286 Notre-Dame O.
Metro: Square-Victoria, Place d’Armes
Bus: STM 14, 36, 55, 61, 75, 129, 168, 715
Visit: April 3, 2012
When I see other blogs and media outlets over-hyping a restaurant, I tend to stay away. For me, it’s more a case of not getting lost in the many voices all saying the same thing. That’s the case with this restaurant. Lately, nearly everyone has been talking or featuring Le Gros Jambon. I wasn’t about to get lost in that shuffle, but something powerful drew me in. You know me by now, if there’s something really worth trying, I just had to be there.
Most of what I learned about Le Gros Jambon came from Twitter and their recent appearance on CTV’s Sunday Bite. The owners of L’Orignal opened up this restaurant as a more casual option, where they could really tinker with ideas you’d never think of. It’s only been open for a few short months and already, it’s one of the most talked about places in the city. I just had to see what the fuss was about.
Over the course of the last few months, I had a multitude of Twitter followers telling me that I had to go try the Coca-Cola burger. I’m not going to get into what I thought of the idea just yet, but all I’ll say is that it was enough to pique my interest. I had 2 very credible recommendations and the first one came during a memorable moment. I was sitting down at the Griffintown Cafe for Burger 134 having quite the wonderful potato salad and burger, when I got a tweet directed to me. My mentions come directly to my phone and I usually check them right away. As I was eating, one of my better followers, was at the same time, eating at Le Gros Jambon. That tweet was urging me to come try the burger.
The second recommendation came just a few days ago. All I asked in response was if it was Mr. Lew worthy. What came next was a Starsky and Hutch reply of ‘just do it.’ With the amount of hype and word of mouth, I had no choice but to expedite my visit to the most convenient time for me. Luckily enough for me, that time was now.
The restaurant is located in a very narrow part of Notre-Dame. You wouldn’t really know that a decent restaurant was here by looking at the architecture around here. You walk in and you’ll almost immediately see the entire floor. There is a counter with the cash register on your left. Towards the back left corner is the kitchen, which is behind a long counter where people will be eating. The right side of the diner has a long counter as well, with plenty of seats for a good dozen people.
Since I timed it to get there right after the lunch rush, there were plenty of seats to be had. The diner stools were quite something. It made putting my heavy Winter coat down quite the challenge. Since I didn’t really mind too much, I actually placed it on top of my bag, which was on the floor. I saw other people with their coats on their laps. Since mine was on my bag, it made putting my feet down a little hard to do. So, I didn’t touch the ground at all for the entire duration of the meal.
Eating like this, puts you in close quarters with the other people around you. When I’m on these burger outings, I get a tad bit paranoid when anyone is looking in my direction. For good reason, I want to stay as anonymous as humanly possible. Since someone is looking at me, it makes me think I was spotted. Well, the person next to me made it a habit of staring in my direction. I hoping, for the love of all that’s bacon, that they were looking at the succulent display of desserts in the front window. By the way, the bacon wrapped hot dog that person was having made me want to start a hot dog search.
The most unique part of the restaurant was the decor. I’d have more pictures of the nice adornments, but you’ll have to settle for my favorite one. It’s not like I’m going to get in everyone’s face to take pictures of everything I see. Remember, I need to deviate the attention away from myself. This picture, that was hanging on the wall in front of me, was my favorite. Anything orange related is quite the deal in my books. That’s just the way I am and look at this site, isn’t it orange enough for you?
The menu is quite simple and straight forward, or so I thought. At the conclusion of the meal, I went up to the cash to settle up and was confronted with something unexpected. I spend a lot of my time during my meals playing mathematician. So, here I am, calculating extras, sides, and my drink, when I was presented with a bill which was largely different than the number I came up with. I’m not going to say which direction the shortchanging occurred in, because I don’t want anyone to get in trouble. Let’s just say that even after I pointed out the discrepancy and was given the same response to each item, I paid what I was told to pay. I wish I could be more specific, but the actual price, I’ll take to my grave.
