you are “why on earth have I been standing here for an hour for a damn burger.”

I don’t claim that Shake Shack has the best burger in NYC but it’s certainly amongst the best and here’s why –  it simply doesn’t try too hard. It takes what you and I conceive to be an average burger and elevates it to a higher level by perfecting the core components of the burger without adorning it with multiple toppings and fancy ingredients. There isn’t too much going on which distracts away from what the burger should essentially be about – the meat, the bun and the sauce.

Here is a deconstructed Shack Burger ($4.50 Single / $7.00 Double) via Serious Eats

The Shack Burger Deconstructed

  • The Meat: 4-ounce patties made from a proprietary blend of sirloin, brisket, and short rib. New York locations use meat ground by Pat LaFrieda. All burgers delivered fresh daily, never frozen.
  • The Cheese: Very melty and mild American.
  • The Toppings: Green leaf lettuce, sliced Roma tomatoes, thin-sliced onions, pickles.
  • The Sauces: Thousand Island-style Shack Sauce, ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise.
  • The Bun: Martin’s potato roll, toasted in butter.

Last summer, Serious Eats decided to put an end to the ongoing debate in “burgercentric circles” between the three major heavyweights of the high-quality fast-food burger world by carrying out “The First Bi-Coastal Side-By-Side Taste Test” comparing everything from the meat-per-dollar ratio to the types of cheese and toppings. The contenders being California’s legendary In-N-Out Burger, Virginia’s Five Guys (with branches in NYC and all over the country) and finally New York’s very own Shake Shack, the youngest of the lot.

Having tasted all 3, for me it’s a close call between In-N-Out and Shake Shack but perhaps due to the fact that I’ve had the Shack Burger on numerous occasions, it marginally edges out the other. Not unexpectedly, Shake Shack also emerged the winner of the Serious Eats taste test mainly due to their dominance in the meat department:

“The Shackburger, on the other hand, is a marvel of beefy engineering. The flavor and texture of the beef patty is second to none, with an intense beefiness and cooking method designed to maximized browning, and thus our carnal pleasure. Yes, their toppings and bun are great, but at the Shack, it’s all about the beef”

My recommendation: Pair it with cheesy fries and a chocolate malt shake. And for the men reading this – apparently Shake Shack is Padma Laxmi’s favourite burger joint in NYC.

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MEATliquor

12 Dec

I’m always on the lookout for a great burger. Not just any burger but the kind that you crave more and more with every bite. During a trip to NYC in September, my friend, A, and I had a conversation about the best burgers in NYC. The criteria being the texture of the bun, the quality of the beef patty and lastly the choice of toppings. We both had a long list of the best burgers we had tasted in the city based on those attributes but we recognized that we had not been very adventurous with burgers in London. So when MEATliquor opened its doors in London in early November, the brand new eatery was a must on my to-try-list. It’s only been a month and I’ve already clocked in 3 visits.

From the outside, the location is unassuming but the interior is gothic and edgy with black, red and white animal murals painted on the walls and ceilings with and red neon lights screaming ‘LIQUOR!’ The blaring rock music is quite loud so let’s just say this may not the most date-friendly location.

I haven’t tried the drinks so unfortunately can’t comment on the ‘liquor’ half of the establishment but there is plenty to be said about the food. I tried the deep fried tangy pickles, incredibly crunchy and moreish and wonderful when smothered in the accompanying garlicky blue cheese sauce. I liked the shoe string fries that were served on my first visit but by my second visit they just seemed like regular sized fries.

The menu is fairly straight-forward. No mention of the provenance of the meat or types of cheese etc. I, personally, don’t care much for detailed descriptions as long as what is placed in front of me blows my mind. As I took the first bite of my chilli cheeseburger I knew I was in meat utopia. The meat-to-bun-to-condiment ratio is just right and the burger itself is big enough to satiate you but not heavy enough to make you feel like you can’t move after eating it. The sourdough bun encases the patty, which is juicy, chargrilled on the outside, pink in the center; topped with melted cheese, onions, and ketchup and in this case abundant green chillies (very spicy even by my standards).

The burgers are priced between £6 to £8 and the sides are between £3 to £5 making this a very affordable meal.

MEATliquor is a ballad to the meat lover but probably a vegetarian or even a kosher abiding person’s worst nightmare. Be prepared for long queues at peak dinner time. In order to avoid that, I went on a Saturday just after noon and got a table instantly. MEATliquor is closed on Sundays and Mondays but brace yourself for some meat and cheese goodness the rest of the week.

Meat Liquor
74 Welbeck Street
London W1G 0BA

Dishoom Beach Bar

14 May

Dishoom – one of my favourite restaurants in London that I blogged about here has decided to go on a trippy summer holiday. As part of the Festival of Britain 60th anniversary celebrations they have recreated a psychedelic beach bar along the Southbank serving Indian snacks and drinks all day long oh and did I mention fruity golas (that can be ordered naughty or virgin)?

