Friday, September 25, 2009

Restaurant Review: Flip Burger Boutique

When I was a kid, going out for good hamburgers meant driving down to Crestwood Boulevard and going to Hamburger Heaven, where I'd emulate the characters in (almost ashamed to admit this) my favorite comic series Archie and get a cheeseburger, fries, and shake. I called that the Comic Book Combo.

Now Richard Blais has elevated the Comic Book Combo to almost ridiculous heights with Flip Burger Boutique. I say almost because the restaurant and menu skate the line between creative and ridiculous with a wink.

The building itself looks like a converted diner, complete with patio. Inside, there's another wink with the colors, which are fast-food reminiscent reddish-orange balanced with elegant-modern white. The bar has mirrors in heavy white frames with two flat-screen t.v.'s in the same frames that play music videos. Unfortunately, the music on the screen does not match what's on overhead, which annoys me. Seriously, what's the point?

Here's how my first visit went:

We arrive at 8:00, just a few minutes ahead of the beginning of the rest of our party. It's a going-away dinner for one of Hubby's friends, who is leaving next week for a contract position in Ohio. Our party gradually trickles in and ends up being a whopping fourteen people. I nurse a 5 Alive, which is a potent antioxidant combo in a glass. I don't remember what's in it besides cranberry and grapefruit juices, but it tastes like a grapefruit screwdriver. One of our friends gets a Ginger Margarita, the first of many for him, and it prompts a discussion of what's more (or less) manly: an Appletini, or a Ginger Margarita? Our friend doesn't care.

I'm looking around thinking, "There's no way we're going to get a table," and, indeed, we get two of the "cubes" on the left wall. The recessed tables in white plastic-upholstered cubes (adult play center, anyone? wink, wink) supposedly seat ten. We can get seven in comfortably, which works out for us in spite of having mostly long-legged people.

We had all had (liquid) appetizers at the bar, so we order meal drinks and burgers. One of the nice things about being in a large party, unintentional footsie games notwithstanding, is that we should have a variety of things to try, at least until three of the seven at our table order the Butcher's Cut, which has caramelized onions, blue cheese, and red wine jam. After trying it, I can see why it's a popular burger: lots of savory flavor with a little bit of sweetness.

One of the guys at our table is a former line cook, and another one is a former chef. Both get the Steak Tartare burger. If you're not familiar with Steak Tartare, that infamous dish that lurks to surprise and dismay unsuspecting American tourists in Europe, it's raw meat finely chopped and seasoned, in this case with garlic, chili, capers, and Worcestershire. It comes topped with pickled onion and frisée salad, and smoked mayo. I try a bite, and the capers make it along with other smoky and bright flavors. It doesn't taste like raw meat, and it's obvious that the ingredients are all fresh and of top quality.

Hubby is a fish freak and gets the Tuna Burger, spicy yellow fin tuna topped with pickled ginger, smoked mayo, and Vietnamese herb salad. The tuna isn't really spicy, which is fine with me. It's a good choice for a burger because the tuna used is meaty, and the marinade highlights that aspect of it.

The "Burger of Today" is a Korean BBQ burger: meat and meat! All the right flavors on a bun without the menu in two languages and the "did I really eat all that?" feeling at the end. It comes topped with a US kobe short rib, Kimchee ketchup, shredded cabbage, pickled cucumber, onion, and radish salad. Okay, maybe I do get the "did I really eat all that?" feeling at the end in spite of trading bites.

One of the others in the party gets the Farm Burger, but she doesn't share. She and I do, however, split a Nutella and Burnt Marshmallow Liquid N2 Milkshake. It's not overly sweet, and in spite of not really liking marshmallows, I find myself dunking the burnt marshmallows into the milkshake to get that one-two punch of hazelnut-chocolate and gooey sweetness. Hubby observes us eating/drinking them and comments to my friend's husband that he knows that look on a woman's face, and it means that she's not going to need sex for two months. My friend and I agree that we may need to go outside for a cigarette after we finish them.

No Comic Book Combo would be complete without sides. No one at the table gets the fries because when we ask what's special about them the server says they're hand-cut and not frozen. Sounds good to me, but everyone but me goes for the Vodka-Battered Onion Rings with Beer Honey Mustard because of the two magic words: vodka and beer. I order the Tempura Fried Okra, which comes with Sriracha Ranch. The onion rings are tasty, but not overly impressive. The okra is fresh, but the tempura itself is a little oily, and one bite of the Sriracha Ranch sets my mouth on fire. There's the spice for those who need it.

The wine list is short, but it has a good variety. I drink a glass of the Bianchi Malbec, which is a fruit bomb with blackberry/blueberry nose but ends up being a little green until it opens, and then it still has a white pepper kick on the end.

For such a specialty restaurant, Flip has a great range of flavors and things to try. Also, almost everything on the menu is less than ten dollars, although sides come a la carte and are not included with burger prices. Cocktails can be right around ten bucks as well.

So that brings us to the final question: what would Archie and the gang think? Well, just like the combo of Archie and Veronica, who are now married, by the way, Flip has reasonable prices for those who may have champagne tastes but who are on a beer budget. They even have a Comic Book Combo, which they call the Lunch Combo: burger, fries, and milkshake (Foie Gras extra) for $12. Yep, it's a good place for us grown-up kids.

Score card:
Atmosphere: Medium noise level, decor as described above, dark lighting
Food: Very Good to Excellent
Wine list: Good
Wait staff: Very Good; handled our large party of grown-up kids (and there was no doubt of that!) very well
Desserts: Milkshakes! Very Good
Vegetarian friendly? Limited
Kid friendly? Maybe, but would stick with older kids. Like us.
Would I go back? Yes


DWAFD said...

Very nice review that got me laughing. I have yet to go to FLIP despite working right around the corner. I need to check it out. Cheers.

Donna Carrick said...

Now you're just making me hungry! Wait, is my apetite coming back? Haven't had one for days! Thank you, thank you!
Best in writing,
Donna Carrick

hudson said...

good review. nice time tell hubby to try the Bovin Symphony (Macedonian wine) with the Tuna burger!

Cecilia Dominic said...

Thanks, everyone, for your comments!

If I worked around the corner from Flip, I'd be in there once a week at least for the lunch special.

Glad I could help your appetite, Donna! So glad you're feeling better!

Will definitely try the Symphony the next time. This time, I was the only one drinking wine.


Toronto Elli said...

An awesome review, the Butcher's Cut sounds sooooooo delicious and if you're mentioning the Steak Tartare, I must say, it is a delicious meal. I've had it on my travels in the Czech republic. They serve it in pretty much every single bar and restaurant there. It's a very common meal and is always made with fresh ingredients which results in an amazing taste. If you ever come to Toronto, check The Stockyards, a very very good restaurant that you would probably like a lot ;) Thanks for a great review!

Take care, Elli

Cecilia Dominic said...

Thank you, Elli! I'd definitely like to visit Toronto someday and will keep The Stockyards in mind.