This burger contains caramelized onions, deep fried pickles, Coca-Cola mayonnaise, cheese, and bacon. This list of ingredients reads like a rap sheet for a convicted felon. There isn’t one innocent item on that list. To top it all off, the cheese and bacon were added in as extras by the equally as evil burger eater that I am. I am always of the opinion that a burger isn’t a burger unless it can create more congestion that the Champlain Bridge on a Monday morning.
The first time I heard about this burger, my mind was blown. I needed to replace a few circuits after I saw the name of this creation. Before I go any further, I have to make a stunning admission, I do not like Coca-Cola whatsoever, I actually hate it. As a matter of fact, to expand on that, I do not enjoy soft drinks. It’s now been 11 years since I’ve been a regular soft drink sponge. I simply don’t enjoy the after effects left by the carbonated water. It’s the only food or beverage that I’ve been able to give up cold turkey. So, when I heard that the mayo was infused with Coca-Cola, not only was I intrigued, but I was willing to bite that bullet.
Over the course of the Burger Search, the one thing that’s been nagging me is the use of baskets to present burgers. This is not to single out this restaurant per se, but in general, it makes my life so much harder. The picture above is the best you’ll get from me for this burger. I actually hard a hard time picking it up to check it out. I should’ve inquired about getting a small plate or I should seriously start carrying them around with me. But, having said that, the burger experience has to remain authentic or pure. Who am I to tell anyone how to present their burger?
You’re not here to read about my views on plating since I’m not an expert on the subject. You’re here to find out about this burger. Well, I’m happy to tell you that this was quite the burger. For the first time in a very long while, almost each and every aspect of this burger was memorable.
I have to start with the deep fried pickles. I normally try to avoid putting pickles in my burger. I just don’t like the sting I get from eating any kind of pickles. The deep fried batter reminded me a lot of onion rings that taste really good. Once you get past that, the pickle, with the way it was done, doesn’t have that sting. I’ve always tried to avoid deep fried anythings, but this has opened my eyes to a whole new world.
The bacon was cooked exactly how I dreamed it should be. It wasn’t too crispy or under-done, it was just right. When you took bites, you can actually tell that it’s there. For a burger that didn’t really come with bacon, I felt that it fit in just fine. The other extra that I asked for was the cheese. Like the bacon, it fit in really well. I know that in mid-bite, I could actually see the strands of cheese coming apart from the rest of the burger.
The Coca-Cola mayo was a little harder for me. It took me a little while to get it, but it was there. At first, when you’re dealing with all the strong tastes from the other components, you forget that there is a soft drink at play here. Once you get to sift through all that, the Coca-Cola is there. Just like everything else in this burger, it meshes quite well.
The meat was the coup de gras. It was cooked to a pinkish color and the juices were flowing. It really reminded me of some of the strongest burgers I’ve had in the past. It was so easy to take down that I actually wolfed it down, rather than taking my time with it. That’s actually quite rare for me these days.
The whole product of this burger just came together. There wasn’t one item in it that didn’t belong there. Outside some mayo causing napkin overuse and slight structural issues, this burger is the strongest one I’ve had in 2012. The idea was really off center, but the taste was a pure bullseye. This is going to be the only time I say the following, if you disagree with me when it comes to this burger, you are insane and know nothing when it comes to hamburgers. So, if you haven’t yet, you better give this burger a try.
In all, my expectations for Le Gros Jambon were met on every level. Where else in the heavy financial district of Montreal will you find such a unique take on comfort food? Riding on the unique take on a simple dish like a burger, you can’t go wrong here. You may not have the sit-down dining experience of a high-end restaurant here, but you’ll have a memorable meal, no question. If it wasn’t for the fact that I had to eat more burgers to continue my quest, I’d stop here and come back regularly.
The items in the Coca-Cola burger are awfully strange for your normal offering. What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever had in a burger? I’d like to know what you’ve experienced. You can share that by interacting with me on Facebook or on Twitter.