This brand-new set up which opened doors yesterday is essentially, as the owners themselves put it, “Dishoom on an acid trip”

A  large part of going to any restaurant is not just the food but the entire experience and by that I don’t mean simply decor and service – it’s how welcome a place makes u feel and the vibe it exudes. The experience of visiting a restaurant can have the potential to transport you into another world and Dishoom does that for me.

Onto the food itself:

The menu has been scaled down to include a few signature favourites such as the Dishoom calamari and pau bhaji but new features are crunchy bhel with pomegranate and chutney, vada pau, which was reminscent of the aaloo bun kebab I used to eat in primary school in Karachi for Rs. 5. I enjoyed the Dishoom frankie (a naan roll with minced lamb doused in a spicy sauce). I, personally, would prefer if the portions of bhel and calamari were a bit larger.

There is a selection of cocktails and beers and not to be missed chilled Limca and Thums Up perfect for the summer weather.

Once again, attention to detail in the design is meticulous and you can also tell they really had fun doing it. They have used recycled colourful carrier bags for the walkway and created an entire wall of recycled English and Hindi newspapers rolled and stacked up.

….and an ingenious clock, which needs to be seen to be believed.

I’m also loving the bright neon t-shirts with amusing captions that the staff have been wearing.

It’s fun, it’s spunky and it’s the perfect place to hang out with friends this summer.

Details:
May 13th – October 4th
Monday – Thursday: Noon – Midnight
Friday: Noon – 1am
Saturday: 10am –1am
Sunday: 10am – Midnight


Queen Elizabeth Hall Terrace,
Southbank Centre,
Belvedere Road,
London SE1 8XX

mmmmmMooli’s – Old Delhi meets Tokyo

24 Nov

What: Moveable Feasts at Mooli’s

Where: 50 Frith Street, W1D 4SQ

WHY?

A couple of weeks ago, my London Pakistani crew raved “OMGRidayouaregoingtoloveit” regarding Mooli’s – a year old cosy eatery serving Indian street food in the heart of Soho. Needless to say, it took me just one trip to get hooked! The creators of Mooli’s claim that “mooli’s are old delhi meets tokyo” and this is certainly reflective in the decor as well as the design of the menu. I won’t commit the sacrilege of terming this as a South Asian version of a burrito since it’s not, it’s simply a moolia roti roll with tasty, wholesome fillings and flavourful chutneys. The term mooli itself, for those unacquainted with Urdu/Hindi, translates literally to radish – the really pungent white vegetable that I (and perhaps you as well) avoided eating as a child. However, this is one interpretation of the term mooli I am certainly not avoiding!
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Cheap Eats: Brunch Hot Spots (NYC Edition)

3 Nov

NYC is undoubtedly the culinary capital of the world, no offense to London, Rome, Paris, Istanbul and other noteworthy culinary centers around the globe but NYC is where it’s at.

While living in NYC, brunch on Saturdays and Sundays was a weekly ritual for the family. In Manhattan alone there are multiple options for brunch, however, some end up being quite pricey! After exploring many brunch options in the city, we now present to you the ones that make it to the Top 5 without putting a huge dent in your wallet.

1. L’Express

This French bistro is a family favourite that we have visited countless number of times and entertained family and friends visiting from Detroit to Dubai. Although it is mostly very busy, the tasty brunch options and the generous portions are worth the wait. There are weekly specials in addition to the regular brunch menu that feature mango pancakes, french toast stuffed with cream cheese and fruits and a variety of thick, hearty soups. The omelettes particularly stand out and are served with a choice of house fries or potato wedges. If you are lucky you may even have some celebrity sightings!

Cons: Long waiting times, noisy

Price range: $10-15

249 Park Ave S

2. Cafeteria

This hip Chelsea spot serves what NYMag refers to as “amped-up comfort food” and we couldn’t agree more. The menu consists of the usual suspects – eggs benedict, range of omelettes, blueberry and ricotta pancakes but even though there is little innovation on the menu, everything is yummy. They also serve a to-die-for Spinach and Artichoke Dip but only after 6 pm, which is well worth an early evening visit for a snack. Oh, and there is also plenty of eye candy to go around as well.

Cons: No Reservations, Very long waiting times at peak brunch hours

Price range: $10-15

119 Seventh Ave

3. The Crooked Tree

Tucked away in Alphabet city this quaint little hole-in-the wall has some of the best sweet and savory crepes the city has to offer. There is a variety of sweet crepe fillings to choose from ranging from classics like Lemon, Belgian Chocolate to mixed fresh fruits and unusual ones like Crème de Marron (chestnut cream)! The best part is that you can customize the crepe according to your liking and have whatever filling you want or mix up the flavors. All the crepes are freshly prepared and the portions are generous. The savory options are a bit more limited such as goat cheese, mozzarella, mushrooms and spinach. The menu is not very varied and doesn’t include Brunch classics like omelettes or french toast but if its crepes what your craving then this is the place to go!

