Neil’s note: Chris and I both wrote a summary of Finch’s; however, Chris’ summary of Finch’s belongs somewhere on the Mount Rushmore of food blogging. Adding my own section would be like following a performance of Phantom of the Opera with a grade school musical. His footnotes alone deserve study in some highbrow literary journal. So sit back, relax, and let Chris’ words wash over you…
When a restaurant names a burger as a “Brasserie Burger,” it evokes a certain standard. “Quality,” “artisan,” and “locally-sourced” are some of the adjectives that may spring to mind. This is a burger where nobody expects to see “secret sauce” in the description. With those expectations, certain questions are raised.
Will the burger be a dressed up, better sounding version of a plain old burger? Will the burger be so loaded with bling, a hot wife, and corporate empires that you almost forget where the original burger started? Or, will the burger be well-heeled from the start, meticulously groomed from conception, until it is a silver-topped paragon of high society?
With the Brasserie Burger at Finch’s, the burger appears to fall into the final category. This is a burger that is classy but unpretentious, like a family member of the Belgian haute bourgeoisie — it does not feel the need to put on a show of wealth and sophistication, in part because the pedigree is wholly subsumed into its identity.
This is a burger that was destined to be classy from when it was a twinkle in the chef’s eye. Quality ground beef was obvious in the thick patty on this burger. The patty was very well seasoned, not too salty, with perhaps a hint of white pepper and maybe even a hint of ground mustard to round out the beefy flavor. The beef was cooked to medium temperature as requested, though many might consider the temperature closer to “medium rare.” With a mid-to-lower-range temperature, the beef was also delightfully juicy and rich.
The patty was topped by melted gruyere cheese. The softness and balanced flavors of this white cheese often explains its use in fondues and on top of French onion soup, but on a burger it is sublime. This gruyere appears to not be of the well-aged variety, meaning that its flavor, while imparting a hint of nuttiness and buttercream, was not overly aggressive. As a result, it complements rather than overpowers the beef.
On top of the cheese was a judicious portion of caramelized onions. After receiving many disappointing caramelized onion experiences around town, it was nice to see that Finch’s does it right. The onions were cooked long enough to become yellow and slightly translucent, and had a heavy browning on the sides without becoming blackened. They were sweet, buttery, and delicious.
One of the clear stars on this burger is the Smoking Goose bacon. The flavor was decadently rich, with deep fatty and butter tastes offset by a lively high note of sweet smoke. For bacon, it was some of the best and most complex in flavor I have ever had. Ever.
With such high-quality ingredients, it was not surprising that the lettuce offerings were also top notch. The chef at Finch’s decided to serve us with a combination of arugula, radicchio, and spinach. The combination ensured that the pepperiness of the arugula and the vibrant (almost bitter?) radicchio did not get out of hand. Ridiculous radicchio? I think not.
Atop this homage to gourmet ground beef glory sat the bun. This ciabatta served as a classy bookend to a classy burger. It was clearly toasted right on the open grill, and had wonderful grill marks. The natural holiness of this bun made it fit for a new pontiff, and was also effective in capturing the house-made, ground mustard spread. A warning: the spread comes pre-applied unless the customer specifies otherwise, and most certainly includes a mayonnaise or aioli base. That said, it should not be missed, as its flavor provides the perfect amount of sweet, acid, and fatty flavors to round out a very complex burger.
With such a good burger offering, one could skip the fries, but that would be a mistake. Finch’s offers, by far, the best fries I have had yet in the course of our reviews. The fries are well crisped in a fryer, yet have a clean taste. Pair them with the truffle aioli (recommended by Neil), and you will be in heaven.
The burger is expensive, but as a treat you feel it is well worth the premium price.
Raw Score: 5 / 5 burgers
Price-adjusted: 5 / 5 burgers
Gained points: Please sir, I want some more.
Lost points: Really?
Drinks: Belgian strong pale ale for Neil; Rogue Russian Imperial Stout for Chris
Date of visit: 2/1/13 (Federal Territory Day in Malaysia)
 This may fairly be called the “My Fair Lady” approach. Take a commoner, make them draw out their vowel sounds and pronounce every syllable, and put them in fancy clothes. Or, in burger terms, take standard ground beef, add passable seasoning, and never freeze that beef. Then top that burger with better, but not high-quality, ingredients.
 This is the “Jay-Z” approach. Sure, the burger may come from the streets (or backyard barbecue), but then you add the capers, the $20 per ounce cheese flown in from Paris, and heirloom tomato grown in a greenhouse built on the roof of the restaurant and picked earlier that day. Suddenly you forget that you could buy the same beef (and capers) in the case of any grocery store. As awesome as this burger is now, at one point it was slumming it, slinging rock and weed in the projects. Even so, the sheer success and opulence of the burger is so amazing you do not care.
 This is the “Anderson Cooper” approach. This burger comes from the Vanderbilt family heritage of locally sourced beef, and is groomed and educated in the hallowed halls of Yale, gaining refinement to add to the worldliness of its background. The burger is topped with high-quality ingredients that are so integral to the persona of the burger, that the quality and sophistication is as natural as a $500 haircut and well-fitting tuxedo. Despite the high refinement, the “Cooper” style of burger is not pretentious and is surprisingly approachable, even quirky, at times.