I'm breaking the rules this week. First, I review an already reviewed restaurant: Table 6. And here, I'm writing a Second Helping for a restaurant that never got a first helping. Why? Well, I don't much like rules, even ones I've made for myself. I do like ballsy moves, though, and someone named "Happychef" at Bistro Al Vino made one by posting this comment after the "Best Burger" post on Cafe Society. "Ok, I have sat here every night for months going over different reviews and the best of lists and personal opinions. But now I am ready to step up and put my burger where my mouth is. This is aimed directly at Jason Sheehan. I am inviting you to try my Kobe beef burger at Bistro Al Vino...the new favorite burger of anyone who tries it."
Happychef continued: "Maybe it's nothing special or maybe it is good as I think it is, but I really feel like we should be given a fair chance to show our burger is better then the rest. No crap. No egos. Just straight forward burger. [If] you choose to stop in, ask to see the kitchen or just walk over. It's at the end of the bar. It is what it is."
That mention of the kitchen really grabbed me. At the end of the bar? What does that mean?
What it means is that the kitchen is right at the end of the bar. Matter of fact, the kitchen is part of the bar, since, as at places as diverse as Aqua and the original Swimclub 32, the six-year-old Bistro Al Vino works with an all-convection setup. There are no burners, no fryers, nothing that would require a hood or ventilation or Ansel system. It's EZ-Bake ovens and microwaves all the way, cooking up such divergent dishes as chile-smothered tamales (terrible, by the way — dried out and flat as blintzes), rabbit pie and beef Wellington.
What Happychef wanted me to check out, though, was his burger, so I did. And you know what? It was a damn fine burger. Could have been because of the convection baking, but the (wagyu) Kobe patty was tender and a perfect mid-rare, juicy and full of flavor. It was topped with quote/unquote caramelized onions (actually just baked until soft because the kitchen had no burners and, thus, no sauté) and smoked provolone, and served on a nicely toasted onion roll (which I loved). The only problem? Because there are no fryers behind the bar, there were no fries on my plate. Instead, Bistro Al Vino's burgers come with a side of pasta salad, which will never take the place of a mound of perfectly fried shoestrings.