American Kobe Burger at Brasserie Ruhlmann
Sink your teeth into this baby -- if you can afford it.
Sometimes you have to have a hamburger. The fries don't even have to be that great. In NYC, the burger is probably the most ubiquitous meal available -- ahead of pizza, falafel, salad-bar salads, sushi, and a dozen others you can find anywhere in the city. The number of styles and sizes of burgers currently available is bewildering. Consequently, Fork in the Road here inburgerates a new feature: Burgers at Random. Our first is an upscale one at Brasserie Ruhlmann in Rockefeller Center.
From overhead, it looks like a face with a mohawk of french fries.
The landmarked space mid-block on the north side of 50th Street is freighted with Art Deco features, from wavy metal décor and lots of dark mable, to the furniture in the bar and dining room, to the very ice buckets that your overpriced bottle of white wine will briefly occupy. The chef is Laurent Tourondel, formerly of the BLT empire.
The Kobe beef burger ($24) is a good half-pound of freshly ground meat deposited in a seeded brioche bun that's been toasted on the cut surfaces. It comes with Bibb lettuce, raw purple onion, and a cunningly cut pickle, along with your condiment of choice -- for me it was mayo. The cheese is extra, but who needs it?
I don't give a shit if the beef comes from some quasi-bovine animal pastured on the moon. This is probably not Kobe beef, anyway, which comes from Japan, but made from one of the Kobe-inseminated Angus cows we have here, which is a different thing entirely. Nor would anyone in their right mind waste good Wagyu beef by grinding it up! No, what beef is claimed in the menu's listing is of no consequence. The important thing is that this burger is lush, moist, and hot pink. The beef doesn't taste aged quite enough, but it still tastes beefy in an American sort of way, with a pronounced minerality. I loved every bite.
Yes, the burger gets high marks, but you can get one almost as good at just over half the price. The fries merit a B+, and the pickle is fantastic, of the sour-pickle school.
Bistro Ruhlmann 45 Rockefeller Center (50th Street) 212-974-2020
The monster shot
The view out the window at Brasserie Ruhlmann
Check out our 11 Best Burgers of 2011.
Want more Fork in the Road? Follow us on Facebook if you like pretty pictures of food.
Get the Food & Drink Newsletter
Our weekly guide to New York dining includes food news and reviews, as well as dining events and interviews with chefs and restaurant owners.