Where’s the beef? New Zaventem eatery underdelivers

Summary

Every week, Flanders Today surveys the world of local cuisine to fill you in on the best recipes, culinary events and special eateries. This week: a primer on American burger basics

On Flemish food and drink

Be Burger, housed in Zaventem’s Stockmansmolen, boasts beef of “culinary delicacy” and a menu created by a “chef renowned in the world of gastronomy”.

Except for the Wagyu, which goes for a whopping €17.50 (the burger, not the beast), Scottish Black Angus dominates on the airport-themed menu. I order what seems the most basic burger, the “BRUSSELS (BRU)”: bacon, beer-onion confit, gherkins, iceberg lettuce, “cheese” (the server says it's cheddar), mustard, “sauce” (the server isn’t sure).

A beeper tells me to come and get it. The paper enveloping the burger encourages patrons to do the right thing, but on the way back to my table I witness several desecrations by fork and knife. Local dining habits aside, such sacrilege might be forced by inundation: when chefs apply more than one sauce, tsunamis ensue, drowning the meat and turning the bun into an unseizable mush.

I peek under the envelope. Whole corn flakes – the breakfast cereal kind – crust my bun. Still, I keep an open mind.

I take the burger in hand for Test One: it handles well, can be turned over and back without losing its innards. After two bites, bottom bun integrity is compromised: what should be a firm bed is a soggy mattress torn asunder.

Mustard, “sauce”, melted cheddar – none of which I can discern – become a concoction worthy of squirting into a durum. I can’t taste the meat. Normally, the grind should be thick and the patty loosely gathered to make it chewy. This grind is too fine or was overworked prior to cooking: either can produce a glutinous mass that disintegrates in the mouth like an overcooked liver.

The burger itself isn’t that bad, but it’s a broken heap. I chomp on it, and the patty squirts free and lands with a thud on the pulpy envelope. Now even I might resort to cutlery. Too proud to procure them, I try to reassemble, but it’s a mess. And I’m a mess. And my plate is hidden beneath crumpled napkins.

Be Burger, listen up! The fundamentals: the burger is a sandwich; the meat juices are the most important sauce; and bun integrity must be maintained from first bite to last – that is what the bun is for.

And from the burger, only flavour – the meat above all – should burst. Boast about your beef when you can keep it in your bun.

Photo courtesy Be Burger