Chicago: Cheffy Burgers Done Right at The Florentine
151 W Adams Street, Chicago IL 60604 (map); 312- 660-8866; e2hospitality.com
Cooking Method: Grilled
Short Order: Pricey cheffy burgers use restrained creativity to reach deliciousness
Want Fries With That? Meh. The exterior was a bit too crunchy and there was a non-potato flavor that was distracting.
Price: Florentine Burger, $15; BLT Bburger, $16 (both w/fries)
Notes: Burgers are only available at lunch during the week and brunch on the weekends
Typically, there are two common themes for burgers served at higher end restaurants: They're expensive and they use quality beef. As much as I enjoy chowing down on a half-pound of delicious ground cow, when prices go above $10 or $12, I want something special.
Going into my visit to The Florentine at the JW Marriott, I knew from his days at Cibo Matto that executive chef Todd Stein is capable of making spectacular food. But both restaurants feature Italian cuisine. And while Stein's resume is broader (including a stint as Executive Chef running the kitchen at mk), I worried the burgers are on the menu because of a sense of obligation that hotel restaurants have to have them. Whatever the reason, the burger results are delicious.
The Florentine Burger starts with a great half-pound patty made of a blend of chuck and aged chuck by JDY Gourmet. That 70/30 blend of beef arrives topped with caramelized onions, arugula, cured tomato, and gorgonzola—pretty restrained as far as cheffy burgers go. It has the mild twists of arugula instead of the more traditional lettuce, and, in lieu of a fresh tomato, a seeded canned one that is cured overnight in salt, sugar, garlic, and thyme before being slow roasted. The caramelized onions and gorgonzola, both of which were very good, are pretty traditional toppings that held their own in the mix. The result was an outstanding blend of strong beefiness with tangy, funky, and slightly sweet toppings.
I requested my burger rare and that's exactly what I got. As is sadly often the case with rare burgers, there was virtually no crust on the patty, but that's a price that I've deemed worth it to get extra juicy beef. The bun, which comes from north suburban bakery Z Baking Company, is a soft and light potato roll that made me perk up a little bit.
The BLT Burger has a double meaning at Florentine. Yes, it's topped with smoked bacon, bibb lettuce, and tomato, along with calabrian pepper aioli, and havarti cheese. But given that the restaurant is the Chicago outpost of ESquared, the recently created parent company of the BLT dining empire, it means that both burgers are actually named after the restaurant. All of the ingredients were great and, other than the underrepresented aioli, made for a very well-balanced burger.
I ordered this one medium rare and once again the kitchen nailed the requested temperature. The added time on the grill provided an excellent crust and some extra char flavor. I'm normally loyal to rare burgers, but at The Florentine, I'd recommend medium rare as the textural benefits outweigh the minor loss of beefiness. Speaking of texture, the particularly chewy, almost jerky-like bacon from North Country Smokehouse is a major asset to the burger. All that said, this one falls into the "delicious but not worth the cost" category.
The only real disappointment at The Florentine are the fries. They're extremely crispy but tasted more like oil than potato, an easily avoidable flaw that's pretty shocking coming from Stein's kitchen. Given how good and filling the burgers were, I can't say I was too upset about leaving most of my fries on the plate.