For reasons both bad and good, burgers are still big news. Over the past few years, the burger has gone gourmet, as we’ve experienced a growing and far-reaching trend for gussying up the humble patty and bun with all manner of tweaks and additional ingredients. More recently, the horse meat scandal in the UK has, quite sensationally, brought the idea of what actually goes into the burger right to the fore.
This is perhaps why Elevation Burger, a US company that opened up a few weeks ago on Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai (near the Crowne Plaza hotel), caught my attention. Elevation Burger’s tagline is “ingredients matter”. The beef is of the 100 per cent organic, grass-fed variety; it is ground on site and the patties are made by hand. Fries, meanwhile, are cooked in olive oil.
It seems word has spread fast and during a random weekday lunchtime, customers arrived in droves. The premise is simple: order at the counter from a relatively short list of burgers (there’s also a salad and a grilled-cheese sandwich option), then select your toppings, which range from the classic lettuce, tomato and ketchup to balsamic mustard, caramelised onions and a special in-house sauce (a tangy, tomato number). Fries are priced separately and can also be served plain or with more toppings.
We decided to eat in, so made our way to a booth in the smallish seating area, by way of the drinks section to fill our cups and pick up Tabasco sauce and napkins. Our order was delivered to the table on a metal tray five minutes or so later. And you know what? It was pretty good – and I say that as someone who shies away from fast food.We had chosen to top the hefty Elevation burger – two patties and cheddar cheese served in a vaguely sweet, slightly soggy bun – with the in-house sauce, lettuce and tomatoes. I forgot to add onions and missed the crunch that they bring, but had no complaints about the burgers. The patties were irregularly shaped – suggesting that they were, in fact, formed by hand rather than machine – and the coarsely ground meat was juicy, full of flavour and properly seasoned.
Fries were presented in a little cardboard container and also good. They were thin, served with the skin on and properly golden brown. My friend opted to top his with caramelised onions (which actually could have done with rather more caramelisation) and cheese, which I felt was gilding the lily somewhat, but he enjoyed it all.
He also ordered the veggie burger, under sufferance. It didn’t look like much – a beige patty, between beige bread – and the flavour and texture of the mushrooms and (undercooked) risotto rice surprised us. Over time, the chewy nuttiness grew on us both, but it still wasn’t a patch on the burger.
A vanilla shake that was blended to order, with added strawberries, was a delight – creamy without being cloying and not as sweet as I’d imagined. To finish, we shared an oaty, slightly undercooked (and therefore heavy) chocolate cookie, which looked homemade (thanks to the uneven shape and cling film wrapping) – and tasted like it, too.
Amid myriad fast-food options in the UAE, for me, Elevation Burger stands out from the crowd. While I’m under no illusion that this is healthy fare, you get the impression that provenance has been taken into consideration here and the items aren’t mass-produced, which can only be a good thing.
• A meal for two at Elevation Burger, Sheikh Zayed Road Dubai costs Dh133. Reviewed meals are paid for by The National and all reviews are conducted incognito