With the economy, everyone is putting a spin on their business, and chef celebs are no exception. There isn’t a toque in town who hasn’t pimped out his or her mad skillz to charity events, Food Network reality shows or prix fixe menus for the Groupon set. One chef I know recently marketed himself by teaching kiddie cooking classes after school in the teacher’s lounge at a local elementary where the only culinary implements on site were a few mis-matched Tupperware containers and five packages of Sweet N Low from 1971.
Another popular way to bring in bucks is by opening a more casual, separate dining concept based on your larger brand. Wolfgang Puck, CPK, Cat Cora and Marcus Samuelsson have all gone this route. The latest is Charlie Palmer, who opened DG Burger, a hamburger stand located inside the existing restaurant adjacent to but separate from the main dining room floor.
Potential DG Devotees.
It’s the same-premises/dual concept that doesn’t seem to work here. Anqi by Crustacean, right across the hall has its casual noodle bar concept 0n premises, but it was part of the plan from the beginning, and its cool. Over at CP, nothing has been visibly done to the washed out looking former private banquet room except replacing linen table cloths with paper and stemware with condiment caddies.
Glass walls and doors make it possible for DG Burger patrons to see CP guests perusing the eWinebook for a bottle of Grüner Veltliner while nibbling on the last of Amar Santana’s charcuterie while they sit in what resembles the donor recovery room at your local Red Cross.
The burger itself is a bulky, rotund orb of juicy Angus beef. The default cooking temp is medium well, ill advised for a Costco patty, let alone Angus. I added cheese and avocado, at the advice of a counter person, and they were two dollars each. The semolina bun is alright, but the bun to meat ratio is like a catcher’s mitt to a baseball. Fries, too, were just decent. Dipping sauces can be had for 75 cents a piece after the first one, and fries are plentiful, making it worth while to try them all. Garlicky sour cream gives them a baked potato edge. Bacon mayo? Good enough to slather liberally on everything you order.
Chef Kim's Kobe-style sliders.
My DG Burger with cheese and avocado was 12 dollars. The next day I went to the bar in Charlie Palmer and ordered executive sous chef Seakyeong Kim’s three generously-sized juicy, flavorful Kobe-style sliders for a mere ten dollars. The patties were cooked a judicious medium. The sesame-flecked buns were spread with rich, savory black truffle mayo and garnished with crunchy house-made pickles. I added a trough of rough hewn, crispy fries with a soft molten core. They were served with both ketchup and chipotle aioli: no extra charge. I ordered the sliders to contrast with the DG Burger, but the rest of the bar menu beckoned with a well-curated list of yummy sounding noshes.
CP’s former executive chef Chef Amar Santana has gone to open his own restaurant in Laguna’s Five Feet spot, and he hasn’t been replaced yet. Meanwhile, eating at DG Burger is like being at the kid’s card table on Thanksgiving. Looks like Chef Kim and his nicely-executed bar menu are holding down the fort for now.
Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdales/DG Burger 3333 South Bristol Street Costa Mesa, CA 92626. 714.352.2525.
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