Sunday, April 15, 2012

Served by the Lords of Lunch: the Arc Lounge burger


Arc the Hotel is a trendy boutique hotel in central Ottawa. Located on Slater Street between O'Connor and Metcalfe, the Arc was completely different from the competition when it first opened, heralding a contemporary design and a strong focus on food. My wife and I actually stayed there the night of our wedding; a distinct memory from those fast and wonderful days was waking up to a cheerful family and Arc's incredible breakfasts. So needless to say, I have fond feelings for the place.

There is a burger on the lunch menu that immediately looked inviting: an O'Brien's beef patty topped with "smokey-spicy" cream cheese, caramelized onions, pickles, red onion, lettuce and tomato on a strong white bun.

Normally my introductions are a bit longer, but instead I'll just give you this:

More after the break.

The burger

The patty was cooked to well-done but was moist and juicy. There just just enough sear to provide some char to the flavour of the coarse-ground meat. I wasn't sure of the before-cooked weight, but the meat/topping/bun ratio was perfect. While not as beef-forward as some other high-end burgers I've enjoyed, the meat was definitely a strong character in the show.

The real star was the cream cheese. Cream cheese is an excellent burger topping because of its inherent moisture and subtle but apparent flavour. While I'm unclear on the origins of cream cheese's burger employment, it is most often associated with classic Montreal offerings. "Subtle" doesn't describe this, however.  The cream cheese was smoked, with very sweet caramelized onions mixed in for a great balance. It was obviously the most powerful flavour of the construction, but it tied well with the meat. There was a large swathe of the stuff proudly piled on, and it squeezed out the ends to make eating the burger a messy affair. Despite the menu's description there wasn't much spiciness to it. I was unperturbed as cream cheese easily overwhelms spice.

Garnishes included pickles, red onion, lettuce and tomato, which were all good. This is notable, since they're often not. The lettuce had not yet wilted, the tomatoes were ripe, and red onion sliced thinly. The presence of full-sour pickles was very much appreciated, as it provided zest to cut the umami of the two key ingredients.

The bun was made for handling, and that's exactly what it did. It handled the burger well, mopped up juices and tasted fresh. It had a nice firm crust and a toasted crumb.

This beauty is well-sized but not enormous, so you shouldn't have a problem prying yourself out of the comfy booths. At $18 the burger can't be called inexpensive, and while not overly complex, it was an expertly executed, very high-quality offering. It should be noted that the burger's price reflected the overall pricing of the menu.

Burg's-eye view of the action.

Visitors for dinner will be denied the pleasure of this burger, as it is available for lunch only. I also don't recommend eating it for a business lunch if you expect a busy afternoon, as I guarantee you'll be enraptured by at least two solid hours of burger reverie. Or maybe that's just me...

Chef Jason Duffy and his staff are venerable burger samurai that deserve respect. Call them the lords of lunch.

The sides

I ordered the fries; they were thin, skin on the tips, crispy outside and soft inside but too salty. Plentiful portions. I just had sparkling water because... well it was lunch mid-week and I had work to do.


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