Tuesday 28 May, 2013

National Hamburger Day? Go Posh!

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You could debate the need for a National Hamburger Day--after all, does the country's most popular meat sandwich, and current obsession of nearly every celebrity chef, really need the attention? But since the cow has already left the barn, as the saying goes, you might as well have a go at it.

If you're in Las Vegas, consider bypassing all the slick spots on the Strip (though many are good) and go West--way West--to Summerlin's Poshburger. I'm no stranger to exploring Vegas' neighborhoods, but I'll be honest, it takes a lot to get me as far afield as Poshburger's location, and I've been disappointed by other touted restaurants in the area, between the Red Rock Resort and Boca Park shopping center. Much of it is quintessentially Western suburbia, which depending on your perspective, can be either heaven or hell.

Poshburger, dropped into a large pad on the side of a massive strip mall, has the unassuming air of a typical suburban family spot too: big tables, playful design, plenty of space. But when you start to read the menu, you notice an attention to detail that's even rare on the Strip. The brainchild of Irish chef Conrad Gallagher, who landed in Nevada due to some intriguing circumstances, Poshburger is clearly more interested in playing on the National/International stage than just giving Summerlin another place to bring the kids after little league.

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

Yes, the meats are "all-natural, free-range, grass-fed, humanly raised [sic], sustainable and pesticide-free." But it's what meats they offer and how they offer them that raises the bar: alongside "Kobe" and Black Angus are organic lamb, wild boar, venison, and rotating specials of elk, ostrich, duck and oxtail (tuna, turkey, and salmon are also on the menu). Nor do they just slap them on the same bun with let-tom-mayo, but rather offer accents such as spaghetti cucumber, chipotle or wasabi aioli, white or red onion marmalade, arugula, rachlette cheese, etc. There are seven "our way" burgers and then the option to create whatever kooky combo you think will top theirs.

I decided to indulge in the Kobe burger, because it's the signature one, but also tried a special of three sliders--turkey, venison and wild boar. At $29, the Kobe may seem a bit steep (there are a handful in that price range on the Strip), but with seared foie gras, a fried quail egg and truffle aioli on top, along with watercress, frizzled onion and cherry tomato, this really is too rich for one person, which explains why it comes with a steak knife. The meat was flavorful but light--so light in fact that the dense brioche bun threatened to overwhelm it, which is my only criticism. Ah, the humble hamburger bun. How often is it either too fragile, disintegrating under meat juices, or too dense and overpowering, like this one?

For that reason, as well as the love of variety, I preferred the sliders, still moist and tender and each with appropriate accoutrements. Of the three, the venison captivated me most, both savory and sweet (crispy shallots and cranberry relish helping both), juicy and just a little earthy. The wild boar was earthy and 'grown up,' but just not quite as satisfying. The turkey was a bit bland and sloppy--I've had better, to be honest (KGB's, for example).

Gallaghers's creativity doesn't stop there, either. Sides are executed with at least as much care, from the elegant 'mini' caesar (as good as any I've had on the Strip) to mac & cheese (as good as any I've had...anywhere. Perfectly done, in fact) to his gastropubby "crushed potatoes," fingerlings boiled and fried, with butter, thyme and cayenne. Lovely.

Poshburger offers more health and indulgence in equal portion--a variety of fresh juices and other salads as well as a number of nice sounding desserts (I've got my eye on the duck egg creme brulee next time) and milkshakes. Smartly selected beer and wine lists, too. They have a weekend brunch menu that, even in a town now obsessed with brunch, has some original twists. Interesting enough to be worth making a trip out here again.

If you live closer, you shouldn't need a National holiday to check it out. If you're the type to pay attention to chefs, I would keep your eye on Gallagher, it's likely he'll be having a greater effect on Las Vegas than just offering another nice hamburger.

Poshburger


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