With America rapidly going to shit under Trump, it’s refreshing to walk into a burger joint that isn’t worshiping at the altar of Americana. Concept Burger has taken a decidedly global approach to their burgers. Owners Sergio Spagnuoli and Coco Liang employed the expertise of Tomislav Martinovic (ex-Tomislav) to narrow down a hefty list of ideas to a manageable seven, worldly burgers.
We dropped into their new Wolli Creek restaurant to give some a whirl. It’s located in a canyon of medium density apartment blocks near the airport.
Far from a luridly lit burger joint, Concept Burger is a dimly lit, modern space with stylish polished concrete floors and an orderly open kitchen.
On one wall there's a somewhat reduced world map (that wipes out all of our Pasifikan neighbours) created using words. A funky row of heat lamps draws your eye to the pass, and focuses your attention upon the very attractive burgers coming out of the kitchen.
Despite the relatively diminutive place that China occupies on their world map, the Chinese ($14.50) burger is the easy standout. It teams five-spice fried chicken with Sichuan pepper, pickled cucumbers, celeriac ‘slaw and baby cos lettuce, all glued together with a dab of fermented chilli paste. It’s a harmonious and crisp bite, housed between two super-soft buns. The chilli is lively, and the Sichuan pepper gives it aromatic pleasure. The burger holds together well in your hands, and the size is such that it doesn’t wear out its welcome before you've take the last bite.
If in your world, burger IS synonymous with American cheese, you will find some on the Canadian ($15.90). It's another nicely proportioned burger, centred upon a juicy Jack’s Creek grain-fed marbled beef patty. It's combined with maple-glazed bacon, Dijon mayonnaise, tomato chutney and oak lettuce, on a lightly toasted milk bun. It’s a classic combination that eats with a fraction more sweetness than your average American-style burger, due to the use of maple syrup. Yes it's good, but Canada ain't got nothing on the Chinese.
Clever menu design sees most of the burger ingredients and sauces available also available as sides and sauces. The Truffle and Pecorino Mayo. ($3) is your must-do, tarting up a more than adequate ‘small’ serve of Beer Battered Chips ($4.50).
The real interest is in the salads, which is rare for a burger joint. A splash of lively red wine dressing makes Baby Cos Lettuce ($12.90) into the perfect tangy foil to burgers and fries. The lettuce is teamed with a bright green edamame, raw enoki mushrooms, cucumber and pickled radish.
Mocktails – like Juniper Star ($6.90) – read very well; promising cranberry juice, Sichuan pepper, star anise, bay leaf, dried juniper berries, cinnamon, cucumber and lime. In the drinking however, it was dominated by cranberry and very little else. With the addition of a shot of Vodka ($8) it made for an expensive vodka cranberry. The tropically themed Coco Loco ($6.90), with coconut water, pineapple juice, grapefruit juice, coconut syrup, mint, kiwi fruit and Angostura bitters, fared slightly better against Rum ($8), but next time I’d grab a less costly beer.
For a final flash of Tomislav flair, there’s a dessert on offer that’s a level up from regular burger joint fare. White Chocolate Mousse ($11.90) sees two creamy quenelles of rich, airy mousse given textural appeal with fresh passionfruit, freeze-dried raspberries, pistachios and cookie crumbs. It should send you into the windy wilds of Wolli Creek smiling – even if the bill is a bit bigger than you’d expect from a burger-based meal.
9-11 Arncliffe Street, Wolli Creek
Ph: (02) 9597 4184