Gourmet burgers are becoming the rage with many upscale restaurants across the nation. I sort of relate the surge of high-profile chefs coming up with their idea of a top burger as something I learned long ago from some loudspeaker designers - anybody can make a good sounding high-priced speaker, but how speaker designers really get their jollies is to make a good sounding low-priced speaker. Same thing with top chefs - they can do a great high-priced meal, but they get their kicks out of making something as simple as a burger. Chef Laurent Tourondel throws his hat into the gourmet burger ring with his BLT Burger restaurant at the Mirage in Las Vegas.
Tourondel is the head chef and partner in the BLT (Bistro Laurent Tourondel) brand of restaurants including the BLT Steak House in New York City and 10 other locations across North America, Hong Kong and Puerto Rico; along with BLT Prime, BLT Market, BLT Fish and The Fish Shack in Manhattan. In addition to Las Vegas, Tourondel has BLT Burger restaurants in New York City and in Hong Kong. Tourondel is French-raised and trained in the art of cooking. He was once the personal chef of the head of the French army in addition to working in a number of three-star restaurants before coming to the United States.
I was able to sneak away from our suites at the Mirage one afternoon during the recent Consumer Electronics Show to have a burger and a beer at BLT Burger. The restaurant opened last summer in the spot where the viewing area of the Mirage's white tigers would frolic in a pool habitat. Actually, I was looking for the white tigers a couple days prior and found BLT Burger instead. I sat at the bar and got a menu from the bartender and ordered up a Bud Light. A couple guys seated next to me were drinking a Schlitz out of the can and one of them said, "Hey, you ought to get one of these."
We struck up a conversation about the new Schlitz formula that had come back. They didn't know this was the "new" Schlitz. "My dad used to drink this stuff when I was growing up," the other guy said. "I saw this on their beer menu and thought it would be fun to try." After I told them the story of the fall and subsequent recent rise from the ashes of Schlitz, along with information about Old Style beer, and the popularity of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the Northwest, the first guy said, "I'm very impressed of your knowledge of shitty beers."
BLT Burger uses Certified Angus Beef for their burgers. Each patty is a hand-formed 7 oz. patty. They have a handful of specialty burgers, or you can order their "Classic" burger and add your choice of cheese for a buck and toppings such as a grilled red pepper, a fried egg or barbecued onions for $1.50 each.
Some of their other specialty burgers include a lamb burger, a turkey burger, and something called "Banh Mi" which is a burger consisting of ground pork and shrimp together. That just didn't sound too appealing to me.
I ended up ordering the "BLT" - a 7 oz. burger with smoked bacon, lettuce and tomato and something called "BLT Burger Sauce". The bartender tried to talk me into getting a combo with fries, but I figured that would be enough for me. They serve their french fries in a metal cup with a paper wrap around them. One of the guys next to me had the fries and they looked good. The other guy had the onion rings and they looked a little overdone for my taste. No, I'll just go with the burger.
The decor in BLT Burger could be categorized as a somewhat modern/industrial theme. They featured a number of wood-trimmed booths and formica-topped tables with wooden chairs. The railings around the elevated bar area are metal and wire. The prep and cooking area of BLT Burger is sort of out in the open. There is a kitchen area in the back where they do the french fries and onion rings while all of the burger cooking is directly behind the bar area. It was a beehive of activity with cooks, wait staff and bartenders trying to keep out of each others way.
I waited about 12 to 15 minutes for my burger to show up. The bartender brought it to me on a plate along with a half kosher pickle spear. It was piled high with the lettuce, tomato and bacon along with red onion and pickle slices. My "medium" burger was a little more medium-well and sort of charred. The sesame-seed bun was a little stiff and didn't add much to the taste of the burger. The toppings were fresh and the bacon wasn't overpowering, as bacon can sometime be on a burger. Overall, it was an average burger, at best. For $13 bucks, it was an overpriced average burger.
My final assessment of BLT Burger is that Laurent Tourondel should stick to what he does best - French food. I could have easily gotten in the SUV and driven over to In 'N' Out Burger and gotten a much better burger, quicker and better tasting. And much cheaper. I was not impressed with BLT Burger.