Cons: Limited seating, Limited Menu

Price Range: $4-$10

110 St. Marks Place between 1st Avenue and Avenue A

4.Esperanto

Also located in Alphabet City, Esperanto serves brunch with a Latin American flair, think huevos rancheros, Spanish omelette and quesadillas. I visited it for the first time when college friends from Boston came to NYC for the weekend in April. They offer a $9.99 brunch special that includes a brunch entree served with coffee and choice of cocktails such as guava mimosas, bloody mary. They have outdoor seating which is perfect for the late spring and summertime.

Cons: Slow service

Price Range: $ 9.99 brunch special

145 Avenue C

5. Max Brenner – Chocolate by the Baldman

Located in the bustling Union Square, Max Brenner is home to chocoholics and tourists in search of satisfying their sweet-tooth. An unlikely “Brunch” option this Dessert Mecca actually has an elaborate sweet and savoury brunch “therapy” menu. Besides their ” Egg’s Corruption” to “Optimistic Sweet Breakfast” menu they also have an array of Bagels, Salads, Pizzas & Burgers to choose from. My personal favorite in their Optimistic Sweet breakfast section are the white chocolate cheesecake crèpes – a decedent bite of heaven served with toffee bananas, a dark caramel drizzle and whipped cream.

Cons: Crowded, Chocolate-overload (!!)

Price Range: $11-20

841 Broadway (Union Square)

Top 5 Cheap Eats in London (Asian Edition)

11 Oct

 

Photo Source: newyork.timeout.com

 

LONDON is considered to be one of the most expensive cities in the world particularly with respect to living expenses and food costs. Having spent some time living in London and exploring various food options, I have found that eating out in London can be fairly affordable once you know which places to go to. There are numerous cuisines to be explored on a budget without having to resort to mediocre fast food chains.

The first in a series of Cheap Eats in London editions, the following made it to the Top 5 for Asian cuisines. If you have more suggestions, please do let us know!

1. Kati Roll Company

I was an avid Kati Roll fan in New York, where it has two branches one catering to NYU students and the other located in glitzy Time Square. When Kati Roll set up shop in London last November, I could not be happier. They serve what can be considered Indian style burritos – an array of fillings such as paneer, spicy potato mix, chicken tikka, mince lamb with green chillies wrapped in thin, crisp parathas. Each wrap costs between £2.50 – 3.75.

Cons: limited seating space, waiting time can be up to 15 minutes in peak dining hours

24 Poland Street

thekatirollcompany.com

2. Hare and Tortoise

Serving flavorful, affordable pan-Asian cusine, this is an ideal spot for students or those on a budget. I have been to this Hare and Tortoise at least 4 dozen times and I always order the same dish (Malaysian Chicken Curry), which never disappoints. However, I have also visited this place with a range of different friends who be and large have really enjoyed everything from noodles to sashimi. The portions are huge and it’s great value for money. None of the main courses are priced over 8 pounds and generally average £5-7. Appetizers are yummy and reasonably priced.

Cons: long waiting times, noisy, service can be slow

15-17 Brunswick Centre (other locations as well)                                                                                              http://www.hareandtortoise.co.uk

3. Raavi Kebab House

This is a personal favourite, located between Euston and Warren Street, it serves home-made style Pakistani cuisine. A main course along with naan or roti and a drink will cost between £8-10. The menu is not very extensive but where the restaurant lacks in quantity it makes up in quality. Absolute must-try dishes include nihari, haleem and daal gosht.

Cons: limited seating space, no alcoholic beverages

125 Drummond Street

4. Tibetan Food Stall, Brick Lane Market

This is only available on Sundays and is located inside Brick Lane food market. My year long craving of piping hot momos was satiated once I discovered these last month. (For more on momos refer to previous blog entry). This family run food stall serves momos with vegetable or meat fillings as well as a small selection of Tibetan dishes. The momos are served with a spicy tomato sauce filled with mustard seeds. You can get them steamed or fried, 6 for £4 and 8 for £5.50 served with salad.

Brick Lane UpMarket, Old Truman Brewery, 91 Brick Lane

5. Rasa Sayang

Located in the heart of Chinatown, this food joint offers tasty Malaysian fare at reasonable prices. I’ve tried the beef rendang and roti canai, staple Malaysian dishes and both did not disappoint. I’ve definitely tried better Malaysian food in New York and Boston and even Kathmandu (!) but given the dearth of Malaysian restaurants in London, this is definitely worth a visit. Service is quick and most entrees are priced below £8.

Cons: limited menu, long waiting times at peak periods

5 Macclesfield Street

– R

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