As is typical of many Upper West Side mid-range restaurants, the place was jammed with families and locals. To be honest, I had never understood the appeal of 5 Napkin Burger.The couple of other times I’ve eaten there, the meat was dry and overcooked. Plus, there was so much glop—in the form of Gruyère cheese, rosemary aioli sauce and caramelized onions—that the burger itself was almost an afterthought.
Tonight, however, was a total home run.The meat was bursting with flavor. Plus, the juicy patty came medium rare just as I ordered it. One big improvement: I asked for no cheese and the sauce came on the side. That meant, instead of a cheese and sauce sandwich, I got a burger—and I could actually taste the beef.
For a quick burger fix, 5 Napkin Burger does the trick for Upper West Side carnivores.
5 Napkin Burger: Upper West Side
2315 Broadway @ 84th Street
212 333 4488
Here’s a recipe for a hamburger that will wow your friends and family this July 4th and throughout the summer. Use grass fed beef for its deeper, richer flavor, but conventional beef works well too.
The secret? A disc of butter slid into the middle of the patty makes this a rich, succulent beef treat.
The following recipe makes eight burgers. If that’s too many for your size crowd, freeze the leftover patties (wrapped in plastic, then foil, labeled and dated).
1 pound chuck
1 pound short ribs (after bone is removed)
1 pound skirt steak. For flavor, don’t remove the fat.
¼ cup olive oil for grass fed beef; it’s leaner than conventional beef.
Have your butcher grind the beef to order. While the beef is chilling, prepare the following:
1 cup panko bread crumbs, unseasoned
4 teaspoons each of finely chopped fresh thyme and rosemary
2 teaspoons coarsely ground black pepper
4 shallots, finely chopped, rinsed and dried
2 hot peppers, finely chopped (Thai, Serrano, Jalapeno)- optional
2 eggs, well mixed
8 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick sweet butter, cut into large dice and softened a bit
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon each of ground cardamom, cumin and turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Blend the butter, garlic, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric and soy sauce together until well mixed. Divide into 8 equal discs, about one inch wide, and freeze for 30 minutes.
Mix the beef gently with breadcrumbs, thyme, rosemary, ground pepper, shallots and hot pepper. Then blend in the eggs, and olive oil.
Divide into 8 portions. Shape each piece into a ball. Insert one disc of flavored butter into the center of each hamburger. Press and shape it until it is a plump, but somewhat flattish with none of the butter visible. Handle the burgers as little as possible, and refrigerate for 30 minutes, minimum.
Preheat the grill so it’s very hot. Brush the burgers with olive oil. Grill over high heat for 3-5 minutes, until the marks are clearly visible. Turn the burgers over gently and finish cooking burgers on the cooler side of the rack. Three more minutes should get you a medium rare burger. Don’t press the burgers or flatten them.
The burgers will continue to cook once removed from the heat source. When they are close to “done,” take them off the heat and let them rest for 5-6 minutes.
Want to gild the lily? Sprinkle some flaky sea salt on the burgers—just a little.
So popular was the 5 Napkin burger at Upper West Side bistro, Nice Matin, that chef Andy D’Amico decided to dedicate an entire restaurant to this primo slab of chopped beef. Last June, he opened 5 Napkin Burger in Hell’s Kitchen.
As culinary historian Andy Smith, who has just penned a new tome, Hamburger: A Global History,says, “burgers need to be juicy” to reach their level of perfection. The one I bit into at 5 Napkin, though ordered medium rare, turned out dry and overcooked. Needless to say, this is not OK at a join that bills itself as a specialist in the art of preparing a great hamburger.
As for the comte that tops the burger, I’ll take mine with cheddar. That cheese, with its tangy bite, is a better complement to meat than the unctuous comte.
Another disappointment—the rolls. They’re soft and squishy and add nothing but tasteless bulk to the chopped meat sandwich.
Other offerings at this cheery bistro include a cheddar bacon burger, and Italian turkey burger with mozzarella and an Ahi tuna burger. Sushi is served and there are also salads, including a chipotle beef concoction and one made with shrimp and watermelon.
What were first-rate were the fries. Liquidy and sumptuous on the inside and perfectly crispy on the outside, these were some of the best potato slivers I’ve ever chomped down on.
A slice of blackout cake for dessert was as dry as kindling. Where’s Ebbinger’s when we need it?