The best burger in Singapore? Not quite.
When it comes to burgers, I think it’s very easy for restaurateurs to push the envelope. Stack on some gourmet homemade buns made with organic flour, home-mixed patties sourced from the most marbled and best of cuts, and for good measure, smather a feast of ingredients from foie gras to shaved truffle bits, and voila, a good burger. While this refined aspiration is most admirable, I can’t help but think about the message it’s sending to the society as a whole. Is good food only available to the highest bidder? De Burg certainly doesn’t think so, but it’s not stopping the burger stand from cashing in on the gourmet trend with sky-high prices. For a while now, this local start-up has been acclaimed by many as serving the best burgers in Singapore. Yet, for the longest time, I never really got around to trying it, mostly because its original location in Ghim Moh was, even for me, inconvenient to get to. Even when they moved to its present location near Alexandra, I wasn’t all too enticed, particularly after being “burned” time after time by a whole host of less-than-impressive burgers. It was only today did I find a motivation to finally subject myself, head-on, to a “burgasm”.
First impressions weren’t good. En route to Bukit Merah, I browsed the web reading food blogs for recommendations for specific burgers (I have to – I’m only just one mouth), but when I got there, and browsed the menu, I wasn’t thrilled that according to these blogs, De Burg had raised prices on at least, two occasions. A regular Cheeseburger, which I decided to order, was now SGD 16.90, but no matter, I just wanted a good burger.
Taking my first bite, it immediately dawned on my consciousness that the comparisons between De Burg and Omakase Burger were vastly inappropriate. Omakase derives its concept from the fairly recent new wave of American burger trend pioneered by names like In-N-Out, Five Guys and in particular, Shake Shack which Omakase publicly acknowledges as its prime inspiration. DeBurg on the other hand, lends itself to the classic American burger. As a result, the execution is infinitely more simplistic – a carnal and intimate relationship between beef and bun – its closest local comparison would Charlie & Co., really.
The regular Cheeseburger was on point in some respects. It was heartening that they didn’t go baroque with the sesame seed bun. It looked and tasted like something one could get off-the-shelf, not that it’s bad or anything. They also didn’t attempt to beautify it. For a cheeseburger, the selection of cheese was rightfully balanced. The aroma didn’t stick out, nor did it overpower the burger.
Alas, I wasn’t very awed. If there was a heart to any burger, it’d be its filling, the patty, and I felt let down by it. De Burg’s regular Cheeseburger patty, undoubtedly manually minced (given the unevenness of the meat grain), is sourced from the tenderloin. Boisterously masculine, it created a patty that was ferociously meaty, chunky and carnivorous, but there was a certain smoky and saline aftertaste which was neither palatable nor pleasant. It wasn’t salty per se, but the sensation is never resolved. With the portions so generously huge, it does become monotonously bland in flavor and texture, uninteresting in its depth and sorely lacking the highs and lows of a good dining experience. You’re just chowing down bite after bite in a seemingly endless and unexciting marathon which you just want to get over and done with.